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Duke Ellington

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Washington, D.C., USA (1914 – 1974)

Duke Ellington is a pseudonym of USA bandleader / pianist / composer Edward Kennedy Ellington (b. 29 Apr 1899, in Washington, D.C., USA - d. 24 May 1974, in New York City, NY), who made his composition début in 1914, with “Soda Fountain Rag”. He continued performing into his 75th and final year, with The Ballroom, NIU, DeKalb, IL, USA, on 20 Mar 1974 his last ‘full’ concert.

Through the ranks of Duke Ellington & His Orchestra passed some of the biggest names in jazz, including Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Bubber Miley, Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, Barney Bigard, Ben Webster, Harry Carney, Sonny Greer, Otto Hardwick, Clark Terry, Jimmy Blanton, Ray Nance, Paul Gonsalves, and Wellman Braud. Many musicians stayed with him for decades. And while all of them were remarkable in their own right, and they all would have probably made it into the annals of jazz history no matter who they played for, it was Ellington’s genius as a composer, pianist, bandleader, celebrity personality, and, most importantly, arranger, that made them the most incredible orchestral unit in the history of jazz. His ability to write and arrange for personalities, rather than instruments, made every solo and every section of every arrangement breathe with character. A giant on the 20th century American cultural scene, Duke Ellington was widely regarded as a legend during his own lifetime.

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