Section 1: Facing The Music
Take The "A" Train
The piece is significant because most consider it the "signature sound" of Ellington and his orchestra. It was originally written by Nilly Strayhorn, but was not famous until Duke Ellington made the time to play it and add his unique sounds. This song has been covered numerous times, but most famously by Ella Fitzgerald in 1957. In these covers, most artists added much more complex lyrics, and added verses. In the original Duke Ellington version, the
lyrics were simply:
You must take the A Train
If you miss the A Train
You'll find you've missed the quickest way to Harlem
Hurry, get on, now, it's coming
Listen to those rails a-thrumming (All Aboard!)
Get on the A Train
Soon you will be on Sugar Hill in Harlem
As you can clearly see, they are no where near spectacular. However, this song became known across the United States. This shows that it really was about hearing the MUSIC, and not the fancy lyrics. With so many covers and renditions of it, some being by the Rolling Stones and The Delta Rhythm Boys, each artist wanted to put their own spin on the classic song and stand out in front of the other covers. Unfortunately for them, nothing can beat the pure and plain (but NOT boring) piano music made by Duke Ellington. Of course, the man who sung with Ellington, Ray Nance, added his own flair by doing "scat singing", which was becoming very popular for artists at the time. Seeing that people are still covering the song today, it's safe to say it made quite a lasting impression.
However, if you'd like to listen to more, please click the link to the google document under the Satin Doll link to find more performances that you can watch at home!
Here's another great hit he performed with his orchestra at the Cotton Club! Read more below on his life and legacy to learn about the Cotton Club.
Unfortunately, many of his performances are blocked on chromebooks, but if you are interested in hearing more of Duke's music at home, you should go to this doc! This link has many websites with some other great songs that you can listen to at home.
Section 2: Influencing America
Duke Ellington was playing every day in Washington D.C., but was not getting the recognition he was striving for, and that his music certainly deserved. However, he started getting gigs to play on the national radio, and suddenly, he was famous! There was one problem with this, though: On the radio, people from across the nation heard his music, which of course they loved. However, there was still a dominance of racial discrimination in the South, and so he rarely got to actually perform in front of people. So, he moved North during the Great Migration to Harlem, New York, where he became a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He and his band soon booked a permanent job at the Cotton Club, an extremely popular venue that had an audience that was actually usually predominantly white. Even so, they fully embraced Ellington's jazz music. This inspired many more African American artists to show off their amazing artistic talents to the world, and thus, the Harlem Renaissance was born. Duke Ellington, now a national figure, didn't stop in Harlem. He then traveled the country with his band, playing favorites like "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" that many, many artists have done renditions of (don't believe me? Watch Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett singing it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYfF9VKMp4w). Duke's spunky and joyful filled music never failed to make people want to get up and dance.
Section 3: The Royal Life
Section 4: Duke Ellington And Harry Connick, Jr.
First off, you need to know a little bit more about Harry Connick, Jr. Yes, he is a singer, but I don't think that classifies him well enough. He is a true musician, of course like Duke Ellington. However, it's hard to say that really classifies them, as many, many people in this world would consider themselves musicians. One of the many things Connick does in his songs and performances is often use a big, full band of instruments. Some classical, some jazzy, all unique. Sound familiar? Now, you can't justly classify Harry into the jazz genre of music, but the reason I picked him is because I remembered the distinct sound of his Christmas album, which sometimes pops up onto my family's itunes shuffle. I couldn't even remember his name, but I remembered the satisfactory feeling of listening to such grand orchestrations. Connick, being the diverse man he is, has quite a few slow, ballad-like songs, as well, as with Ellington. First, listen to "You Didn't Know Me When" by Harry Connick, Jr. This is one of his upbeat songs featuring his traveling band, The Big Band (yes, that is actually its name). It is considered one of his most popular songs!
At a very young age, Harry Connick, Jr. showed great potential as a piano player, who had started lessons because of his musically-inclined parents (sound familiar??). He grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, which just happens to be the place where jazz all got started! Of course, jazz was established there long before Harry was born, but it obviously had an impact on him because it has an influence in the music he produces today. Harry is now an extremely skilled pianist, just as the Duke was. however, one of the differences in their music is that Harry is known for his soothing, clear singing voice, where as Duke much preferred to let his piano and band speak for itself, though sometimes he would have separate singers perform alongside the band. They both, however, wrote most of their own music and had an undeniable passion for making music. Next, listen to "She Belongs To Me", which has a very distinct jazzy sound.
Listen to this audio file through your google docs music player, or just download it!