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He composed the suites like "Black, Brown & Beige" and "A Tone Parallell To Harlem". The latter was performed by Ellington’s band and a symphony orchestra, it might be thougt of something like a concerto grosso for jazz big band and symphony orchestra.
Something about the Ellington-Toscanini connection: Stanley Slome, an Ellington historian, writes: "...Duke says that, returning from Europe on the Ile de France in summer 1950, he wrote Harlem. He said it had been commissioned by the NBC Symphony Orchestra ‘during the time when Maestro Arturo Toscanini was its conductor."
So Ellington actually did not say that Toscanini personally comissioned it. Ellington may himself have conducted Harlem, short for A Tone Parallell To Harlem, with members of the said symphony orchestra. Ellington thougt of it as a concerto grosso for jazz big band and symphony orchestra.
It seems that the commision has not been established for a fact, but the work was at least performed in symphony settings, with orchestra constructions based on musicians from famous orchestras, also conducted by Toscanini’s co-leader Don Gillis. (The great maestro was not that interested in North-American music.)
Bill Zwick <firstname.lastname@example.org> adds:
- "Symphony in Black", sound track for a 9-minute film (1935)
- "Black, Brown and Beige: A Tone Parallel to the History of the American Negro", 44 min. (1943)
- "New World a-Comin’" (10:18) (1943)
- "Liberian Suite" (1947)
- "Harlem" (15:48) (1950)
- "Festival Suite" (1956)
- "Such Sweet Thunder" (1957)
- "Suite Thursday" (1960)
- Far East Suite (1966)
- "Anatomy of a Murder" sound track (1959)
- "Paris Blues" sound track (1961)
- "Concert of Sacred Music" (1965)
- "Second Sacred Concert" (1968)
- "The River" (1970)
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an African American pianist, composer and band leader who was born into a middle-class family in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. on April 29, 1899.
Although best known for composing, leading and performing about 2,000 "big band" jazz pieces, Ellington also composed orchestral, chamber and solo piano works in the classical genre. At age 7, Ellington began studying the piano; at about age 17, he began playing piano professionally. By the time he turned 20, Ellington was a bandleader who played at social events.
In 1922 he moved to New York City, where he played with both theater orchestras and jazz bands. His first Broadway score was for a 1924 musical, "Chocolate Kiddies", which did not do well. Also in 1924, Ellington took over as leader of the six-member Elmer Snowden Band. Within two years the Ellington Orchestra had 11 musicians. In the fall of 1927, The Ellington Orchestra was hired for a lengthy period by the Cotton Club, the premier New York City nightclub of the day. The club was wired for radio broadcasts, so the orchestra, performing as the Cotton Club Orchestra, gained national recognition. Only white people were admitted as patrons. All of the waiters and most of the entertainers were African American. The Duke established the distinctive style of his orchestra with a series of 78 rpm recordings in 1927-28. The ensemble gained further publicity from its performance in the 1930 film "Check and Double Check". Ellington took his group on frequent tours, including trips to Europe in 1933 and 1939. Billy Strayhorn joined Ellington in 1938, and was his closest collaborator for the next 30 years.
In 1943 Ellington became the first African American band leader to perform at Carnegie Hall. The program included the ground-breaking 44-minute work entitled "Black, Brown and Beige: A Tone Parallel to the History of the American Negro". The work did not fit the conventions of either jazz or classical music. The response of music critics was very disappointing, but Ellington and Strayhorn continued to compose other large-scale suites, such as "Liberian Suite" (1947), "Harlem" (1951), and the sound tracks for "Anatomy of a Murder" (1959) and "Paris Blues (1961). Ellington’s "New World a-Comin" (10:18) has been recorded by the Italian pianist Marco Fumo on Dynamic CDS 351 (2000). The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, led by Neeme Järvi, Conductor, has recorded "Harlem", Suite from "The River" and Solitude on three CDs, Chandos 9154 (1993), Chandos 9226 (1993) and Chandos 9909 (2001).
(Contribution by Bill Zick <email@example.com>.)