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