Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington
1899 - 1974

Duke Ellington's contributions are exactly what John Edward Hasse entitled his book about Ellington: Beyond Category. Besides composing some of the greatest compositions of this century, he will also be remembered for leading a big band for fifty years without interruption.

Born on April 29, 1899, Duke spent his first twenty-four years in Washington, D.C. As a teenager his main musical interest was ragtime piano, but he was hardly a virtuoso at this point. He managed to get a couple paying jobs in Washington leading the Duke Ellington Serenaders. When he migrated north to New York in 1923, he was leading a band called the Washingtonians.

In 1927, Ellington began leading the jazz orchestra at the Cotton Club, the premier Harlem nightspot (142nd and Lenox). This group layed the roots for his later big bands and started showing the possibilites for Ellington's (and later Billy Strayhorn's) intricate compositions.

Ellington made himself famous for his perpetually travelling big band. He composed aboard trains and planes and recruited the best talent at each stop. The travelling big band was another possibility of migration for the most talented southern musicians.

Listening Room

"Black and Tan Fantasy"
with Jabbo Smith
"Poor Old Fellow"
with Jabbo Smith
A Duke site with RealAudio files "Caravan"
Duke on piano

D.E. big band, written by Ben Webster


The Duke Ellington Society

Duke Ellington Biography & Discography

Portait of Duke

A Duke Ellington Panorama

The Ellington-Strayhorn Songbook

Rude Interlude, A Duke Ellington Page

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