Duke Ellington  

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"Ellington has come to be regarded as a creator of great modern music. About 1936 he began delving into the harmonies of composers like Debussy, Delius and Franck, and commenced to assemble olios derived from these sources that, of course, are far from modern in a European sense today. Played by a highly trained band with magnificent tonal possibilities, these undigested and essentially callow productions are dazzlingly deceptive to many. By 1937 or 1938, the Duke was attempting long compositions like the four-part "Reminiscing in Tempo" that lasts twelve minutes. This composition, and others like "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" and the recent "Black, Brown and Beige", have an impressive sound but contain literally nothing to grapple with in the way of coherent logical content. From an emotional point of view they are vague, diffused, and nostalgic. The beautiful phrases and the shining sounds are only those of an evanescent sensuousness.

Ellington's fame is now such that he gives Carnegie Hall concerts of a swing completely divorced from dance function, a tea dansant music trapped out with his borrowed effects from jazz, the Impressionists, and the French Romantics. Some hail him as a foremost genius of modern music, a few lament that "the Duke has forsaken jazz." Both are wrong: the laurels of Hindemith, Stravinsky, and Bartok are safe and, as for jazz, the Duke has never played it."--Shining Trumpets, a History of Jazz (1946) by Rudi Blesh, p. 281

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Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist, and bandleader.

Recognized during his life as one of the most influential figures in jazz, if not in all American music, Ellington's reputation has increased since his death, including a special award citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board.

Ellington called his style and sound "American music" rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as "beyond category", including many of the musicians who served with his orchestra, some of whom were themselves considered among the giants of jazz and remained with Ellington's orchestra for decades. While many were noteworthy in their own right, it was Ellington who melded them into one of the most well-known orchestral units in the history of jazz. He often composed specifically for the style and skills of these individuals, such as "Jeep's Blues" for Johnny Hodges, "Concerto for Cootie" ("Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me") for Cootie Williams and "The Mooche" for Tricky Sam Nanton. He also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, such as Juan Tizol's "Caravan" and "Perdido" which brought the "Spanish Tinge" to big-band jazz. After 1941, he frequently collaborated with composer-arranger Billy Strayhorn, who he called his alter-ego.

One of the twentieth century's best-known African-American celebrities, Ellington recorded for many American record companies, and appeared in several films. Ellington and his orchestra toured the United States and Europe regularly before and after World War II. Ellington led his band from 1923 until his death in 1974. His son Mercer Ellington took over the band until his death from cancer in 1996. Paul Ellington, Mercer's youngest son, took over the Orchestra from there and after his mother's passing took over the Estate of Duke and Mercer Ellington.

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