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Duke Ellington & His Orchestra


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Edward "Duke" Ellington
(April 29th 1899 - May 24th 1974)


The "Duke Ellington Orchestra" appear in Hollywood, California in an excerpt from the 1930 Amos and Andy motion picture comedy "Check and Double Check" featuring Freddie Jenkins, Cootie Williams, and Arthur Whetsel trumpets, Joe 'Tricky Sam' Nanton and Juan Tizol trombones, Harry Carney alto & baritone sax, Johnny Hodges alto & soprano sax, Barney Bigard clarinet & tenor sax, Duke Ellington piano & director, Fred Guy guitar, Wellman Braud bass, and Sonny Greer chimes & drums. -The film was based on the popular "Amos & Andy" radio show.

Born on April 29th 1899 in Washington, D.C. into a musical family Edward Ellington first started taking piano lessons when he was seventeen. His relaxed graceful character earned him the royal nickname of "Duke". Edward wrote his first piano composition "Soda Fountain Rag" during the Summer of 1914 while working as a soda jerk at the Poodle Dog Cafe. He began experimenting by playing the tune at different tempos and time signatures and discovered to his amazement that listeners couldn't recognize it as the same piece of music.

The Duke studied commercial art at Armstrong Manual Training School but dropped out to pursue music a couple of months before graduation in 1916. The following year he began assembling groups to play local dances while working as a sign painter and two years later in 1919 became acquainted with a drummer from New Jersey named Sonny Greer who further encouraged his musical endeavors. When Greer was invited to join the "Wilber Sweatman Orchestra" in Harlem "Duke" Ellington made the life changing decision to accompany him, leaving behind an already successful career.

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