Duke Ellington Day History
Duke Ellington Day commemorates the life of jazz musician, Edward Kennedy Ellington, known as Duke Ellington. Born on April 29th, 1899, in Washington D.C., Ellington was a famous American composer, pianist and bandleader of a jazz orchestra that performed at Harlem's Cotton Club during the 1920s. In the 1930s, his music spread internationally and Ellington's orchestra toured through Europe. Ellington is considered to have elevated the status of jazz from mere music to an art form. Ellington’s career, which saw him write nearly 2000 compositions, many of which continue to inspire jazz artists today, spanned nearly five decades until he passed away in New York City in May of 1974.
In 1999, President Nixon awarded Ellington with a special Pulitzer Prize to commemorate the centennial of his birth and his contributions to music. A decade later, New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, declared April 29th, 2009 as Duke Wellington Day in honor of his 110th birthday.
Duke Ellington Day Facts & Quotes
- April 29 was declared Duke Ellington Day in New York City by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009. Although born in Washington, Duke Ellington spent much of his career playing in New York. This day would have marked the musicians 110th birthday.
- Nine recordings by Duke Ellington were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The Grammy Hall of Fame honors recordings that are at least 25 years old and have had a lasting qualitative or historical significance.
The President of the United States of America awards this Presidential Medal of Freedom to Edward Kennedy Ellington. Edward Kennedy Ellington, pianist, composer, and orchestra leader, has long enhanced American music with his unique style, his intelligence, his impeccable taste. For more than 40 years he has helped to expand the frontiers of jazz, while at the same time retaining in his music the individuality and freedom of expression that are the soul of jazz. In the royalty of American music, no man swings more or stands higher than the Duke. - President Richard Nixon, April 29. 1969
- The Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Duke Ellington in 1999
... in recognition of his musical genius, which evoked aesthetically the principles of democracy through the medium of jazz and thus made an indelible contribution to art and culture.
It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing. - Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington Day Top Events and Things to Do
- Attend the Ellington Jazz Series, which have been held and organized by Yale School of Music for more than 40 years. This year's Piano Jazz Summit will take place on Friday, March 4, 2016 7:30PM at the Morse Recital Hall in Yale (New Haven, CT 06511, United States).
- Honor Duke Ellington Day by listening to his music. Ellington's most popular recordings: It Don't Mean a Thing (1931), Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue (1937), and Take the 'A' Train (1939).
- Take a walk to Duke Ellington Boulevard in New York City (aka W 106th St).
- Visit the memorial statue to Ellington in New York Central Park. It is located at the intersection of Fifth avenue and 110th street.
- Visit or participate in the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival. In 2016, the competition and festival will be held on May 5-7th, at Rose Hall, New York.