Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
For information about visitor access, see COVID-19 library updates..

LITR 022 Music and Literature : Ellington. Jazz.

A guide to music primary sources pertaining to course content

Duke Ellington

Jam Session, 1937
Chick Webb, drums; Artie Shaw, clarinet; Duke Ellington; Ivonna Mills

The Stanley Dance and Helen Oakley Papers, MSS 62

Duke Ellington

Duke (Edward Kennedy) Ellington (1899-1974) was an American pianist, composer, lyricist, and bandleader. He was a leading figure in jazz and one of America’s greatest composers. Ellington grew up in Washington, D.C. He studied the piano when young, but dropped it until ragtime caught his ear. He formed his first band at the age of 18. Within a few years Ellington and The Washingtonians were receiving rave reviews at the Club Kentucky in New York. Although the early recordings are not notable, the release of "East St. Louis Toodle-o" in 1926, a remarkable work, may indicate that Ellington was finally able to record the repertoire he wanted. Ellington and his band worked at the Cotton Club from 1927-1931. Ellington's band kept expanding, and in 1933 a European tour secured international fame. In 1939 Ellington hired Billy Strayhorn beginning a long-term creative relationship. Unusually for the time, his band members stayed with him for decades, and the ensemble work led to extraordinary achievements. Throughout his life Ellington had to contend with racial segregation and the varying status of jazz. By the 1960s, he was representing the United States on State Department Tours, and his reputation has only increased with time. 

Ellington Manuscript


Duke Ellington on the Early Years


OHIII: Duke Ellington Oral History

The Duke Ellington Oral History comprises ninety-two interviews with and about Ellington, one of America's greatest composers. Included are many of the foremost artists of the century, such as Alvin Ailey, Amiri Baraka, Dave Brubeck, Sonny Greer, John Hammond, Al Hibbler, Sy Oliver, Max Roach, Billy Taylor, Randy Weston, and Mary Lou Williams. A series on Billy Strayhorn, Ellington's elusive and talented colleague, has evolved from the Ellington Project.

(Note: For additional research material on the work of Duke Ellington, see the Stanley Dance and Helen Oakley Dance Papers in the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library archival collections.)



Accessing OHAM: How to Listen and Read

OHAM collections can be located through Archives at Yale. Once located, recordings for most interviews can then be streamed online via OHAM’s AV Access System, Aviary.

Streaming Audio and Video:
Access to Aviary from Archives at Yale is provided by clicking on the OHAM logo or video image provided for an interview. See this example.
Yale users can simply log in with their Yale University netID, and play the interview recording in Aviary.
Non-Yale users should follow the steps outlined in this video to gain 30 days free access to interviews.

If you would like transcripts of any of these interviews, click here to fill out a request form and a staff member will provide you with any available PDFs for download.

Tables of Contents:
Tables of Contents for many interviews are available in Archives at Yale, under the "External Documents" header for each interview (when available).