Sophisticated, lush and alluring, Ellington’s music became part of a legendary collaboration with Alvin Ailey and left an indelible mark on American dance.
Three Black Kings was the last major work written by Duke Ellington. As he lay dying in his hospital bed in 1974, he gave his son, Mercer, final instructions on how it was to be completed and orchestrated. The first movement with its African rhythmic motifs, depicts Balthazar, the Black king of the Nativity; the second is concerned with Solomon, King of Israel; and the third celebrates, with warm “down-home” feeling, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ellington's good friend whose triumphs are celebrated in the inspiring finale. At its premiere, The New York Times noted “…with its crescendo of gospel rhythms and its expressionist symbols of marches and martyrdom…moves the spectator” and The Daily News hailed the work as “An intensely moving vision…”