Duke Ellington Photography

Duke Ellington

Washington, D.C.-native turned New Yorker Duke Ellington was a pivotal force throughout the orchestral jazz, swing, and big band era. This composer, pianist, and bandleader became a staple of Harlem’s Cotton Club throughout the mid-’20s, and by the 1930s, took Europe—and eventually the entire world—by storm.

Some of his most famous selections include “In a Sentimental Mood,” “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” and “Take The ‘A’ Train,”—perhaps the most enduring of his collaborations with esteemed composer Billy Strayhorn. Between such musical muscle (responsible for more than 1,000 compositions) and Ellington’s all around eloquence, this icon helped elevate the previously marginalized jazz genre to a sophisticated art form.

Even after his death in 1974, his legend continues to grow with a steady stream of tribute concerts, public memorials, and awards. Ellington earned a dozen Grammys between 1959 and 1999, a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, and was bestowed a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for his immense creative and cultural contributions.

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