Ethel Ennis to lead tribute to Duke Ellington in Hall

April 17 event will feature Baltimore Jazz Orchestra in Annapolis

April 08, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

The music world is paying homage to Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington this month, which would have marked his 100th birthday. In Annapolis, jazz vocalist Ethel Ennis will lead the celebration.

"He was all music and he was always involved with musicians," said the celebrated vocalist, who will present "A Salute to Duke" April 17 at Maryland Hall, along with the 17-piece Baltimore Jazz Orchestra. "He always will be remembered in American music and in the world's music."

In cities across the nation, jazz enthusiasts will celebrate the works of Ellington, the Washington-born composer and band leader, with concerts and big-band performances.

In Annapolis, the tribute to the Duke will help raise money for First Night Annapolis, the New Year's Eve celebration. First Night is paid for with arts grants, money from sponsors and a fund-raiser, spokeswoman Elizabeth Melvin said.

"I saw [Ennis] had collaborated with the Baltimore Jazz Orchestra on a Gershwin celebration in Baltimore and it was wildly popular and sold out quickly," Melvin said. "She's very popular in Annapolis. Everybody loves her dearly. I thought it was a marriage made in heaven."

Duke Ellington began playing piano at age 13, after he discovered it could make him popular among the girls and guarantee him an invitation to neighborhood parties.

In 1922, he moved to Harlem to swing with big bands and after six years, he was turning heads with the tune "The Dicty Glide." He led the band at Harlem's famous Cotton Club for 10 years and continued composing and recording.

His career spanned 50 years and both defined and transcended jazz until he died in 1974.

Ennis' career has also spanned 50 years.

She is one of few living performers who can claim to have worked with the jazz great. She and Ellington teamed up on "The Bell Telephone Hour," a live variety show on television, in 1963.

"He was a very intelligent musician -- the way he phrased and put notes together," Ennis said. "He was the original. There's something still to be learned."

Visitors to next week's performance can expect a little from all of the master's repertoire, including one of Ennis' favorite Duke tunes, "Love you Madly."

"That's the way he used to sign off to his audience," Ennis said. "It's always a crowd pleaser and it's a nice up tune. I try to make it a party performance."

She also plans to accompany herself on piano for a few hymns penned by Duke. She said she hopes the performance will be inspiring.

"Hopefully, fans who are not enamored with Ellington will go and check him out," Ennis said.

"A Salute to Duke" is scheduled for 8 p.m. April 17 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Tickets are $25 for reserved seating and $50 for VIP seating with an intermission reception and are on sale at the Maryland Hall box office.

Pub Date: 4/08/99

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