How did Duke Ellington influence modern jazz?

Duke Ellington | Official biography

Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington came from the black petty bourgeoisie in Washington. He was the son of head waiter James Edward Ellington, who worked as a one-time butler in the White House. He later ran a party service and tried to raise his children as if they were growing up in a wealthy, middle-class household. Little Ellington received his first piano lessons at the age of seven from his mother, Daisy Kennedy Ellington. However, he did not enjoy playing the piano, so that Daisy soon stopped teaching without success.
It was only at the age of fourteen that he became interested in music after listening to the pianist Harvey Brooks. Ellington had little formal music lessons, however, but took up what was available in his environment, especially ragtime. In addition to some regional musicians, James P. Johnson was his first role model, whose "Carolina Shout" set the course. Due to his distinguished charisma and polished manners, he was named "Duke" (English for "Duke") by schoolmates in his youth. He started his professional career as a musician at the age of 17.
In his first public appearances, he plays to dance. By around 1920 he enjoyed a good reputation within the manageable music scene in Washington. He was not only active as an accompanist on the piano, but also as a band leader who skillfully ensured that his ensemble found work. When he moved to New York with a group of musicians from Washington at the age of 24, he founded the band The Washingtonians there. The first attempt went wrong. Then the band brought in the singer Ada Smith: Ellington and his Washingtonians played in various New York clubs and toured New England as a dance music band until 1927. When the famous King Oliver left the famous Cotton Club, Ellington was offered the job as the house band in New York's most prestigious nightclub at the time.
Little by little, the Washingtonians became the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In the Harlem clubs, especially through the regular radio broadcasts from the Cotton Club, Duke Ellington and his Jungle Band achieved national fame. The club was home to the most talented songwriters in the business, Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh and Harold Arlen. The radio broadcast live from the club and the press reported on what was happening. During this time, Ellington had the opportunity to compose music in a variety of styles for dance theater and other areas of specialization for the band. He experimented a lot in tonality, with screaming trumpets and wah-wah, or growling saxophones. The jungle style became his trademark at the time. When Ellington left the Cotton Club in 1931, he was one of the most famous African-Americans. He regularly produced for record companies and film studios.
As an accomplished businessman, Ellington cooperated with the publisher Irving Mills, who insisted that Duke only record his own compositions. He finally sent the orchestra on its first European tour in the summer of 1933. He then went on numerous other tours through the United States and Europe with his band, as well as a world tour in the 1960s. He worked his whole life as a musical experimenter and recorded albums not only with his orchestra, but also with musicians who are more of the artistic avant-garde of modern jazz, such as John Coltrane and Charles Mingus. The band reached a creative peak in the 1940s when he arranged and composed specifically for the different voices in his orchestra. This development was influenced to a considerable extent by the pianist, arranger, and composer Billy Strayhorn, whom Ellington met in the late 1930s and accepted into his orchestra.
Ellington and Strayhorn had a lifelong, close friendship. The piece, Take The A-Train, which is most often associated with the Ellington Orchestra, does not come from Duke - as is often wrongly assumed - but from Billy Strayhorn. Even as musicians left him and the popularity of swing declined, Ellington found new forms, links and sidemen. In his late work he often composed in longer forms, based on classical music, such as his Black, Brown and Beige (1943), Such Sweet Thunder (1957), based on William Shakespeare, and the big band version of Peer-Gynt -Suite (1960) show. The connection of the originally separate compositions Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue from 1937 to Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue by a tenor saxophone solo by Paul Gonsalves stretching over 27 choruses during the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 resulted in the publication of a live recording longed-for comeback.
However, Ellington's longer, symphonic works are occasionally criticized for having lost sight of the essence of jazz in favor of an “artificial classical”. Duke Ellington was known for his keen vanity and his bossy and manipulative dealings with his band and family members. For example, he did not allow his sister to go out of the house unaccompanied. His son Mercer said of him: "He rules with an iron hand in a glacé glove".
In 1965 Ellington was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, which he did not receive. “Fate is kind to me. It doesn't want me to become famous too young. ”On April 24, 1969, US President Richard Nixon gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his life's work. In 1973 he was accepted into the French Legion of Honor.
Duke Ellington died of pneumonia on May 24, 1974 and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York.