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Located in Manhattan
Symphony Space
2537 Broadway, New York, NY 10025
Mon, May 6th 8:00pm
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A celebration of the 125th birthday of jazz great Duke Ellington will take place Monday, May 6 at Symphony Space, Peter Jay Sharp Theatre in New York City. The festivities kick off at 8pm with The Duke Ellington Center Big Band under the musical direction of Eli Yamin. Special guest artist and eight-time Grammy Award winner Arturo O’Farrill will be featured in the evening’s lineup of dancers, vocalists, and surprise guests, including drummer Bobby Sanabria, Broadway veteran Ty Stephens, top tapper DeWitt Fleming Jr., and jazz singers Antoinette Montague and Marion Cowings. The multiple award-winning icon of New York City cabaret, Sidney Myer, will be narrator for this special event.

Presented by the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts in association with the American Tap Dance Foundation, Celebrating Duke Ellington’s 125th Birthday in the City of Jazz will be co-hosted by Duke Ellington’s granddaughter, Mercedes Ellington, and ATDF Founding Director Tony Waag. “We’re looking forward to a fun family birthday party to celebrate my grandfather and his remarkable legacy – we are pulling out all the stops for this milestone event!” said Ms. Ellington.

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born on April 29, 1899, and is considered the greatest jazz composer and band leader of his time. An American jazz pianist, composer, and leader of his eponymous jazz orchestra from 1923 through the rest of his life, Ellington was one of the originators of big-band jazz. For more than half a century Ellington composed thousands of scores, creating one of the most distinctive ensemble sounds in all of Western music.

The title “City of Jazz” was inspired and guided by a short essay Duke Ellington wrote in 1959, encapsulating his view on the all-inclusive nature of jazz, a metaphorical place with “no city limits.”

EDWARD KENNEDY “DUKE” ELLINGTON (b. April 29, 1899). Composer, band leader and pianist, Duke Ellington is a seminal figure in the history of American music, renowned the world over. Nearly 125 years following his birth, he remains one of the most influential figures in jazz, if not all American music. With over 3,000 compositions, Duke Ellington is widely considered one of the twentieth century’s most prolific composers and best-known African American personalities. He is often credited for giving American music its own sound and influenced millions of people both at home and around the world. Duke’s honors and awards include: the President’s Gold Medal (1966), the Medal of Freedom (1969), and the French Legion of Honor (1973). Duke Ellington received the Pulitzer Prize and 13 Grammy Awards.

MERCEDES ELLINGTON is a director, choreographer, producer, performer, and Ellington family historian. Her early groundbreaking credit was as the first and only June Taylor Dancer of color on the Jackie Gleason Show for seven seasons. Mercedes has worked on at least ten Broadway and Broadway related productions including “Sophisticated Ladies”, “Play On”, “No No Nanette” and “The Night That Made America Famous.” Her many overseas assignments included touring Australia as a dancer in “West Side Story,” and accompanying the Duke Ellington Orchestra on part of their 1971 Russian tour and on three tours of The United Arab Emirates.

ARTURO O’FARRILL. Blue Note Records Recording Artist, pianist, composer, and educator. Arturo’s highly praised “Afro-Latin Jazz Suite” from the album “Cuba: The Conversation Continues” took the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition and the 2016 Latin Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album. His powerful “Three Revolutions” from the album “Familia-Tribute to Chico and Bebo” was the 2018 Grammy Award (his sixth) winner for Best Instrumental Composition. Arturo’s album “Four Questions” won a Grammy in 2021. In February 2023, Arturo was awarded his eighth Grammy for the album “Fandango at the Wall in New York.”

THE DUKE ELLINGTON CENTER FOR THE ARTS is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization which honors and preserves the legacy of Duke Ellington through performance and educational outreach. DECFA focuses on scholarship, education, and documentation of accurate Ellington history through performances connected to Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington.

THE AMERICAN TAP DANCE FOUNDATION (ATDF) is a non-profit 501c3 organization committed to establishing and legitimizing tap as a vital component of American dance through creation, presentation, education, and preservation. According to Tony Waag, Founding Director, “Duke Ellington was a key figure in perpetuating the idea that tap dance IS music, and tap dancers are musicians that create music with their feet. Tap grew up next to its kissing cousin jazz. Tap and jazz are undeniably attached at the hip.” Duke Ellington was inducted into the ATDF International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2017.

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