Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was a US composer, pianist and bandleader of jazz-orchestras. His career spanned over 50 years, leading his orchestra from 1923 until death.
Though widely considered to have been a pivotal figure in the history of jazz, Ellington himself embraced the phrase "beyond category" as a "liberating principle," and referred his music to the more general category of "American Music," rather than to a musical genre such as "jazz." Born inWashington, D.C., he was based in New York City from the mid-1920s onwards, and gained a national profile through his orchestra's appearances at the Cotton Club. In the 1930s they toured in Europe.
Some of the musicians who were members of Ellington's orchestra, such as saxophonist Johnny Hodges, are still, in their own right, considered to be among the best players in jazz, but it was Ellington who melded them into the best-known jazz orchestral unit in the history of jazz. Several members of the orchestra remained members for several decades. A master at writing miniatures for the three-minute 78 rpm record format, Ellington often composed specifically for the style and skills of his individual musicians, such as "Jeep's Blues" for Hodges, and "Concerto for Cootie" for trumpeterCootie Williams, which later became "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me" with Bob Russell's lyrics.
Often collaborating with others, Ellington originated over a thousand compositions and his extensive oeuvre is the largest recorded personal jazz legacy, with many of his extant works having become standards. Ellington also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, for example Juan Tizol's "Caravan" and "Perdido" which brought Spanish tinge to big-band jazz.