Archives of the Mayor's Press Office

Date: July 1, 1997

Release #392-97

Contact: Colleen Roche (212) 788-2958


Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani today joined elected officials, community and civic leaders, and legends of the music world at the unveiling of a monument honoring jazz legend Duke Ellington. The 25-foot high memorial statue, a gift to New York City from the Duke Ellington Memorial Fund and designed by renowned sculptor Robert Graham, is located at Duke Ellington Circle at Fifth Avenue and 110th Street.

Joining the Mayor today were Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington, Bobby Short, founder of the Duke Ellington Memorial Fund, and world-renowned trumpet player, Wynton Marsalis.

"Edward Kennedy Ellington was one of the greatest musicians of this century and he composed his greatest work right here in New York City," Mayor Giuliani said. "Although he wasn't born in New York City, he lived and worked here for over fifty years. It was here that Duke came to redefine American music through a musical style deeply influenced by the flavor and even by the sights and sounds of the Harlem community."

"Composing music with energy, sophistication and elegance, the Duke set into motion the future development of jazz," continued the Mayor. "From the great clubs of Harlem to the great concert halls of the world, his music defined a generation of Americans. It was Duke Ellington's influence that helped New York City earn its rightful place as the Jazz Capital of the World -- a title we retain to this day. He was a citizen of the world who made New York City his home and we are all proud to honor him and his music with this fitting tribute."

Duke Ellington was born in 1899 in Washington, D.C. He began his career composing and leading bands in Washington until 1923, when he was influenced to move to Harlem by pianist Fats Waller. Ellington played in such Harlem clubs as the Cotton Club, where he established himself as a prominent composer and pianist. As his career moved forward, Ellington began to set new standards of jazz composition. Songs like "Echoes of Harlem" emphasize Ellington's creative capabilities and musicianship. Ellington and his band have since been recognized as the quintessential creators of modern American jazz. Duke Ellington died in 1974 at the age of 75.

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