Portrait of Duke Ellington, Washington, D.C., between 1938 and 1948. Photo by William P. Gottlieb. Library of Congress

Duke Ellington's Washington

September 21, 2015

Washington proudly hails Duke Ellington as a native son, but what was it about this city and its U Street neighborhood in the early twentieth century that produced and inspired the world's greatest jazz composer?

On September 21, 2015, John Edward Hasse, curator of American music at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, presented an illustrated tour of the saloons, soda fountains and other performance venues where the young Duke Ellington's ears were tuned to a new kind of music.

Hasse is the award-winning author of Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington and editor of the illustrated history Jazz: The First Century. He led the Smithsonian's acquisition of the 200,000-page Duke Ellington archive, including virtually all of the composer's unpublished music, along with countless other papers, recordings and artifacts from the early days of jazz. He was the founding executive director of the Smithsonian's Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and producer of numerous recordings, including the Grammy-nominated three-album set The Classic Hoagy Carmichael.

This lecture was the first event for the Overbeck series at Hill Center after thirteen years at the Naval Lodge a few blocks up Pennsylvania Avenue. The new relationship streamlined reservations and other event logistics and also provided lecture goers easier access from the Eastern Market Metro station.

Copies of Hasse's Beyond Category, plus Jazz: The First Century and the Hoagy Carmichael recordings, were available for sale and signing at the end of the event.

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