Art Nerd New York | Los Angeles

Duke Ellington Memorial

DC native Duke Ellington helped to spur the Harlem Renaissance of the early 1920s, making New York a hotbed for big bad jazz. His career really jump started in 1929 when he became the house band for the jazz-speak easy, The Cotton Club. The club may have been in Harlem but was geared toward a whites-only audience- which in a way helped his career as it kept him relevant during the Depression, when other musicians were dropping off due to lack of funds.


The Duke Ellington Memorial was dedicated in 1997 after 18 years of being in the works. The 25 foot bronze was the brainchild of music enthusiast Bobby Short, who was inspired by a Louis Armstrong bust in Paris, and wanted to honor one of NYC’s greats in the same fashion. Short raised the funds himself, and commissioned sculptor Robert Graham to create a bust of Ellington. It was Graham’s idea to make a more epic monument, which depicts a standing Ellington, about to bow after a performance, on a stage held up by nine muses.

Ellington died in 1974 at age 75.


Who: Robert Graham

What: Duke Ellington Memorial

Where: Fifth Avenue at 110th Street

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