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The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts

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Duke Ellington Extravaganza — Big Band and 14 Grand Pianos in Central Park, Manhattan


On Wednesday, July 1 at 6:30 p.m., The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts will host a spectacular and unprecedented event in Central Park featuring their Duke Ellington Big Band and 14 grand pianos on the Great Mall. Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of the Duke and the show’s producer, will pay personal tribute to Bobby Short, the famous pianist—who, 14 years ago on the same date, unveiled the Duke Ellington Statue.

Manhattan, NY, June 27, 2009 --(PR.com)-- The series of events marking the 110th Anniversary of Duke Ellington continues: On Wednesday, July 1 at 6:30 p.m., The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts will host a spectacular and unprecedented event in Central Park featuring their Duke Ellington Big Band and 14 grand pianos on the Great Mall. Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of the Duke and the show’s producer, will pay personal tribute to Bobby Short, the famous pianist—who, 14 years ago on the same date, unveiled the Duke Ellington Statue at Fifth Avenue and 110th Street. The lead sponsor for the event is the island nation of Grenada—Bobby Short’s favorite overseas destination.

The event will be a Free public evening concert at the Central Park Bandshell featuring the 16-piece orchestra in the Bandshell, and 14 grand pianos, courtesy of Beethoven Pianos, arranged in front of the Bandshell on the Great Mall. According to Edward Kennedy (“Duke”) Ellington II, grandson of the famous composer, “Nothing like this has ever been done in Central Park before—it will be a phenomenal spectacle!”

The symbolism of 14 grand pianos at the event recognizes July 1 as the 14th anniversary since the unveiling of the Duke Ellington statue near the northeastern corner of Central Park. Bobby Short worked for almost 20 years at making that monument a reality. He personally raised some $1.5million for the project and did all the political and social maneuvering to have an amphitheater created and the statue erected in the middle of the important Fifth Avenue intersection at 110th Street. The Duke Ellington Memorial is the considered to be the greatest physical expression in the world of the love a single musician can have for his favorite composer. It was the first monument in New York City dedicated to a person of color and the first memorial to The Duke in the United States.

Commenting on Short’s achievement, Mike Abbott, retired vice-president of MCA/Universal, a seasoned music industry veteran and life-long Harlem resident, says: “If any New Yorker deserved to have a monument in the middle of a Fifth Avenue intersection, it was Duke Ellington; and if any New Yorker could pull it off, it was Bobby Short. And he did.”

Bobby Short was a very private man, known for his constant presence at The Carlyle—one of the most upscale hotels in New York City. He was the mainline attraction there, playing the piano for decades until he died in 2005. He loved to get away from it all and travel to Grenada, where he was able to relax and unwind undisturbed by his many fans and admirers. Although he treasured his privacy while vacationing, true to his nature, one of his favorite haunts while on the island was the Piano Bar at LaSource Resort, where he usually stayed. After dinner at the adjacent Great House Restaurant, Bobby would often give impromptu performances—much to the delight of fellow tourists and local patrons.

Duke Ellington was the world’s most prolific composer during the twentieth century. This is true both in terms of the number of compositions and the variety of forms. That remarkable achievement is further underscored by more than fifty years of sustained performance as an artist and entertainer. He is considered by many, worldwide, to be America’s greatest composer, bandleader and recording artist. The Central Park concert on July 1 will feature 18 of the more than 3,000 Ellington compositions—the ones regularly played by Bobby Short.

The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts is a not-for-profit organization formed by Mercedes Ellington—the eldest of only four surviving descendants of Duke Ellington. The Center is coordinating the 110th Anniversary of Duke Ellington under the theme “110 Years Duke!” and is collaborating with the People of Grenada on this particular event.

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Contact Information
The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts
Otto Starzmann
1-212-504-8175
Contact
www.decfa.org
Fax: 212-504-8175

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