Duke Ellington

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Duke Ellington was born Edward Kennedy Ellington on April 28, 1899 in Washington, D.C. to Daisy and James Ellington. They served as the ideal role models for young Duke and taught him everything from table manners to the power of music. He was eight when he got his first piano lessons. By the age of fourteen, he was sneaking into Frank Holliday’s poolroom. He learned from his experiences in the poolroom how to appreciate the value of mixing with a wide rage of people. He attended the Armstrong Manual Training School to study commercial art instead of an academically-oriented school. During the summer months, he would seek out and listen to ragtime pianists in Washington. He said he decided to become a musician when he realized that when playing the piano, there was always a pretty girl standing down at the bass clef end of the piano, thus the music career of Duke Ellington was born.

He was called “Duke” because he was something of a dandy, with a love of fancy clothes and an elegant style. He retained those traits throughout his life. The secret of the Ellington style was that it was no mere style at all but simply the manifestation of what he was made of within.

Between 1899 and 1974, Duke moved from his home town to New York where he formed his own band and began to arrange music and write jazz in a distinctive style which included serious concert music, tone poems, ballet suites and short concerto-like pieces. Another well known piece of Dukes was Ko-ko, a bluesy mood w...
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