Mercer Kennedy Ellington (1919 - 1996)

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Death: Died in Denmark
Managed by: Margaret, (C)
Last Updated:
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About Mercer Kennedy Ellington

Mercer Kennedy Ellington (11 March 1919 – 8 February 1996) was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger.

Ellington was born in Washington, DC, the son of famous composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington and Edna Thompson. By the age of eighteen he had written his first piece to be recorded by his father ("Pigeons and Peppers").

In 1939, 1946–1949, and 1959 he led his own bands, many of whose members went on to play with his father, or to achieve independent fame (notably Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham, Idrees Sulieman, Chico Hamilton, Charles Mingus, and Carmen McRae). During the 1940s in particular he wrote pieces that became standards, including "Things Ain't What They Used to Be", "Jumpin' Punkins", "Moon Mist", and "Blue Serge". He also wrote the lyrics to Hillis Walters' popular song, "Pass Me By" (1946), which was recorded by Lena Horne, Carmen McRae and Peggy Lee.

He composed for his father from 1940 to 1941, worked as road manager for Cootie Williams' orchestra (1941 to 1943 and again in 1954), and returned to work for his father playing E-flat horn in 1950, and then as general manager and copyist from 1955 to 1959. In 1960 he became Della Reese's musical director, then in 1962 went on take a job as a radio DJ in New York for three years. In 1965 he again returned to his father's orchestra, this time as trumpeter and road manager.

When his father died in 1974, Ellington took over the orchestra, taking it on tour to Europe in 1975 and 1977 (his own son, Edward Ellington, played in the band in the late 1970s, and his other son, Paul Mercer Ellington, took it over at a later date). Ellington also has a daughter Mercedes Ellington.

In the early 1980s Ellington became the first conductor for a Broadway musical of his father's music, Sophisticated Ladies. Before his death the Duke Ellington Orchestra included Barrie Lee Hall, Rocky White, Tommy James, Gregory Charles Royal, J.J. Wiggins, and Shelly Carrol among others. Mercer Ellington performed up to the day of his passing.

Ellington died of a heart attack a month short of his seventy-seventh birthday.

The Duke Ellington Orchestra still runs today under the Direction of Paul Ellington, who also controls the Estate of Mercer & Duke Ellington. Discography as leader

  • 1958: Black and Tan Fantasy
  • 1958: Steppin' into Swing Society
  • 1959: Colors in Rhythm
  • 1974: Continuum
  • 1984: Hot and Bothered
  • 1987: Digital Duke (reached number three on the Billboard Top Jazz Album chart)
  • 1989: Music Is My Mistress
  • 1992: Take the Holiday Train
  • 1996: Only God Can Make a Tree

References

  • Exploredance.com
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Mercer Ellington's Timeline

1919
1919
1996
1996
Age 77
Denmark