Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn – Take the “A” Train

Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn – Take the “A” Train (sheet music)

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Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (Washington D. C., 1899 – New York, 1974), was born in the bosom of a family that never happened economic needs because his father was a butler of a house of the wealthy and his mother came from a black family, well-to-do. It also received an excellent education bourgeois an attitude of elegance aristocratic that would take throughout his life, hence the nickname of “Duke” (Duke) who put their friends.

His musical education began with piano of her mother, and although it receives classes of two teachers, still, it would take quite a long time to learn how to read music. In 1919, he abandons the studies of design and decoration, decides to marry with a childhood friend and looks at the music his profession.

It’s in the 1921 when Duke Ellington, he formed his first own group with local musicians that I would call “The Duke’s Serenaders” first, and then the famous “The Washingtonians” with Elmer Snowden, as responsible for the band. In 1923, they decide to make the leap to New York City and the experience is not very positive, but they manage to play for a few weeks in the band of Wilbur Sweatman, who acted in the “Lafayette Theatre”.

After some comings and goings of Washington to the Big Apple, get a contract at the club “Hollywood”, where a night, listens to you play Bix Beiderbecke, who observed with great attention to the sound of the damper “wa-wa” that produce the trumpeter Bubber Miley and trombonist Charlie Irvis. That particular sound would be decisive in the development of the musical discourse of Duke Ellington.

In 1924, with the knowledge of music is very sophisticated, the WHN, a local radio station transmits the show from the Hollywood club that has now changed name and is called the “Kentucky Club”, the band begins to be known and begin to leak contracts in other cities near New York. Between 1924 and 1926 and incorporated into the band musicians decisive in the orchestra Ellington, among them, temporarily clarinetist Sidney Bechet and the baritone sax, Harry Carney, the first great specialist of that instrument in the history of jazz, and that will remain with Ellington all his life.

This is the orchestra in 1927, with a solid formation, well shot and with a sound of their own, would give the great leap to fame when they were contracted to play in the “Cotton Club” in Harlem, a local owned and run by the gangster Owney Madden, from 1923, and which had become fashionable in New York City to the point that it was frequented by the public exclusively white, people, money, characters from the mafia and the high society of new york. There was four years ago and when it came out in 1931, was coated glory.

Between 1927 and 1945, after creating the jazz “jungle style”, Duke Ellington and his orchestra reached, in this period, the summit of his artistic maturity and creative. The orchestra of Duke Ellington in the forties was without doubt the one that had the best soloists and instrumentalists most virtuous of the time and the magazine Down Beat placed him on several occasions by popular support even above that of Benny Goodman. After the decline of the bigbands, Ellington, he was the only leader of the group never disbanded his own.

In the absence of contracts pay their musicians with the monies deposited for copyright and used his orchestra to compose with it, and to hear their music. But some of his soloists were marched between the late forties and early fifties to start their solo careers. To the running of Ben Webster, Barney Bigard, Tizol and others, joined in a final in 1951, his friend, Johnny Hodges. The press that before he was sparing of praise, announced almost daily disappearance of the orchestra.

In 1955, returns to the band Johnny Hodges and the Ellington breathe relieved and enter nominates a number of musicians who would still play the sound of Ellington. Among the additions most talked about, are saxophonists, Paul Gonsalves and Jimmy Hamilton, clarinet, Russell Procope, the trombonist, Quenti Jackson, and trumpeters, Cat Anderson and Clark Terry.

With these musicians, and some skepticism, Ellington is invited to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival, 1956. What happened that night is written in the annals of jazz. Duke Ellington, he pulled out of his top hat creative two songs written in 1937, “Diminuendo in Blue” and “Crescendo in blue” and decided to above the stage to serve America, by separating them with just an interlude in charge of Gonsalves.

And there is the “miracle” occurred. The sweeping twenty-seven “chorus” followed by pure jazz and hard that he improvised the saxophonist, driven by a rhythmic exemplary turned to the story. The chairs were flying above the heads of the astonished and roaring spectators, and the next morning all the newspapers announced in big headlines “Ellington has become”.

From there began the tour, the concerts all over the world, the recorded discs, and in the last ten years of his life devoted himself to composing suites and concerts sacral and his life was turned off when the May 24, 1974, a cancer ended his life. Ellington is forever, the throne of the greatest creators of jazz along to Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, and is without a doubt one of the greatest composers of the TWENTIETH Century, whatever the music that is considered, and its legacy is a cultural heritage that will always remain between us.

Billy Strayhorn

Billy Strayhorn studied in Pittsburgh, combining school with the piano and composition, which allowed him to enter as a very young orchestra student of the institute.

His life is inextricably linked to that of Duke Ellington, forming both a couple from the musical point of view it was a brilliance extraordinary. Of a reserved nature, in 1938, his life changed forever when he was brought before Ellington as a songwriter and composer, carrying under his arm a masterpiece timeless as it was “Lush Life”.

With such a letter of introduction, Ellington offered him to work for him, beginning a relationship that would last for twenty-eight years, right up until the death of the own Strayhorn, which took place in 1967.

The importance of their contribution to the success of Duke Ellington is huge, and his arrival coincided with one of the periods of greatest creativity of the orchestra of the Duke. Although it is difficult to discern where he began the work of one and the beginning of another, the truth is that both musicians formed a couple that offered to the jazz one of the best pages of your story.

Theirs were compositions that today you are the true standards of modern jazz, and it is necessary to emphasize: “Take the “A” Train”; “Chelsea Bridge”, the already quoted, “Lush Life” and the suites of “Such Sweet Thunder” or “Perfume Suite.”

His compositions have been versioned by many musicians, among them there are that highlights the tribute which they paid him two extraordinary musicians as they were, tenor saxophonist, Joe Henderson with his tribute album, titled “Lush Life” or the guitarist Jimmy Rowles with his tribute album entitled: “Plays Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn”.

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