Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

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Duke Ellington (born Edward Kennedy Ellington; 29.4.1899 - 24.5.1974) Duke Ellington was an American composer best known for his jazz orchestra which he led for over 50 years.

Childhood: Duke Ellington was born to pianists James Edward Ellington and Daisy Kennedy Ellington in Washington D.C. His parents drew him to start taking piano lessons at the age of seven, although he preferred to play baseball. Ellington attended Armstrong Technical High school in Washington D.C.

Career: In 1914, Ellington composed his first piece, Soda Fountain Rag, entirely by ear as he was not able to read or write music. This was fixed when a local band leader taught him and helped Ellington to develop his own professional style. He formed his first band in 1917, called The Duke's Serenaders. Ellington soon left Washington and moved to Harlem to take part in the Harlem Renaissance. In 1926, Ellington and a new orchestra began to play in Harlem's Cotton Club. This continued for several years, and The Cotton Club Orchestra became well known in the jazz world. World War Two brought much of the Big Band music scene to a halt, causing Ellington to suffer from his least successful period in the early 1950s. In 1957, however, Ellington's Orchestra made international headlines with their performance at the Newport Jazz Festival. In 1965, Ellington was considered for the Pulitzer Prize for Music, although he did not get it. It was, however, awarded to him posthumously in 1999 to celebrate his 100th birthday. He also earned 12 Grammy Awards during his career, although 3 of them were posthumous.

Personal Life: On July 2nd, 1918, Duke Ellington married his high school sweetheart, Edna Thompson and the couple had a son the following year.

Death: A few weeks after his 75th Birthday, Ellington died from a combination of lung cancer and pneumonia. His final words were "Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered."

Biography by Contactmusic.com

Dave Brubeck Dead Aged 91; Jazz World Mourns True Pioneer

Dave Brubeck Ella Fitzgerald Duke Ellington Al Jarreau George Benson Quincy Jones The Specials

Dave Brubeck, the jazz musician heralded for defying convention and experimenting with complex rhythms, has died in Norwalk, Connecticut - he was 91. Brubeck, who would have turned 92 on Thursday (December 6, 2012), gained pop star-like acclaim for recordings including Take Five, and Blue Rondo a la Turk. He died of heart failure en route to "a regular treatment with his cardiologist," according to his long-time manager and producer Russell Gloyd, who spoke with the Chicago Tribune. 

Eschewing conventional swing rhythms, Brubeck's work was admired outside of jazz circles and he took his mix elegant sound to colleges in the 1950s, smashing to pieces he long-held notion that jazz had no place in academia. In the 60s, he achieved phenomenal success with The Dave Brubeck Quartet, selling millions of albums whilst playing with the likes of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. The group's 1959 album Time Out spawned Take That, the biggest selling jazz single of all time, still used in countless television programmes and movies, among them the BBC's Secret Life of Machines and NBC's Today programme. It has been covered by the likes of Al Jarreau, George Benson, Quincy Jones and The Specials. The track is generally considered to be the first jazz competition to achieve mainstream significance, reaching No.25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and breaking the Top 5 on Billboard's Easy Listening survey - a precursor to the now Adult Contemporary chart. Ironically, the track wasn't even written by Brubeck - the hefty royalty cheques were picked up by saxophonist Paul Desmond before his death in 1977. He left the royalties for performances and compositions of Take Five to the American Red Cross, which has since received around $100,000 per year. 

In later years, Brubeck composed music for operas and ballet while performing for several world leaders. In 1988, he played for Mikhail Gorbachev at a Moscow dinner hosted by then-President Ronald Reagan. "I can't understand Russian, but I can understand body language," Brubeck said after seeing the general secretary tapping his foot. The jazz legend was still touring in 2009 at the age of 88 and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honours later that year. The same honor was bestowed upon Led Zeppelin this week.

Continue reading: Dave Brubeck Dead Aged 91; Jazz World Mourns True Pioneer

Duke Ellington

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Duke Ellington

Date of birth

29th April, 1974

Date of death

24th May, 1974