Duke Ellington introduced a sizzling brand of jazz to Harlem in the 1920s and later became one of the nation's preeminent composers and bandleaders.
The Ellington sound was fresh, introspective and zestfully democratic; its multiple delights were accessible to everyone. Through 50 years of continuous touring, performing in hamlets and big cities all over the globe, he made new music anywhere and everywhere he went.
Pianist, arranger, composer and conductor, Duke Ellington wrote or co-wrote more than 1,500 compositions, among them such classics as "Solitude," "Mood Indigo" and "Satin Doll." His music is as vibrant today as it was decades ago when he was producing musical reviews at Harlem's Cotton Club.
Some of his other standards include "Sophisticated Lady," "Do 'Nothin' Till You Hear From Me" and "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good." His theme was "Take the A Train," which was written by his longtime arranger and assistant composer, Billy Strayhorn.
If jazz is indeed America's paramount contribution to music, Ellington was its No. 1 interpreter. He was able to assemble jazz virtuosos and turn them into a single, sensational instrument. The orchestra was his, and he was demanding, but he also offered the spotlight to many jazzmen over the years.
Ellington died in 1974, and those who never had the opportunity to hear his orchestra can still thrill to the rhythms through recordings of numbers like his "Black, Brown and Beige" as played at a peerless Carnegie Hall concert in 1943.
|1961||Best Scoring of a Musical Picture||Paris Blues||Nomination|