Kennedy (“Duke”) Ellington
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born
in our nation’s capital, D.C., on the 29th
of April 1899. He was from an average middle-income
family. His family encouraged him to pursue his interests in the fine arts. In
high school, Edward Ellington received
his nickname from school friends. They called him “Duke” because of his elegant
and flashy sense of style. Duke was an above average painter and was awarded a
scholarship to study painting at the Pratt Institute in New York. During his youth, he was exposed to ragtime piano players
in his hometown and this inspired him to pursue a career in music. He started
studying piano at the age of seven. He declined the scholarship for painting.
By his teenage years, Duke was writing
music. When Duke Ellington was 17 he had a 5 piece jazz band called the
Washingtonians. At age 23 Duke Ellington attempted to move to New York City,
but because of financial issues, he was
forced to move back to Washington D.C. He again made the move to New York in
1923. He was successful in this attempt
and moved to the borough of Harlem where his amazing career blossomed.
he became a bandleader, composer, music
arranger, and pianist. He is credited with over two thousand different
compositions in a career that lasted over fifty years. One thing that I found
while researching this paper was an FBI file that was opened on Duke Ellington
that has since been declassified. In the Federal Bureau of Investigation report, it states that Edward Kennedy (Duke)
Ellington has never been the focus of an investigation by the FBI. However, he
was mentioned by name in the development of other investigations in
security-type investigations. In those investigations,
he was mentioned as a “prominent endorser” of the first All-Harlem Youth
Conference. Which was described as a “more conspicuous
communist-front in the racial sub-classification”.
He is also mentioned
in several other investigations pertaining to communist groups as either
a performance group or committee sponsors of the events. (FBI file
Now, onto the performance at the Newport Jazz
Festival. The Newport Jazz Festival is a music festival that was established in
1954. It is held every summer in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1956 Edward (Duke)
Ellington performed there for the first time. In 1955 he had been asked to be
the master of ceremonies for the event and did not perform at the festival.
(Jazz: A history of Americas Music Pg. 399)
It is reported that the band consisted of
16 members; Duke Ellington-Piano, Cat Anderson-trumpet, Willie Cook-trumpet,
Ray Nance-trumpet, vocals, Clark Terry-trumpet, Quentin Jackson-trombone, John
Sanders-trombone, Britt Woodman-trombone, Johnny Hodges-alto saxophone, Russell
Procope-saxophone, Paul Gonsalves-tenor saxophone, Harry Carney-baritone
saxophone, Jimmy Hamilton-Clarinet, Jimmy Woode-double bass, Jimmy
Grissom-vocals, and Sam Woodward-drums. I will go through each song performed
individually as they are listed in the Spotify playlist.
Pt. I Festival
The introduction of the song is a clarinet
followed by a piano intro. The song starts at a slower pace and then builds
with the clarinet taking the first solo. Trumpets soon follow the call and response style jazz is known for. Saxophones
follow with the next melody with the trumpets returning the call. The Trumpets
then take center stage with a solo. The trumpet solo at the end of the song is
ridiculous. I have never heard a trumpet
play a note as high as that. I had to turn the volume down because it hurt my
Pt.II-Blues to Be There
This song starts out a lot slower than the
Festival Junction song. The piano is a central part of this song. The typical
call and response by the saxophone and brass are
heard in the early part of the song. What I believe to be a clarinet is heard
with a short solo. Following the clarinet is the muted trumpet solo. The
saxophones carrying the melody in the background. Rhythm carried throughout by
the drummer. There is a pause in the song which allows for a short applause.
Following the applause, the song seems to
take on a different more aggressive tone with the playing in unison of a melody
by the entire band until the end of the song.
This song starts off at a faster and more
furious pace. It features a solo by the clarinet with the drums carrying the
tempo in the background. Trumpets intermingle with the solo. Then a trumpet
solo that sounds somewhat muted. This song is more of a swing style song that
gets your blood pumping and also one that you could dance to. A long saxophone solo is heard in the middle of
this song. During the saxophone solo, the
trumpets seemed to frame the solo.
Jeep’s Blues is a song that is obviously
blues based. It is slow and has a bluesy feeling. The piano and saxophone seem
to be talking back and forth in the first part of the song. The saxophone
asking the question and the piano answering the call. The style is slow paced
and rhythmic like the typical blues form. The song has a toned down pitch and
rhythm. This song is not a song that I would dance to. But, it makes me feel
like I just need to watch and sway side to side while listening and absorbing
the smooth mojo.
Diminuendo in Blue
The Diminuendo in blue is probably
the turning point in the revival of The Duke Ellington brand. The song began
when the crowds were beginning to leave the festival due to a rainstorm that
was beginning. It was reported that the
Newport Suite had been well received but with the rain starting people were
leaving to get out of the rain. Duke
Ellington called on a song that he had written years earlier. When the song
started the rhythm section played so powerfully that the audience that was
leaving stopped and returned to their seats.
song is a return to the earlier Duke Ellington style. His style is similar
throughout his entire career in my opinion. No matter what suite he has written
or arranged, his style is distinctive. It is the Ellington style of jazz. This
song begins with a strong fast pace. The piano is the lead off for the song.
The drums follow with a strong and steady rhythm. Then the brass injects a
flurry of exciting and powerful notes. The saxophones join in the background. A
call and response ensues with the
saxophones and trumpets.
To me, the album “Duke Ellington, Live at
Newport” is a move by Ellington to a new level. After listening to Duke
Ellington’s “All the Best” album. The Newport album is very different from his
older works. It is more exciting and musical. Jam-packed
with high intensity and with a more robust sound.
The songs of this album fit together
nicely. They flow well together and to me,
they are similar enough to be classified as his Newport Suite. I have listened
to several of his other compositions and arrangements, it is my opinion this is
probably his best work of his whole career.