Duke Ellington

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We’re celebrating the birth of Edward Kennedy Ellington, better known as the “Duke.”  With drive, charisma, and vision, Ellington became one of the first artists to successfully bridge the worlds between popular and serious music.

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Throughout the month of February, join us for a special classical and jazz celebration of Black History Month on WRTI.

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It's Black History Month, and on WRTI we're looking closely at bandleader, composer, and pianist Duke Ellington, who wrote over 1,700 songs, as well as longer orchestral suites and film scores. In this interview from 2013, WRTI's Susan Lewis speaks with biographer and blogger Terry Teachout, author of Duke, A Life of Duke Ellington.

July 8, 2019. When trombonist, vocalist, and bandleader Pete McGuinness was growing up in West Hartford, Connecticut, he wanted to be Duke Ellington. So it’s probably no coincidence that with the release of his third big band album, Along for the Ride, McGuinness shows a musical sensibility that mirrors the Duke’s.

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Live from the WRTI Performance Studio, we heard moving selections from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, performed by musicians who will be appearing with the Bucks County Choral Society in Ellington’s historic work. WRTI's Bob Perkins and Debra Lew Harder host.

February 4, 2019. Trained as a classical violinist, Rachel Barton Pine grew up listening to the blues, and one day was thrilled to discover the two genres combined in the sheet music for David Baker’s Deliver My Soul - a 12-bar blues made into a classical work for violin and piano. She made it the first track of her recent album, Blues Dialogues—an album of blues-influenced classical works by 20th- and 21st-century black composers.

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There are not enough letter O's in smooth when you’re talking about the Duke. Ellington was elegance personified. This band leader was refined in everything—from how he dressed, to his compositions, to his playing, to his connection with audiences. But no matter how smooth his manner or refined his looks, it all came down to one thing—“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” And boy, did Ellington swing.

In 1956, a groundbreaking performance at the Newport Jazz Festival changed the course of Duke Ellington's path in jazz. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more. 


The Continuing Voice of the Monterey Jazz Festival

Apr 2, 2017
Jerry Stoll / Monterey Jazz Festival

You won’t find a blue-ribbon pie at this northern California fairground this weekend. But the place will be filled with multiple stages and wall-to-wall music. Here's Meridee Duddleston's take on the Monterey Jazz Festival.

In 1927, Duke Ellington’s orchestra opened at New York’s Cotton Club. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, it was a gig that would fire up Ellington’s career and change the way people thought about jazz. Terry Teachout's Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington is published by Gotham Books.

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