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Composer and bandleader Duke Ellington led one of the most remarkable and self-defined orchestras in jazz for 50 years.  It not only held to a consistent musical vision that sprang directly from his own work as a composer, but it sustained for decades with a loyal core of soloists who made their own marks on jazz history.  Within the context of running a band, Ellington also became the only figure from the jazz world ever to make an imprint on the American popular songbook comparable in breadth and depth to that achieved by Gershwin, Rodgers, Berlin, Arlen and others. 

Songs such as "Mood Indigo," "Solitude", " In A Sentimental Mood", "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and many others were widely performed and became American pop standards widely known today.  Ellington was born April 29,1899 and grew up in a middle-class environment in Washington, D.C.  He began playing at the age 7, and gravitated to the ragtime and stride styles.  He came to New York with Elmer Snowmen's Washingtonians, and soon assumed leadership when Snowden departed.  This left Ellington with a charter group of players who would remain with him for years and follow him to the top. 

Revised: July 18, 2013.