Duke Ellington

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Decades Active: 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s
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Biography

Edward Kennedy Ellington, 29 April 1899, Washington, DC, USA, d. 24 May 1974, New York City, New York, USA. Ellington began playing piano as a child but, despite some local success, took up a career as a sign-painter. In his teens he continued to play piano, studied harmony, composed his first tunes and was generally active in music in Washington. Among his childhood friends were Sonny Greer, Artie Whetsol and Otto Hardwicke; from 1919 he played with them in various bands, sometimes working outside the city. In 1923 he ventured to New York to work with Elmer Snowden, and the following year formed his own band, the Washingtonians. Also in 1924, in collaboration with lyricist Joe Trent, he composed the Chocolate Kiddies revue. By 1927, Ellington’s band had become established in east coast states and at several New York nightclubs. At the end of the year he successfully auditioned for a residency at Harlem’s Cotton Club. The benefits arising from this...

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