By and large, jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with
April 29, 1899, Washington, D.C. – May 24, 1974
Edward Kennedy Ellington was an American jazz composer, bandleader and pianist.
He formed his band in 1924, the Washingtonians and played with it at the Kentucky Club, (1923-19277), then moved to the Cotton Club (1927-1932) with an enlarged band under his leadership. Until the end of his life his band would enjoy the highest professional and artistic reputation in jazz.
First known for his distinctive jungle sound, a description derived from the use of growling muted brass and sinister harmonies, Ellington increasingly integrated blues elements into his music. He composed with the idiosyncratic sounds of his instrumentalists in mind.
In 1931 he experimented with extended composition in Creole Rhapsody followed by Reminiscin′ in Tempo and Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. The band developed further (it now had 14 pieces) and toured in the USA and Europe (1933, 1939). His extended compositions continued, for the concert hall ( Black, Brown and Beige, 1943) and later for LP records (a series of suites ). He wrote a film score and stage music and latterly mainly liturgical music.
Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions. Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and extraordinary charisma, he is generally considered to have elevated the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other traditional genres of music. His reputation increased after his death and the Pulitzer Prize Board bestowed on him a special posthumous honor in 1999.
Ellington called his music American Music rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as beyond category.
After he died his orchestra was taken over by his son, Mercer Ellington (b. 1919).
It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
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