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Duke Ellington was a famous African- American jazz pianist, bandleader, and composer. Many critics rate him as one of the figures in jazz, and certainly its most significant composer. Edward Kennedy Ellington came into the world on April 29, 1899, in Washington D.C. While many musical greats begin with music at the early ages of three or four, Edward didnít begin to play the piano until he was seven. By 17, tens years later, he had already made his professional debut. In 1923, he became a member of the Washingtonians, Elmer Snowdenís famous band. After awhile, the band became Edwards. The group grew from five players to twelve by 1931. The Ellington band became the house of band at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem. There, they began to develop a unique sound which came to be known as jungle music. This sound was mostly due to the creative trumpet playing of James "Bubber" Miley, who produced a distinctive growling sound on his trumpet, with the aid of plunger. By covering and uncovering the bell of his trumpet with the handleless plunger while he was playing, he created the unique musical tones that became the trademark of the bandís jungle sound .
The bandís reputation grew gradually through many recordings of Ellington compostions, including "Mood Indigo"(1930), "It Donít Mean a Thing If It Ainít Got That Swing"(1932), abd "Solitude"(1934).
The mid-1930s to the mid-1940s is generally considered to be Ellingtonís most creative period. Many of his most highly regarded recordings were made during this time, including "Jack the Bear"(1940), and "Ko-Ko"(1940). In 1939, Billy Strayhorn joined Ellingtonís band as a composer, often with Ellington, and arranger. He composed "Take a Train"(1941), which became the bandís theme song. Many of Ellingtonís key musicians, like Johnny Hodges, stayed with him for decades, contributing to the bandís readily identifiable sound.
Beginning in the 1940s, Ellington composed longer works, such as Black, Brown, and Beige(1943). During the 1960s, Ellington wrote several film scores and began composing sacred music. Music is My Mistress(1973) is Ellingtonís autobiography.
Duke Ellington is a significant African-American, who contributed greatly to the development of the jazz style. He not only gave us entertainment, but also developed unique and interesting new concepts. The music of Duke Ellington reminds that music will never mean a thing if ainít got that swing.
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Jazz, Music, Duke Ellington, Harlem Renaissance, James Bubber Miley, Billy Strayhorn, Mood Indigo, Mercer Ellington, Duke Ellington discography
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