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Duke Ellington

Pianist, Composer, and Band Leader

By the time he made his wartime Carnegie Hall debut on January 23, 1943, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was already a star. A driving interest in long-form composition found it’s expression at that debut when he premiered his jazz symphony Black, Brown, and Beige, which he introduced as “a tone parallel to the history of the Negro in America.” The success of his debut and his new approach to jazz composition led to Ellington’s series of annual Carnegie Hall concerts, on which he always premiered at least one new work. The music at his April 4, 1968, concert was overshadowed when, prior to the start of the concert, civil rights leader Robert Moses made an announcement from the stage that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot just an hour and a half earlier in Memphis. The concert continued as a dedication to the memory of Dr. King. Ellington’s final Carnegie Hall concert—of more than 20 in total—took place on July 8, 1972, two years before his death.

There are simply two kinds of music: good music and the other kind ... The only yardstick by which the result should be judged is simply that of how it sounds. If it sounds good, it’s successful; if it doesn’t, it has failed.


From the Archives

Duke Ellington at Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall’s performance history database covers more than 50,000 concerts and events that occurred at Carnegie Hall from its opening in 1891 to the present. Explore events related to Duke Ellington (these links will open in a new tab with the performance history search tools):

Listen to Duke Ellington

Hear the innovative genius, irresistible pulse, and stunning beauty of Duke Ellington’s music. Ellington was one of America’s greatest composers, and with his brilliant band played more than 20 unforgettable concerts at Carnegie Hall. Duke Ellington is a Carnegie Hall Icon—listen to hear why.  Listen on Apple Music and Spotify.

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