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The Elegance & Style of Duke Ellington: Memorabilia at Auction

Duke Ellington Memorabilia Auction

Duke Ellington Memorabilia at Auction May 11, 2011

Composer of iconic jazz standards like Sophisticated Lady and Mood Indigo, Duke Ellington is widely considered to be one of the most influential figures in American jazz. Ellington represented the epitome of elegance, style, and cool during his times. Today his music is a staple of the Great American Songbook and is loved by millions around the world. His legacy transcends his role as musician and band leader, placing him squarely in the category of an American legend.

For Duke Ellington fans and jazz lovers, the chance to own a piece of jazz history is coming up on May 11th when Skinner will be offering memorabilia from the collection of Al Celley, Ellington’s friend and manager from 1942 to 1964.

Al Celley handled every aspect of the band’s business for those 22 years, and his collection of Duke Ellington memorabilia includes unpublished personal photos, letters, publicity materials, 78s and LP records spanning a large portion of Ellington’s recording career. Celley even kept Duke Ellington’s 1933 and 1939 U.S. Passports with stamps from his world travels.

Other interesting items in Celley’s collection include a collection of Christmas cards, a concert poster from a tour in Italy, a recording of an early live performance on TV, and a charcoal portrait of Duke Ellington by Los Angeles artist Cal Bailey, a prominent member of the black L.A. arts scene. The image depicts the intersection between art and jazz in this era.

Photographer Don Bronstein, famous for his 1963 Grammy for the cover of Barbara Streisand’s album “People” and the original staff photographer at Playboy, spent some time photographing Duke Ellington and his band in the recording studio. A collection of Bronstein’s photographic contact sheets will be available at auction, along with many other images of the band that have never been seen by the public before.

Duke Ellington’s ambitious jazz symphony, Black, Brown and Beige, was his first performance at Carnegie Hall in 1943, and he introduced the piece as “a tone parallel to the history of the Negro in America.” His handwritten narrative for the Beige movement of the symphony is included in the auction.

Auction estimates for pieces in the Celley collection range from $75 to $2,500. Material like this, offered in our monthly Discovery auctions in Massachusetts, affords anyone the opportunity to own a piece of history. The recordings, letters, photos and publicity materials capture singular moments of this legendary jazz master’s life and times. We’re really honored to be able to bring this collection to auction. Browse the complete collection.

Which piece of memorabilia most intrigues you? What are your memories of Duke Ellington and his music?

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2 thoughts on “The Elegance & Style of Duke Ellington: Memorabilia at Auction

  1. How can I bid if I can’t see the inventory of the Collection?
    Are Cal Bailey’s caricatures of the band members also included?

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