DUKE ELLINGTON Biography - Musicians


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Name: Edward Kennedy Ellington                                                         
Born: April 29, 1899 Washington, D.C., U.S.                                           
Died: May 24, 1974 New York, New York, U.S.                                           
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899–May 24, 1974) was an American       
composer, pianist, and band leader who was one of the most influential figures         
in jazz, if not in all American music. As a composer and a band leader,               
Ellington's reputation has increased since his death, with thematic repackagings       
of his signature music often becoming best-sellers. Posthumous recognition of         
his work include a special award citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board.               
Ellington called his style and sound "American Music" rather than jazz, and           
liked to describe those who impressed him as "beyond category", including many         
of the musicians who served with his orchestra, some of whom were themselves           
considered among the giants of jazz and remained with Ellington's orchestra for       
decades. While many were noteworthy in their own right, it was Ellington that         
melded them into one of the most well-known orchestral units in the history of         
jazz. He often composed specifically for the style and skills of these                 
individuals, such as "Jeep's Blues" for Johnny Hodges, "Concerto for Cootie" ("Do     
Nothing Till You Hear from Me") for Cootie Williams and "The Mooche" for Tricky       
Sam Nanton. He also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, such as Juan Tizol's       
"Caravan" and "Perdido" which brought the "Spanish Tinge" to big-band jazz.           
After 1941, he frequently collaborated with composer-arranger Billy Strayhorn,         
who he called his alter-ego.                                                           
One of the twentieth century's best-known African-American celebrities,               
Ellington recorded for many American record companies, and appeared in several         
films. Ellington and his orchestra toured the United States and Europe regularly       
before and after World War II. Ellington led his band from 1923 until his death       
in 1974. His son Mercer Ellington took over the band until his death in 1996.         
Today the band performs under the direction of Barry Lee Hall, Jr.