Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy Ellington, American jazz composer, orchestrator, bandleader, and pianist, is considered to be the greatest composer in the history of jazz music and one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. He composed over 2000 works and performed numerous concerts during his musical career. A compilation of some of his most popular music is collected on a CD called "The Popular Duke Ellington."
Ellington personally created most of the music played by his orchestra. He often wrote pieces for specific players with distinctive musical styles in his band, such as "Concerto for Cootie" (1940) for fellow musician and trumpeter, Cootie Williams. With the help from American trumpeter James "Bubber" Miley, Ellington often incorporated in his music the jungle effect. This effect was made by placing a plunger at the opening of a brass instrument, therefore, muffling or muting the notes played out. The result sounded like a person wailing, giving the piece a voice-like quality. In "Concerto for Cootie," Cootie Williams does a solo using the jungle effect, making it sound like a voice is singing along. His opening solo is repetitive, going over the same set of notes over and over again. The overall feeling is as if the music is wooing the listener.
Ellington's other innovations include the use of the human voice as an instrument, such as in "Creole Love Call" (1927). He also placed instruments in unusual combinations, illustrated in the piece "Mood Indigo" (1930). When the orchestra performs this piece, three soloists stand out in front of the stage, playing three different instruments. Improvisation was a big part of Ellington?s music.
One of Ellington orchestra?s signature tunes is "Take the ?A? Train" (1941). This piece was not written by Ellington but by American composer Billy Strayhorn, who became Ellington?s musical collaborator. This piece is very jumpy and light, making you feel like tapping your feet and following the beat. In the background is a piano in stride style that accompanies the brass instruments.
Ellington often wrote evocative music, such as "Caravan" (1936), which he intended as a portrait of an exotic locale. The piece is a cross between Latin jazz and music that is Aladdin like. The brass instruments in the background are playing in ostinato form. This piece was written by Puerto Rican Juan Tizol who played the trombone solo. Cootie Williams would later improvise on the piece, coming up with his own version of "Caravan."
Over the course of his career, some of Ellington?s instrumental pieces he composed were set into lyrics and became hits as songs, including "Sophisticated Lady" (1933) and "In My Solitude" (1942). Many of his songs were about women. "Sophisticated Lady" is a slow tempo song featuring trombonists Lawrence Brown. "In My Solitude" features alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges. The song is kind of melancholic, with verses such as "?you haunt me with memories that never die." Other pieces were "recycled," or being derived from previous pieces. One example is "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me" which came from "Concerto for Cootie." Both compositions have the same distinguishable melody.
Many of Ellington?s compositions have common characteristics, such as the muted brass instruments and high, wailing clarinets; distinctive harmonies; his stride piano playing style; and unusual combinations of instruments. He created a body of innovative and original music.