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Duke Ellington Educational Posters, Books, Video, CD, Links for Learning
for music education and social studies classrooms, theme decor for fans.

social studies > history > black history > DUKE ELLINGTON < music < composers < notable men

Duke Ellington, 1899-1974 Poster
Duke Ellington,

Duke Ellington
b. 4-29-1899, Washington, DC
d. 5-24-1974

Duke Ellington, jazz composer, pianist, and band leader, was one of the best known African-Americans of the twentieth century, and continues to be a highly respected muscial genius.

Ellington's given names were Edward Kennedy (for his father James Edward Ellington and his mother Daisy Kennedy Ellington); he earned the nickname “Duke” from a childhood classmate and it suited his suave style and elegant manners.

Considered America's greatest composer with over 2,000 pieces of music, Ellington was also one of America's greatest ambassadors of goodwill.

Celebrate Black History

Stars of the Harlem Renaissance - Duke Ellington Poster
Stars of the Harlem Renaissance - Duke Ellington Poster

no longer available

Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy Ellington is one of the most sophisticated and important composers and pianists the United States has ever produced. The son of a White House butler, he earned the nickname “Duke” as a boy because he always carried himself like a gentleman.

Ellington organized his first dance band, “The Duke's Serenaders,” in 1917, when he was only 18 years old. In 1923, Ellington moved to New York with a group of friends. They played with a band called The Washingtonians. Ellington took over the band and eventually it became known as The Duke Ellington Orchestra. Long term engagements at famous Harlem night spots such as the Cotton Club and the Kentucky Club cemented Ellington's reputation as a great bandleader and an amazing composer. His beautiful melodies and ambitious arrangements helped expand the range of jazz music itself. All of Harlem hummed tunes like “Black and Tan Fantasy” and “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo” – and, thanks to the new wireless radio, so did the rest of America.

The Duke Ellington Orchestra (which over the years included many of America's greatest jazzmen) charmed audiences all over the world for more than 50 years. Songs he wrote, including “Mood Indigo,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't got That Swing),” became jazz standards. Ellington was a talented and generous man who profoundly influenced all kinds of music, from jazz to classical and rock and roll. He died in 1974.

• more Stars of the Harlem Renaissance posters
• more Black Entertainers posters

Black and Tan, Masterprint
Black and Tan,

The Golden Age of Jazz - ... Duke Ellington Fine Art Print
Golden Age of Jazz -
Duke Ellington
Fine Art Print

• more Jazz posters

Duke Ellington, Graystone Ballroom, Detroit, 1933 Fine Art Print
Duke Ellington,
Graystone Ballroom,
Detroit, 1933
Fine Art Print

The Graystone Ballroom in Detroit, Michigan was one of the best-known ballrooms in the US during the 1920s, 30s and 40s. The Graystone was located in Paradise Valley, a black entertainment district that was demolished for the Chrysler expressway.

Duke Ellington, The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, Photographic Print
Duke Ellington, The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse,
Photographic Print

Much of Ellington's later compositions were refections of his world tours. The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse was recorded in 1971.

Cabin in the Sky Movie Poster
Cabin in the Sky
Movie Poster

Sophisticated Ladies, Masterprint
Sophisticated Ladies,
1981 Broadway

• more musicals posters

Duke Ellington - Harlem, Photographic Print
Duke Ellington -
Photographic Print

Cotton Club Art Print
Cotton Club
Art Print

Duke Ellington - The Pianist, Poster
Duke Ellington -
The Pianist, Poster

Harlem Renaissance Culture Guide Map Poster
Harlem Renaissance
Culture Guide
Map Poster

Harlem Renaissance Culture Guide Poster Map - One Hundred Years of History, Art, and Culture

Poster map guide shows the homes, nightclubs, and churches linked with Harlem’s writers, artists, musicians, thinkers, and political leaders of the 1920s.

Alvin Ailey Charles AlstonMarian Anderson • The Apollo Theater • James BaldwinRomare Bearden • The Cotton Club • W.E.B. DuBoisKatherine DunhamDuke EllingtonRalph EllisonMarcus GarveyAlthea Gibson Dizzy GillespieW.C. HandyBillie HolidayLangston HughesZora Neale HurstonJacob LawrenceJoe LouisThurgood MarshallMalcolm X • Minton's Playhouse, • Adam Clayton Powell Jr.Paul RobesonA. Philip RandolphAugusta Savage • The Savoy • The Schomburg Center • James Van Der ZeeMadam C. J. WalkerMary Lou Williams

• more Culture Maps

• more Black Entertainers posters
• more Black History posters

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” Duke Ellington


Duke Ellington and His World by A. H. Lawrence - Based on lengthy interviews with Ellington’s bandmates, family, and friends, Duke Ellington and His World offers a fresh look at this legendary composer. The first biography of the composer written by a fellow musician and African-American, the book traces Ellington’s life and career in terms of the social, cultural, political, and economic realities of his times. Beginning with his birth in Washington, DC, through his first bands and work at the legendary Cotton Club, to his final great extended compositions, this book gives a thorough introduction to Ellington’s music and how it was made. It also illuminates his personal life because, for Ellington, music was his life and his life was a constant inspiration for music.

Duke Ellington, A Spiritual Biography (Lives & Legacies Series) by Janna Tull Steed - Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington and his music had been an integral part of the American scene for most of the 20th Century. This interpretive biography offers insights into Ellington’s enduring appeal, not only as a composer and piano-playing leader of a jazz orchestra, but as a cultural icon. Janna Tull Steed traces Ellington’s journey from a protected childhood in Washington, DC through his early career as a jazzman in Harlem nightclubs to the presentation of his music in the world’s grandest cathedrals in his last years.

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra (Caldecott Honor Book) by Andrea Davis Pinkney - Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, “King of the Keys,” was born on April 29, 1899, in Washington, D.C. “He was a smooth-talkin’, slick-steppin’, piano-playin’ kid,” writes master wordsmith Andrea Pinkney in the rhythmic, fluid, swinging prose of this excellent biography for early readers. It was ragtime music that first “set Duke's fingers to wiggling.” He got back to work and taught himself to “press on the pearlies.” Soon 19-year-old Duke was playing compositions “smoother than a hairdo sleeked with pomade” at parties, pool halls, country clubs, and cabarets. Skipping from D.C. to 1920s Harlem, “the place where jazz music ruled,” Duke and his small band called the Washingtonians began performing in New York City clubs, including the Cotton Club, where Duke Ellington and his Orchestra was officially born. By 1943, Duke Ellington – writer of more than 1000 compositions, including ballet and film scores, orchestral suites, musicals, and choral works – had made it all the way to Carnegie Hall. (Great read-aloud, ages 4 to 8)

Music Is My Mistress by Duke Ellington -

On the Road with Duke Ellington (1867) VHS/DVD From the Back Cover- Filmed just six years before Duke Ellington’s death and at the peak of his career, On the Road with Duke Ellington serves as perhaps the most revealing and intimate portrait of the artist ever recorded. Robert Drew, legendary filmmaker and pioneer of the Cinema Vérité documentary style, offers audiences a unique and unobtrusive look inside the colorful and transient world of this American jazz legend, exposing the key elements that characterize and define Ellington as we discover the artist performing, composing, and ruminating about his life and career. Since then, no other film, book, interview, or composition has been able to capture Ellington in quite the same way. Drew finds Ellington at home, on the road, and at his piano, in a world where nightly concert performances, impromptu improvisations, all-night composing sessions, and steak and potato breakfasts are all a part of Duke’s daily routine. With a musical score that highlights an assortment of Ellington standards including “Satin Doll” and “Take the ‘A’ Train,” we are privy to rare moments with Duke as we encounter him late at night composing a new song that he will perform the following day. Even Louis Armstrong makes an appearance in this groundbreaking film that profiles one of the most prolific and influential composers of the 20th century.

Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts (1998) VHS Tape/DVD

The Story of Jazz (1991) video/dvd

Jazz - A Film by Ken Burns (2000) video/dvd - The 10-part musical journey celebrating Jazz’s soaring achievements, from its origins in blues and ragtime through swing, bebop, and fusion. 75 interviews, more than 500 pieces of music, 2,400 still photographs, and over 2,000 rare and archival film clips spotlights many of America's most original, creative–and tragic–figures, including Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis.

Duke Ellington Masterpieces: 1926-1949 [BOX SET] Audio CD - Includes 52 page illustrated booklet. 93 tracks in all including ‘Misty Mornin’, ‘Slippery Horn’, ‘Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart’, ‘All Too Soon’, & ‘Creole Love Call’.

Money Jungle [ORIGINAL RECORDING REMASTERED] [EXTRA TRACKS] Audio CD-What an alliance: a legendary bandleader and composer, a pioneering bop drummer, and an unclassifiable (and often prickly) bass behemoth. It’s no wonder that the tension between Duke Ellington, Max Roach, and Charlie Mingus is thick and extremely tangible, permeating this breathtaking 1962 album with passion and aggression. On the jagged blues “Very Special,” Ellington establishes a weighty mood while his piano work almost borders on free jazz. Roach's sticks dance and prance across every inch of his kit on “A Little Max”; on “Caravan” he effectively shifts from exotic rhythms to straight time. Duke’s harmonic invention is delicate and mysterious on “Fleurette Africaine,” but simultaneously jarring and cerebral on the confrontational “Wig Wise.” It’s hard to believe only three people are creating the stomping, disjointed monster that is the title track. Ellington alone emphasizes the beautiful melodies of the classic ballads “Soltitude” and “Warm Valley,” but the edge returns when the rhythm section joins him. Mingus, who actually idolized Ellington, seems to be purposely agitating the master, almost taunting him. You’d say the synergy was magical, except that they seem to be working against each other.


FYI ~ Did you know that Nichelle Nichols sang with Duke Ellington, and Lionel Hampton, before she became known as Lieutenant Nyota Uhrura of the USS Enterprise?

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