The song was performed by Ellington and the band in the 1943 film Reveille with Beverly with vocalist Betty Roche. The pair met in 1938, and the very next year Strayhorn composed “A Train.” Strayhorn had an uncanny ability to emulate Ellington’s style while infusing it with a melody and lyricism that resembled the emerging “swing” genre. Duke Ellington’s signature composition was “Take the A Train,” written by his frequent collaborator Billy Strayhorn. Growing up in a middle-class family that emphasized good manners and spotless dress, the habits instilled in him would later earn him the stand-alone nickname “The Duke.”. Around this “Take the ‘A’ Train” was rolling up the charts. More than half a century after “Take the A Train” debuted, a Brooklyn man (and self-proclaimed “dumpster diver”) Garfied Gillings came across a set of metal plates engraved with sheet music for purpose of printing the famous piece of music, as documented in this segment from the PBS show History Detectives. Jo Stafford recorded an intentionally inept interpretation of the song under the pseudonym Darlene Edwards. For the albums, see, Learn how and when to remove this template message, "Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Jazz Composers: Take the "A" Train", "Take the 'A' Train" at jazzstandards.com, Joya Sherrill at the PBS Jazz history page, Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band, Braggin' in Brass: The Immortal 1938 Year. In 1941, New York City’s newest subway line ­– the A train – was bringing people from Harlem into the heart of the city and connecting the long-stretching Manhattan Island. Ellington’s Tempo Music company was formulated after Ellington severed his relationship with agent Irving Mills. Her father, a noted Detroit activist, set up a meeting with Ellington. The use of the Strayhorn composition as the signature tune was made necessary by a ruling in 1940 by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Mercer recalled that he found the composition in a trash can after Strayhorn discarded a draft of it because it sounded too much like a Fletcher Henderson arrangement. [2] The song was first recorded on January 15, 1941 as a standard transcription for radio broadcast. Nance is also responsible for the trumpet solo on the first recording, which was so well suited for the song that it has often been duplicated note for note by others. Based loosely on the chordal structure of "Exactly Like You", the song combines the propulsive swing of the 1940s-era Ellington band with the confident sophistication of Ellington and the black elite who inhabited Sugar Hill in Harlem. In a city filled to the brim with talented musicians, Ellington stood apart. It remains a mystery as to whether he felt his contributions to the band, the music label, the Duke were ever fully and truly acknowledged in his lifetime. Music historians attribute Ellington’s rebounding success in the 1940s to the help of Strayhorn. The tune is in AABA form, in the key of C, with each section being a lyric couplet. The song would bring huge financial success to a pioneering music publishing venture, Tempo Music Inc., located at 1775 Broadway in New York City and owned by Ellington. His company set the precedent for African American artists that would come after him – Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Herbie Hancock – starting their own companies and managing their own wealth. Owing to Joya's remarkable poise and singing ability and her unique take on the song, Ellington hired her as a vocalist and adopted her lyrics. The tune which was taken from Duke Ellington and his famous orchestra's 1941 album "Hollywood" was included in the soundtrack of the 2008 video game release Grand Theft Auto IV from the fictitious in-game jazz music radio station "JNR 108.5 (Jazz Nation Radio)". Edward Kennedy Ellington was born at the turn of the 20th century in Washington DC in 1899. The vocalist who most often performed the song with the Ellington band was trumpeter Ray Nance, who enhanced the lyrics with numerous choruses of scat singing. (The Ellington band's version begins in C and rises to the key of E♭ after the second chorus.). The song brought Ellington and his … Duke Ellington Collection curator John Hassey of the Smithsonian says that Gillings’ plates were likely used for the first successful publication of Tempo Music Inc. Strayhorn eventually received a 10% stake in the company as well as a salary that allowed him to pursue his passion: composing music. Duke Ellington ’s signature composition was “Take the A Train,” written by his frequent collaborator Billy Strayhorn. When ASCAP raised its licensing fees for broadcast use, many ASCAP members, including Ellington, could no longer play their compositions over radio, as most music was played live on radio at the time. The song brought Ellington and his … In Ellington’s case, his band was losing more than it was making, so it was the money made from Tempo Music that allowed the band to continue playing and making music. She made up the words at her home in Detroit, while the song played on the radio. Swinging Suites by Edward E. and Edward G. Studio Sessions, 1957, 1965, 1966, 1967, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Studio Sessions New York & Chicago, 1965, 1966 & 1971, The Carnegie Hall Concerts: December 1944, The Carnegie Hall Concerts: December 1947, It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book, It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing), Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don't Tease Me), https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Take_the_%22A%22_Train&oldid=976015998, Articles needing additional references from September 2013, All articles needing additional references, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 31 August 2020, at 18:22. ", Subscribe to the American Masters Newsletter, Performances of “Mood Indigo,” including by Annie Lennox, Duke Ellington Interview: What is “American Music?”, The Story of “Take the A Train,” Duke Ellington’s Signature. In 1999, National Public Radio included this song in the "NPR 100", in which NPR's music editors sought to compile the one hundred most important American musical works of the 20th century. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don't want it. The song brought Ellington and his band financial success, became his “theme” song that he would perform regularly for the rest of his life, and is still one of the most important compositions in all of jazz. The band is depicted performing in a railroad passenger car, not a subway car. When ASCAP raised its licensing fees for broadcast use, many ASCAP members, including Ellington, could no longer play their compositions over radio, as most music was played live on radio at the time. MAJOR SUPPORT FOR AMERICAN MASTERS PROVIDED BY, "Art is dangerous. Although Strayhorn said he wrote lyrics for it, the recorded first lyrics were composed by, or for, the Delta Rhythm Boys. Take the A Train van Duke Ellington is een veel gespeeld stuk dat de meeste jazzmuzikanten zo meespelen. Ellington turned to Billy Strayhorn and son Mercer Ellington, who were registered with ASCAP competitor BMI to "write a whole new book for the band," Mercer recalled. He wanted to own his own music and royalties, ultimately ending his role as victim to the exploitative music industry. "Take the 'A' Train" was composed in 1939, after Ellington offered Strayhorn a job in his organization and gave him money to travel from Pittsburgh to New York City. Ellington turned to Billy Strayhorn and son Mercer Ellington, who were registered with ASCAP competitor BMIto "write a whole ne… Ella Fitzgerald sang and recorded this song many times from 1957 onwards; for a live version with Ella scatting, see her 1961 Verve release Ella in Hollywood. "Take the 'A' Train" is a jazz standard by Billy Strayhorn that was the signature tune of the Duke Ellington orchestra. Ellington wrote directions for Strayhorn to get to his house by subway, directions that began, "Take the A Train".

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