‘ I just thought that every Father did what my Father did …” Says Edward Ellington Jr. ” It was only years later, I realized the magnitude of what my father accomplished. For a long time, I thought he was a travelling salesman.”
Edward Ellington Jr. and his sister April, are the duo responsible for The Savoy Ellingtons. A group that has been together for twenty – five years. A long time for two kids who were at one point headed in opposite musical directions . A long time to make ‘Dad’ extremely proud.
‘ I was doing my music on the East Coast” Explains Edward. ” April was living in Los Angeles and working with people such as Jermaine Jackson. We always wanted to work together so I moved to Los Angeles and we started the Savoy Ellingtons.”
The group – according to April, remains intact because they stay true to their Father’s vision of integrity , hard work and passion.
“My father’s best gift to us was teaching us that if we are not passionate about something, we will not be successful.” Admits April. ” We try our best to maintain what our father taught us by him talking to us and watching him perform. He always said if you do not like what you do, then nobody else will like what you do …”
April Ellington and Edward Ellington Jr. are the daughter and son of the late Duke Ellington, the world-renowned jazz musician and orchestra leader. The ‘family act’ bring certain dynamics to the stage which appear to be forgotten as the years go by. Class and elegance. Two components which showcased Duke Ellingon’s era on stage.
‘ It all comes down to being disciplined ” Says Edward. ” There is a certain tempo amid the numbers involved in music and that tends to settle people down and create a positive environment. When you are structuring music there is a sequence that you follow. I believe that all ties together in the end.”
A positive environment is something which April thinks has disappeared in the music business. The Savoy Ellingtons bring a certain melodic structure to their songs, something which April thinks is sadly missing today …
” The music of today – with all due respect, seems to be lacking musicality, harmony and melody. It is disturbing in a way. It all seems to be sampling and electronics. It is one of the reasons Edward and I work steadfast at keeping the legend and the legacy of the people who have gone before us alive – starting with our father. We also try to do that through our own compositions as well which have much harmony. I think the music business has changed drastically from one era to another and we try to keep it alive through integrity.”
Money and youth also play a part in what is wrong in the business. Something which the Brother-Sister act were aware of growing up with the name Ellington attached to their lapels …
” It can be a great hazard. ” Says Edward.” As we have seen – there have been so many gifted, talented kids that were not surrounded by the right people. On Monday you are someone and the end of the week you are nobody. Being young brings a lot of responsibility in music. People forget that. If you have nobody to isolate you and point you in the right direction, then you must be a good steward of the gift that was given to you by the Lord. Doing that alone is very difficult.”
Referred to as ‘entertainers extraordinaire’, the Savoy Ellingtons are travelers who relay music through several different languages. French and Spanish being two of them . The others? To find out – attend one of their fantastic shows ….
” We cannot give away everything …: Laughs April. ” We are Jazz vocalists and that is what we concentrate on. Mostly we work with the Big Band and sometimes it can be up to a thirty-eight piece orchestra. Edward is trying to learn the trumpet and I am learning the Cello. We have decided to wait until we are older to add those to the shows. Right now it’s about our vocals.”
When the kids were young, creativity and music was part of the equation. Edward took trumpet lessons and April started her cello lessons. As a young lady – April was on stage with her Father. Dancing up a storm. When her Dad offered up the microphone, April was not as at ease as today.
” I made my debut at four. I entered from one side of the stage and Edward the other. It was one thing to watch what he did from the audience, on stage under those bright lights was something totally different. We came on for the final number and my Father was in the middle. We just wanted to dance and suddenly my Dad was handing the microphone to us to sing. I was trying to concentrate on dancing – I did not want the microphone.”
These days – Edward and April not only sing, they also pay tribute to their Father as well as people such as Count Basie. All the great music from the 30′;s and 40’s. The great Big Band era …
” We play things from the 40s …” Explains April. ” But we keep things very fresh and eclectic. Although we do add our own compositions – we really try to keep it as close as possible to preserve the integrity of the artists we cover.”
April Ellington believes that music is a blessing and a gift from God. Both April and Edward consider themselves blessed to be able to perform and to perform this long.
” When we were young, we wanted to be involved in music. ” Says Edward. ” My Father pushed us away from performing at one time. I was going to be the world’s greatest brain surgeon and April was studying to be a lawyer. My Father instilled in us that no matter what you do – do your best and things will work out …”
Too bad Edward is a performer. Like his Father – the young Ellington would have been a great travelling salesman ….
In any language.
- Duke Ellington on Grooveshark (grooveshark.com)
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- Albert Murray (loveismyalterego.wordpress.com)
- Thelonious Monk on Grooveshark (grooveshark.com)
- RIP, Sathima Bea Benjamin (blogs.ottawacitizen.com)
- Author-Critic Albert Murray Dead at 97 (abcnews.go.com)