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Duke Ellington: Genius Beyond Category

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Duke Ellington: Genius Beyond Category

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, December 7, 2020 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2108
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.

No one led a life, led a band, or made music like Duke Ellington. He was one of a kind—beyond category. American music specialist John Edward Hasse surveys the moving and inspiring story of a man who overcame racial, social, and musical obstacles to become one of the 20th century’s greatest musicians. 

Hasse covers the full sweep of Ellington’s life: his musical influences—including ragtime and dance music—growing up in Washington, D.C., and how he negotiated the city’s strict color line. Also, his breakthrough at Harlem’s Cotton Club; his way of personalizing his compositions for the individual gifts of his players; and his turn to greater spirituality as he got older, which prompted him to compose three Sacred Concerts.

Hear the inside story of how the Smithsonian acquired Ellington’s vast archive, including 100,000 pages of unpublished music—a collection that, like the maestro himself, is a national treasure. Best of all, see and hear rare film footage of Ellington performing in all stages of his career, including such classics as “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Don’t Get Around Much Any More,” “Sophisticated Ladies,” “Mood Indigo,” and “Dancers in Love.” And take a look at his film roles in Anatomy of a Murder and Paris Blues and duets with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.   

Hasse is curator emeritus of American Music at the National Museum of American History and author of Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington.

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