Duke Ellington

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About Duke Ellington

One of the most influential bandleaders, composers, and pianists in jazz history, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born on April 29, 1899, in Washington, D.C. He made his mark as a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance in 1924 with the Washingtonians, launching a multi-year stint at the Cotton Club in 1927 under his own name. His silken arrangements and ambitious writing quickly set him apart from other jazz bandleaders, and over the decades he composed specifically for a committed group of distinctive instrumentalists, including alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges and cornetist Rex Stewart. Ellington was joined by fellow composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn in 1939, and together they produced a string of jazz standards like “Take the ‘A’ Train,” bringing a new rigor and sophistication to big band music. Ellington continued to compose, record, and tour until his death in 1974.

Washington, D.C.
April 29, 1899