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-1920s, and by the ’30s, 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, sites of public memorials and awards. Between 1959 and 2000, Ellington earned a dozen Grammys and, in 1999, was bestowed a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for his immense creative and cultural contributions.

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