Reviewing Duke Ellington And The Cotton Club Film Studies Essay

Figure 1: Image of the Cotton Club ( Haskins 11 ) With the addition in migration and the hunt for occupations in the North after World War I, African Americans began to settle in major industrial metropoliss such as Chicago and New York City. This migration would function as the accelerator for the celebrated Harlem Renaissance ( 1920-1930 ) , a period of great prosperity for black instrumentalists and creative persons. Celebrated instrumentalists such as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Louis Armstrong wholly started their celebrated musical callings in the theatres and cabarets of Harlem. One of the most celebrated dark nines in Harlem during this period was the Cotton Club. From the start of its being in 1920, the Cotton Club featured about all of the major influential black instrumentalists. Ironically, the nine was besides known for its racial segregation, jungle skits, and the romantic imagination of the old South. ( Norwood 104 ) Duke Ellington, one of the most adorned Wind instrumentalists, was an of import performing artist at the Cotton from the 1920s to the thirtiess. His jungle music became immensely popular among the audiences of New York and finally the full state. I found it ironic that Duke Ellington, a ardent advocate of self-respect, award, and regard was a folk singer show performing artist for the Cotton Club before on in his calling. However, after reading his autobiography and other beginnings, I now believe that Duke Ellington was a practical adult male who felt that the advantages of working in the Cotton Club merely outweighed the disadvantages because the dark nine was able to offer the Duke good money, new sorts of experiences, and most significantly, chances for national exposure.

The original edifice for the Cotton Cub was constructed in 1918 on the nor’-east corner of 142nd street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem, New York. The two narrative edifice was originally built as a casino in order to vie with another casino on West 113th Street ( Haskins 22 ) . Around 1920, Jack Johnson, former heavyweight title-holder, bought the edifice and transformed it to an confidant dark nine, called the Club Deluxe. The nine was subsequently taken over by Owen Madden, a affluent mobster. Madden had no involvement in chancing or dancing ( Haskins 25 ) Alternatively, he felt that it would be moneymaking to work the white audiences ‘ wonder for crude jungle music. The black newspaper, New York Age commented that “ white downtowners are deluging the bars at Harlem in order to gaze at the Negro Customers-like diverting animate beings in a menagerie ” ( Haskins 27 ) .

In order to vie with other dark nines, Madden spent a great luck in making a modern and advanced design for the Cotton Club ( Haskins 33 ) . First of all, Madden and his pack members changed the name of the nine from Club Deluxe to the Cotton Club. This name was picked most likely because of the “ whites merely ” policy, together with the romantic imagination of the old South. The nine

figure 2: In side the Cotton Club ( Palm trees ) Hasse 110was created for a affluent and sole category of white audience. The dark nine featured over 700 seats. The phase was arranged in a horseshoe form in order for the audience to better see the public presentations. The nine brought a sense of exoticness by puting legion unreal thenar trees around the phase and painting all the walls with plantations images. One of the most interesting yet dry things about the Cotton is that this nine was situated in Harlem, the capital of black art, yet the Cotton nine was segregated so merely white people were admitted into the nine ( Bluetopia 76 ) . Madden implemented this segregation policy because most white audiences came to the Cotton Club to detect Harlem inkinesss, but non to blend with them ( Haskins 33 ) . The Cotton nine became vastly popular because the directors of the dark nine knew what the bulk of the white audiences wanted to see.

Not merely did the directors create crude sceneries within the Cotton nine in order to provide to the white audience, they besides used racialist advertizements that were highly similar to minstrel show public presentations. I found an advertizement for the Cotton Club in 1931 ( Vail 25 ) . This advertizement merely said “ the celebrated cotton nine ” . On the sketch image, there was a really affluent white male accompanied by two white females. The two females were dressed really extravagantly. Their frocks were highly decorated. Right off one can see

Figure 2: Cotton nine advertizement ( Vail 14 )

that the white male and the two females came from affluent backgrounds. In contrast to the white audience, the guard was black, and he was keeping the drape for the white audiences. It was interesting because the white male and the two females were drawn with really bright colourss, while the black guard was painted black and a glooming shadiness of ruddy. It seems like the black guard was besides bowing to the white male. I felt that the proprietors drew the image like this in order to contrast the differences between the societal position of a white individual and a black individual. Obviously, for the proprietor, the white male should be characterized as the high category audience, have oning a formal dinner jacket. On the other manus, the black individual can merely be a guard, and was portrayed to be much lesser in societal position compared to the white male ( Vail 25 ) .

Figure 4: Cotton Club advertizement ( Haskins 21 ) Another advertizement that I found was the plan sheet for the Cotton Club ( Haskins 21 ) . On the top of the page, it merely read the “ the universe celebrated Cotton Club ” . Bellow these words were a image that depicted savageness, cannibalism, and force. The image portrayed 5 bare African Americans in the jungles of Africa. One of the black work forces was transporting the organic structure of another female. I felt that the black barbarians portrayed in this image were approximately to throw the female into the boiling pot. The other black savages were making crude tribal dances. The scene took topographic point most likely in the alien African jungles. When I foremost saw the image, I was merely shocked. This Cotton Club drawing was by far the worst that I have seen. It non merely fulfilled the stereotyped folk singer coon image, but besides dehumanised inkinesss as barbarians. Madden and his pack must hold thought that by portraying inkinesss as alien and crude, more white audiences would see the Cotton Club to see something that they could non conceive of. To the white downtowners, Harlem was a topographic point for escapade and amusement ( Haskins 43 ) .

Figure 4: show misss at the Cotton Club ( Vail 33 ) Besides their stereotyped advertizements, the Cotton Club besides demonstrates the racialist imagination of the clip through executing jungle skits and alien music. In Jim Haskin ‘s the Cotton nine, the dark nine was described chiefly as a theatre that performed jungle or alien music that portrayed the old romantic image of the South. To an extent, these histrions and actresses were about portrayed as former slaves. These shows are decidedly considered to be Uncle Tom public presentations. The Cotton nine wanted to reproduce this image of the old South, where the slaves are working in the field, yet these “ darkies ” still seem to

Figure 3: Female terpsichoreans at the cotton Club ( Haskins 22 ) love the function between the maestro and his slaves. The cotton nine besides hired black terpsichoreans and even strippers. A typical stripper is required to be “ around 5 6, visible radiation tanned, and under 21 ” ( Haskins 33 ) . These terpsichoreans were expected to execute extremely sexual public presentations and show the stereotyped sexual promiscuousness of a black female. Overall, jungle skits and alien public presentations were common in the Cotton nine, and interestingly, these public presentations were made celebrated by instrumentalists, such as Duke Ellington, Louis B. Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald

Duke Ellington was one of the greatest performing artists of the twentieth century. Throughout his calling, Ellington was good respected both domestically and internationally. Unlike Louis Armstrong, Ellington was viewed as a hero among African Americans. Ellington was known to hold rejected folk singer stereotypes, racism, and segregation. However, Ellington in early calling was one of the most influential figures of the Cotton Club. So why did he belie himself? From Ellington ‘s ain autobiography and John Edward Hasse ‘s book on the life of Ellington, I felt that Ellington was a really practical individual and knew that without the aid of the Cotton Club, he would non be able to make a name for himself. Hasse said that Ellington was against the segregation policy in the United States, but he was a practical adult male who maintained his personal self-respect and realized when to play the sly fox ( Hasse 100 ) . Ellington was able to support for African American rights subsequently in his calling because of his huge influence and popularity gained during his clip with the Cotton Club. One must understand that Ellington lived in a clip of racial segregation and favoritism. Black entertainers merely did non hold the rights to execute their ain music or art. I steadfastly believe that Ellington performed for the Cotton Club in order to progress his music and be exposed to mainstream American music.

Figure 5: Duke Ellington and his Cotton Orchestra ( Haskins 45 ) Peoples might knock Ellington for bewraying the black individuality. I believe that Ellington was making this to merely progress his musical endowment. Many of Ellington ‘s vocals reflect the “ jungle ” motif- “ Jungle Jamboree ” , “ Jungle Blues ” , “ Jungle Nights in Harlem ” and “ Echoes of the Jungle ” ( Hasse 110 ) . Ellington ‘s agent Irving Mills claimed that these rubrics were used to derive promotion and attending from the audiences who craved for black music ( Hasse 111 ) . Ellington in his ain journal said that he had mix feelings about “ jungle music ” ( Vail 39 ) . Ellington said in his autobiography that “ jungle music ” was for artistic grounds because it incorporated new musical techniques such as the usage of deaf-and-dumb persons. He besides claims that these jungle skits were both educational and enriching and that it brought a farther widening of wind music ( Ellington 44 ) . The Cotton Club provided Ellington with an chance to repair two formal jobs built-in in wind music, how to incorporate solo improvisation and how to let for spontaneousness within an organized construction without making musical hurt or pandemonium. The Duke started to make music that gave soloists the freedom for improvisation. By making this Ellington was able to make a high grade of contrast within the piece of music that created energy, impulse, and still maintained order. Overall the importance of the Cotton nine to Ellington ‘s development as a composer can non be overemphasized ( Hasse 111 ) .

Ellington was besides able to utilize to Cotton Club to derive popularity among the audiences and even the directors of the Cotton Club. The Cotton Club was outfitted with a mike connected to radio Stationss in Harlem. This gave Duke Ellington and his Cotton orchestra the chance to be heard across the state. The newspaper, Variety, called Ellington ‘s set ‘One of the hottest sets on the air ” . Sony Greer recalled that “ Everybody was waiting for Ellington and his Cotton set from New York to California, Cats working all twenty-four hours, starved to decease until we get off ” ( Hasse 131 ) . The Cotton Club was able to offer Duke Ellington the ability to progress his musical calling and progress his popularity. Ellington knew himself that without the aid of the Cotton Club he would non hold made it this far in the music industry. Because of his popularity in the Cotton Club, Madden, the director of the dark nine, really alleviated the segregation regulation in the dark nine. By the terminal of Ellington ‘s term of office at the Cotton Club, inkinesss were besides able to come in the dark nine ( Haskins 144 ) . The Cotton Club was besides one of the highest paying dark nines in America, which paid 1300 dollars a hebdomad for the Duke and his set. Overall, I believe that Ellington brightly used the Cotton Club as a manner to back up himself, progress his music, and go an influential force in the universe of Jazz.

Most of Ellington ‘s music was without wordss. However, many of his vocals created during his clip at the Cotton Club showed Ellington ‘s development as a instrumentalist. Ellington started his musical calling at the Cotton Club in 1927. One of his first pieces of music was Red Hot Band. The genre of the music was wind. The beat of the vocal was catchy. The vocal can be characterized as swing because its tune and melody was fast paced and was danceable. A cardinal characteristic of swing is the improvisation of the soloists. This was in fact Duke Ellington ‘s biggest musical achievement at the clip. The Duke helped to make a manner of improvisation that allowed the soloist to contrast yet still intermix in to the set. One can clearly hear the contrasting solo parts between the clarinet and the cornet. However, during this clip, the Duke was non really good respected. Fortune magazine called Duke ‘s wind music in 1927 as “ hot and soiled music ” played by a coon ( Hasse 135 ) One can see that when Duke Ellington foremost started his calling at the Cotton Club, he was ridiculed like other black performing artists. However, through continuity and difficult work, he was able to slowly alter his musical repute.

One of Ellington ‘s most popular Cotton Club vocals was the Mooche. This vocal was foremost performed in 1929. It became vastly popular, and by 1952, there were about 20 different versions. Many instruments were used, including the piano, membranophones, cornet, trombone, and the clarinet. The vocal was good layered. One of the things that stand out is that Duke Ellington was able to equilibrate improvisation with orchestral music. I felt that there were parts were different soloists played against the background music, but was able to still organize a cohesive unit. Specifically, I heard the cornet and the clarinet solos. I felt that there truly were n’t any racially discriminating elements, such as jungle public presentations or folk singer stereotypes. This was a polar antonym to Louis Armstrong ‘s “ You Rascal You ” . In “ You Rascal You ” , Armstrong really portrayed himself as a crude barbarian, with monkey like facial characteristics. Armstrong embraces the Uncle Tom function through his facial gestures and musical wordss. The Duke, on the other manus, did non integrate any “ jungle ” melodies in the Mooche ( Dixon ) . During this clip period, musical critics called the Duke the bronzed creative persons alternatively of utilizing other racially know aparting stereotypes, such as the coon word picture ( Hasse 142 ) . From this, one can see that Ellington was get downing to derive regard in the music industry.

The concluding piece of music that I analyzed was the Old Man blues. This vocal was foremost performed in the 1930s. One has to retrieve that Duke Ellington was already vastly popular during this clip. The genre of the vocal is clearly wind, specifically swing. Unlike the Mooche, Old Man Blues has a faster pitch and its beat was much more lively. Ellington and his set members were dressed really formal. Like the Mooche, Ellington incorporated many improvisations. About every instrument, trombone, clarinet, and cornet, had solo parts. It was interesting because the soloist ‘s portion did non look to overpower the remainder of the orchestra. Every instrument played as a unit, without any one instrument ruling the whole public presentation. His musical public presentations were different from many other mainstream performing artists because he did non integrate wordss into his vocals. Possibly he did this to avoid any negative stereotypes. The Old Man Blues once more did non reflect any folk singer related stereotypes. Ellington might hold called his music “ jungle ” vocals to merely pull a larger audience group ( Dixon ) . Ellington really took clip off in the spring of 1930 because of household issues. However, when he came back, the Cotton Club directors hailed the return of the “ conquering hero of Harlem ” ( Hasse 167 ) . Overall, one can see that throughout Duke Ellington ‘s calling at the Cotton Club, he was able to easy derive celebrity through his superb musical public presentations. Surprisingly, I did non detect any racial stereotypes within his musical public presentations. The Duke ‘s musical public presentations in the Cotton Club showed that he truly was n’t accepting the Uncle Tom function, but was merely capturing the chances offered by the Cotton Club to better his musical public presentations and besides gain popularity.

The Cotton Club, situated in the bosom of the Harlem Renaissance, was successful because it attracted a big group of audience and was able to have many celebrated black instrumentalists. I feel that many of these performing artists like Duke Ellington used the esteemed name of the Cotton Club as a manner to better their musical accomplishments, have fiscal support, and make a name for themselves. Many would knock Duke Ellington for his credence of racially know aparting public presentations. However, I believe that in a clip where racial segregation was of the norm, people of colour like Duke Ellington had no pick but to steer around racism and favoritism.

Citation page:

Dixon, Wayne. “ Cotton Club music. “ A Red hot Jazz. Available from hypertext transfer protocol: // Internet ; accessed 19 April 2010.

Hasse, J.E.A Beyond Category ( The Life and Genius of DUKE ELLINGTON ) .New York: Simon & A ; Schuster, 1993.

Haskins, Jim.A The Cotton Club. New York: Random House, 1993.

Norwood, Patricia. “ Historian ‘s corner. “ A American musicA 26 no. 1 ( 2008 ) : 114.

Vail, Ken.A The Life of Duke Ellington 1927-1950. Lanham: Scarecrow imperativeness, Inc, 1999.