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Duke Ellington (New York City Parks & Recreation Public Art)

Central Harlem

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Duke Ellington
Sculptor Robert Graham, 1997
Frawley Circle, Fifth Avenue & 110th Street, Manhattan
Bronze, gilding, granite

This monumental piece depicts the composer, pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington standing beside a concert grand, supported by nine latter-day caryatid figures. The sculpture is set within a multi-leveled semi-circular plaza at the gateway to Harlem --the community in which Ellington lived for much of his adult life and with which he is creatively associated.

The sculpture of Edward Kennedy Ellington at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue is the first monument in New York City dedicated to an African American and the first memorial to Ellington in the United States. A composer, orchestra conductor, and musician, Duke Ellington elevated jazz to the most American of art forms. Colorful, blues-oriented players such as Johnnie Hodges and Cootie Williams played with him, helping to shape his style and inspire his compositions. The December 1927 opening at the Cotton Club �'' the showplace of Harlem speakeasies �'' put the Duke Ellington Orchestra on the jazz map. With Harlem and the Cotton Club as home base, Ellington began radio broadcasts and recorded for American, English, and French labels. Between 1930 and 1942 he was at his most creative, composing such classics as Mood Indigo, Sophisticated Lady, In a Sentimental Mood, and Don't Get Around Much Anymore. Increasingly recognized as a major American composer, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969.

Central Harlem

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