Duke and the ‘Harlem Renaissance Movement’

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best“.DE

“There are two kinds of worries – those you can do something about and those you can’t. Don’t spend any time on the latter”. DE

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974)[1] was an American composer, pianist, and jazz-orchestra leader. His career spanned more than 50 years: Ellington led his orchestra from 1923 until his death.

Ellington, was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina on April 15, 1879 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1886 with his parents. At the age of seven, he began taking piano lessons from Marietta Clinkscales.

Daisy surrounded her son with dignified women to reinforce his manners and teach him to live elegantly. Ellington’s childhood friends noticed that “his casual, offhand manner, his easy grace, and his dapper dress gave him the bearing of a young nobleman“,and began calling him “Duke”.

“Soda Fountain Rag”  Duke Ellington’s first Piece

Ellington originated over 1,000 compositions, often in collaboration with others; his extensive oeuvre is also the largest recorded legacy in jazz, with much of his extant work having passed into standards.

“The wise musicians are those who play what they can master”. DE

You know, I always when people ask me, like, what is my most favorite song, I quote Duke Ellington, when they would ask him, what’s his favorite composition? And I say, I haven’t written it yet. Because, you know, there are different songs for different occasions”. Stevie Wonder

Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and extraordinary charisma, he is generally considered to have elevated the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other traditional genres of music.

“By and large, jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with” DE

“Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn’t want me to be too famous too young” DE

“I fell in love with jazz when I was 12 years old from listening to Duke Ellington and hearing a lot of jazz in New York on the radio”. Steve Lacy

“Do you think Duke Ellington didn’t listen to Debussy? Louis Armstrong loved opera, did you know that? Name me a jazz pianist who wasn’t influenced by European music!” Dave Brubeck

“A man is a god in ruins”. Duke Ellington

 

 Spanning the 1920s to the mid-1930s, the Harlem Renaissance was a literary, artistic, and intellectual movement that kindled a new black cultural identity. Its essence was summed up by critic and teacher Alain Locke in 1926 when he declared that through art, “Negro life is seizing its first chances for group expression and self determination.” Harlem became the center of a “spiritual coming of age” in which Locke’s “New Negro” transformed “social disillusionment to race pride.” Chiefly literary, the Renaissance included the visual arts but excluded jazz, despite its parallel emergence as a black art form.

Duke Ellington was a significant figure and played a monumental role during the Harlem Renaissance. Being one of the most successful African American musicians and actors of this era, Duke was viewed as a definite sense of pride and role model for Young African Americans and the whole Harlem Renaissance movement.

Black and Tan Fantasy (1929), is a musical short film written by Dudley Murphy.

 Throughout the film, Duke Ellington and His Orchestra play noteworthy and famous Ellington pieces such as “Black and Tan Fantasy“, “Black Beauty“, “The Duke Steps Out”, and “Cotton Club Stomp” (uncredited)”, as an artist to artist tribute for a fellow great African-American performer, Florence Mills, who died in 1927.

“My attitude is never to be satisfied, never enough, never”. DE

There are only two things: love, all sorts of love, with pretty girls, and the music of New Orleans or Duke Ellington. Everything else ought to go, because everything else is ugly” Boris Vian

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