One of the most gifted, visionary, and enduring talents ever launched into orbit by the Motown hit machine, the career of Marvin Gaye blazed the trail for the continued evolution of popular black music: moving from lean, powerful R&B to stylish, sophisticated soul to finally arrive at an intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression, his work not only redefined soul music as a creative force but also expanded its impact as an agent for social change. Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. (in the style of his hero Sam Cooke, he added the “e” to his surname as an adult) was born April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C. The second of three children born to Marvin Sr., an ordained minister in the House of God – a conservative Christian sect fusing elements of orthodox Judaism and Pentecostalism which imposes strict codes of conduct and observes no holidays – he began singing in church at the age of three , quickly becoming a soloist in the choir. Later taking up piano and drums, music became Gaye’s escape from the nightmarish realities of his home life – throughout his childhood, his father beat him on an almost daily basis. After graduating high school, Gaye enlisted in the U.S. Air Force; upon his discharge, he returned to Washington and began singing in a number of street-corner doo wop groups, eventually joining the (1) Rainbows, a top local attraction. With the help of mentor Bo Diddley, the Rainbows cut “Wyatt Earp,” a single for the Okeh label which brought them to the attention of singer Harvey Fuqua, who in 1958 recruited the group to become the latest edition of his backing ensemble, the Moonglows. After relocating to Chicago, the Moonglows recorded a series of singles for Chess including 1959’s “Mama Loocie”; while touring the Midwest, the group performed in Detroit, where Gaye’s graceful tenor and three-octave vocal range won the interest of fledgling impressario Berry Gordy Jr., who signed him to the Motown label in 1961. While first working at Motown as a session drummer and playing on early hits by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, he met Gordy’s sister Anna, and married her in late 1961. Upon mounting a solo career, Gaye struggled to find his voice, and early singles failed; finally, his fourth effort, “Stubborn Kind of Fellow,” became a minor hit in 1962, and his next two singles – the 1963 dance efforts “Hitch Hike” and “Can I Get a Witness” – both reached the Top 30. With 1963’s “Pride and Joy,” Gaye scored his first Top Ten smash, but often found his role as a hitmaker stifling his desire to become a crooner of lush romantic ballads ran in direct opposition to Motown’s all-important emphasis on chart success, and the ongoing battle between his artistic ambitions and the label’s demands for commercial product continued throughout Gaye’s long tenure with the company. With 1964’s Together, a collection of duets with Mary Wells, Gaye scored his first charting album; the duo also notched a number of hit singles together, including “Once Upon a Time” and “What’s the Matter With You, Baby?” As a solo performer, Gaye continued to enjoy great success, scoring three superb Top Ten hits – “Ain’t That Peculiar,” “I’ll Be Doggone,” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” – in 1965. In total, he scored some 39 Top 40 singles for Motown, many of which he also wrote and arranged; with Kim Weston, the second of his crucial vocal partners, he also established himself as one of the era’s dominant duet singers with the stunning “It Takes Two.” However, Gaye’s greatest duets were with Tammi Terrell, with whom he scored a series of massive hits penned by the team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, including 1967’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love,” followed by 1968’s “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and “You’re All I Need to Get By.” The team’s success was tragically cut short in 1967 when, during a concert appearance in Virginia, Terrell collapsed into Gaye’s arms onstage, the first evidence of a brain tumor which abruptly ended her performing career and finally killed her on March 16, 1970. Her illness and eventual loss left Gaye deeply shaken, marring the chart-topping 1968 success of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” his biggest hit and arguably the pinnacle of the Motown Sound. At the same time, Gaye was forced to cope with a number of other personal problems, not the least of which was his crumbling marriage. He also found the material he recorded for Motown to be increasingly irrelevant in the face of the tremendous social changes sweeping the nation, and after scoring a pair of 1969 Top Ten hits with “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” and “That’s the Way Love Is,” he spent the majority of 1970 in seclusion, resurfacing early the next year with the self-produced What’s Going On, a landmark effort heralding a dramatic shift in both content and style which forever altered the face of black music. A highly percussive album which incorporated jazz and classical elements to forge a remarkably sophisticated and fluid soul sound, What’s Going On was a conceptual masterpiece which brought Gaye’s deeply held spiritual beliefs to the fore to explore issues ranging from poverty and discrimination to the environment, drug abuse and political corruption; chief among the record’s concerns was the conflict in Vietnam, as Gaye structured the songs around the point of view of his brother Frankie, himself a soldier recently returned from combat. The ambitions and complexity of What’s Going On baffled Berry Gordy, who initially refused to release the LP; he finally relented, although he maintained that he never understood the record’s full scope. Gaye was vindicated when the majestic title track reached the number two spot in 1971, and both of the follow-ups, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” also reached the Top Ten; the album’s success guaranteed Gaye continued artistic control over his work and helped loosen the reins for other Motown artists, most notably Stevie Wonder, to also take command of their own destinies. Consequently, in 1972, Gaye changed directions again, agreeing to score the blaxploitation thriller Trouble Man; the resulting soundtrack was a primarily instrumental effort showcasing his increasing interest in jazz, although a vocal turn on the moody, minimalist title track scored another Top Ten smash. The long-simmering eroticism implicit in much of Gaye’s work reached its boiling point with 1973’s Let’s Get It On, one of the most sexually charged albums ever recorded; a work of intense lust and longing, it became the most commercially successful effort of his career, and the title cut became his second number one hit. Let’s Get It On also marked another significant shift in Gaye’s lyrical outlook, moving him from the political arena to a deeply personal, even insular stance which continued to define his subsequent work. After teaming with Diana Ross for the 1973 duet collection Marvin and Diana, he returned to work on his next solo effort, I Want You; however, the record’s completion was delayed by his 1975 divorce from Anna Gordy. The dissolution of his marriage threw Gaye into a tailspin, and he spent much of the mid-1970s in divorce court; to combat Gaye’s absence from the studio, Motown released the 1977 stopgap Live at the London Palladium, which spawned the single “Got to Give It Up (Pt. 1),” his final number one hit. As a result of a 1976 court settlement, Gaye was ordered to make good on missed alimony payments by recording a new album, with the intention that all royalties earned from its sales would then be awarded to his ex-wife. The 1978 record, a two-LP set sardonically titled Here, My Dear, bitterly explored the couple’s relationship in such intimate detail that Anna Gordy briefly considered suing Gaye for invasion of privacy. In the interim, he had remarried and begun work on another album, Lover Man, but scrapped the project when the lead single “Ego Tripping Out” – a telling personal commentary presented as a duet between the spiritual and sexual halves of his identity, which biographer David Ritz later dubbed the singer’s “divided soul” – failed to chart. As his drug problems increased and his marriage to new wife Janis also began to fail, he relocated to Hawaii in an attempt to sort out his personal affairs. In 1981, long-standing tax difficulties and renewed pressures from the I.R.S. forced Gaye to flee to Europe, where he began work on the ambitious In Our Lifetime, a deeply philosophical record which ultimately severed his long-standing relationship with Motown after he claimed the label had remixed and edited the album without his consent; additionally, Gaye stated that the finished artwork parodied his original intent, and that even the title had been changed to drop an all-important question mark. Upon signing with Columbia in 1982, he battled stories of erratic behavior and a consuming addiction to cocaine to emerge triumphant with Midnight Love, an assured comeback highlighted by the luminous Top Three hit “Sexual Healing.” The record made Gaye a star yet again, and in 1983 he made peace with Berry Gordy by appearing on a television special celebrating Motown’s silver anniversary. That same year, he also sang a soulful and idiosyncratic rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the NBA All-Star Game which instantly became one of the most controversial and legendary interpretations of the anthem ever performed; it was to be his final public appearance. Gaye’s career resurgence brought with it an increased reliance on cocaine; finally, his personal demons forced him back to the U.S., where he moved in with his parents in an attempt to regain control of his life. Tragically, the return home only exacerbated his spiral into depression; he and his father quarrelled bitterly, and Gaye threatened suicide on a number of occasions. Finally, on the afternoon of April 1, 1984 – one day before his 45th birthday – Gaye was shot and killed by the Reverend Marvin Gay, Sr. in the aftermath of a heated argument. In the wake of his death, Motown and Columbia teamed to issue two 1985 collections of outtakes, Dream of a Lifetime – a compilation of erotic funk workouts teamed with spiritual ballads – and the big-band inspired Romantically Yours. (Vulnerable, a collection of ballads which took over 12 years to complete, finally saw release in 1996.) With Gaye’s death also came a critical re-evaluation of his work, which deemed What’s Going On to be one of the landmark albums in pop history, and his 1987 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame permanently enshrined him among the pantheon of musical greats. – Jason Ankeny (1) According to David Ritz and Steve Turner, Marvin Gaye nerver actually joined the Rainbows. Marvin himself said that he had auditioned to Don Covay but he got turned down. After that humiliation Marvin decided to never do auditions again. Peter CURTIS MAYFIELD Rhythm and blues singer, songwriter, and producer. Born June 3, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois. In his four decades in the music business, Mayfield helped bring a unique racial consciousness to popular music and introduced an innovative sound that greatly influenced following generations of musicians. Mayfield began singing by the age of seven; he also taught himself to play guitar, led his own gospel and soul group, the Alphatones, and began composing music and writing lyrics before he was a teenager. In 1956, Mayfield moved with his family to the North Side of Chicago, where he met the singer Jerry Butler while performing in a church choir. Butler convinced the 14-year-old Mayfield to join his soul band, then called the Roosters. Two years later, after renaming itself the Impressions, the group scored a No. 11 hit with “For Your Precious Love.”             <div style=”font-size:0.9em;”>  <a href=””>Curtis Mayfield – People Get Ready</a>- Watch more <a href=””>Music Videos</a> at <a href=””>Vodpod</a&gt;.</div> After Butler left the Impressions to pursue a solo career, the group reformed with Mayfield as its leader. Mayfield wrote the songs, produced the records, played guitar and sang lead. During the 1960s, the heyday of the Impressions, the group brought its potent mixture of gospel, soul, and doo-wop to a total of 14 Top 10 recordings, including “Gypsy Woman” and “It’s All Right.” In 1964, with the hit song “Keep on Pushing,” Mayfield became one of the first R&B singer-songwriters to bring a racial and political consciousness to his music. “Keep on Pushing,” along with other inspirational anthems such as “People Get Ready” and “I’m So Proud,” established Mayfield as one of the pioneers of soul music and as a singular voice of the civil rights movement. In 1970, Mayfield began a solo career, recording a series of albums and working as a producer for artists like Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight and the Pips. His most memorable solo project was the classic 1972 funk albumSuperfly, the soundtrack to the hit “blaxploitation” film of the same name. Superfly was the No. 1 album on the pop charts for four weeks and solidified Mayfield’s legacy as one of the late-20th century’s most innovative songwriters and performers. Though his popularity began to fade in the late 1970s with the rise of disco, Mayfield continued to record hopeful, inspirational music and tour actively in the United States, Europe, and Japan. In 1990, during an outdoor concert in Brooklyn, New York, a lighting scaffold fell on Mayfield; the accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. The amazingly indefatigable musician continued to compose and record music, learning to sing while lying flat on his back and letting gravity create the necessary pressure on his lungs. In 1996, the year after he received a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement, Mayfield released his final album, New World Order. In the years following his accident, Mayfield’s health had continued to deteriorate, and in 1998 his right leg was amputated due to complications from diabetes. On December 26, 1999, Mayfield died at the age of 57. A two-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (he gained admission with the Impressions in 1991 and as a solo performer in 1999), Mayfield had been living in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Altheida. He had 10 children and seven grandchildren. His influence on other performers was undeniable. As early as the 1960s, performers like Sam Cooke, James Brown, and Marvin Gaye had followed Mayfield’s lead and brought a new kind of social awareness to their music. In the 1990s, he inspired two different tribute albums (including 1994’s All Men are Brothers: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, featuring Whitney Houston, Elton John, the Isley Brothers, and Aretha Franklin) and his songs were sampled or covered by a host of performers, from rappers like Snoop Doggy Dogg, L.L. Cool J, Coolio, and Dr. Dre to singers like Herbie Hancock, Deneice Williams, En Vogue, and Mary J. Blige. Peter LOUIS ARMSTRONG (born August 4, 1901, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.—died July 6, 1971, New York, New York) the leading trumpeter and one of the most influential artists in jazz history. (Click here for a video clip of Louis Armstrong playing “I Cover the Waterfront.”) Armstrong grew up in dire poverty in New Orleans, Louisiana, when jazz was very young. As a child he worked at odd jobs and sang in a boys’ quartet. In 1913 he was sent to the Colored Waifs Home as a juvenile delinquent. There he learned to play cornet in the home’s band, and playing music quickly became a passion; in his teens he learned music by listening to the pioneer jazz artists of the day, including the leading New Orleans cornetist, King Oliver. Armstrong developed rapidly: he played in marching and jazz bands, becoming skillful enough to replace Oliver in the important Kid Ory band about 1918, and in the early 1920s he played in Mississippi riverboat dance bands. Vodpod videos no longer available. Fame beckoned in 1922 when Oliver, then leading a band in Chicago, sent for Armstrong to play second cornet. Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band was the apex of the early, contrapuntal New Orleans ensemble style, and it included outstanding musicians such as the brothers Johnny and Baby Dodds and pianist Lil Hardin, who married Armstrong in 1924. The young Armstrong became popular through his ingenious ensemble lead and second cornet lines, his cornet duet passages (called “breaks”) with Oliver, and his solos. He recorded his first solos as a member of the Oliver band in such pieces as “Chimes Blues” and “Tears,” which Lil and Louis Armstrong composed. Encouraged by his wife, Armstrong quit Oliver’s band to seek further fame. He played for a year in New York City inFletcher Henderson’s band and on many recordings with others before returning to Chicago and playing in large orchestras. There he created his most important early works, the Armstrong Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings of 1925–28, on which he emerged as the first great jazz soloist. By then the New Orleans ensemble style, which allowed few solo opportunities, could no longer contain his explosive creativity. He retained vestiges of the style in such masterpieces as “Hotter than That,” “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue,” “Wild Man Blues,” and “Potato Head Blues” but largely abandoned it while accompanied by pianist Earl Hines (“West End Blues” and “Weather Bird”). By that time Armstrong was playing trumpet, and his technique was superior to that of all competitors. Altogether, his immensely compelling swing; his brilliant technique; his sophisticated, daring sense of harmony; his ever-mobile, expressive attack, timbre, and inflections; his gift for creating vital melodies; his dramatic, often complex sense of solo design; and his outsized musical energy and genius made these recordings major innovations in jazz.

Armstrong was a famous musician by 1929, when he moved from Chicago to New York City and performed in the theatre review Hot Chocolates. He toured America and Europe as a trumpet soloist accompanied by big bands; for several years beginning in 1935, Luis Russell’s big band served as the Louis Armstrong band. During this time he abandoned the often blues-based original material of his earlier years for a remarkably fine choice of popular songs by such noted composers as Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, and Duke Ellington. With his new repertoire came a new, simplified style: he created melodic paraphrases and variations as well as chord-change-based improvisations on these songs. His trumpet range continued to expand, as demonstrated in the high-note showpieces in his repertoire. His beautiful tone and gift for structuring bravura solos with brilliant high-note climaxes led to such masterworks as “That’s My Home,” “Body and Soul,” and “Star Dust.” One of the inventors of scat singing, he began to sing lyrics on most of his recordings, varying melodies or decorating with scat phrases in a gravel voice that was immediately identifiable. Although he sang such humorous songs as “Hobo, You Can’t Ride This Train,” he also sang many standard songs, often with an intensity and creativity that equaled those of his trumpet playing. Louis and Lil Armstrong separated in 1931. From 1935 to the end of his life, Armstrong’s career was managed by Joe Glaser, who hired Armstrong’s bands and guided his film career (beginning with Pennies from Heaven, 1936) and radio appearances. Though his own bands usually played in a more conservative style, Armstrong was the dominant influence on the swing era, when most trumpeters attempted to emulate his inclination to dramatic structure, melody, or technical virtuosity. Trombonists, too, appropriated Armstrong’s phrasing, and saxophonists as different as Coleman Hawkins and Bud Freeman modeled their styles on different aspects of Armstrong’s. Above all else, his swing-style trumpet playing influenced virtually all jazz horn players who followed him, and the swing and rhythmic suppleness of his vocal style were important influences on singers from Billie Holiday to Bing Crosby. In most of Armstrong’s movie, radio, and television appearances, he was featured as a good-humoured entertainer. He played a rare dramatic role in the film New Orleans (1947), in which he also performed in a Dixieland band. This prompted the formation of Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, a Dixieland band that at first included such other jazz greats as Hines and trombonist Jack Teagarden. For most of the rest of Armstrong’s life, he toured the world with changing All-Stars sextets; indeed, “Ambassador Satch” in his later years was noted for his almost nonstop touring schedule. It was the period of his greatest popularity; he produced hit recordings such as “Mack the Knife” and “Hello, Dolly!” and outstanding albums such as his tributes to W.C. Handy and Fats Waller. In his last years ill health curtailed his trumpet playing, but he continued as a singer. His last film appearance was in Hello, Dolly! (1969). More than a great trumpeter, Armstrong was a bandleader, singer, soloist, film star, and comedian. One of his most remarkable feats was his frequent conquest of the popular market with recordings that thinly disguised authentic jazz with Armstrong’s contagious humour. He nonetheless made his greatest impact on the evolution of jazz itself, which at the start of his career was popularly considered to be little more than a novelty. With his great sensitivity, technique, and capacity to express emotion, Armstrong not only ensured the survival of jazz but led in its development into a fine art. 

Ella Fitzgerald Biography

( 1917 – 1996 )

Singer. Born Ella Jane Fitzgerald on April 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia. After a troubled childhood, including the death of her mother in 1932, Fitzgerald turned to singing and debuted at the Apollo Theater in 1934 at age 17. She was discovered in an amateur contest in Harlem and joined Chick Webb’s band and recorded several hits, notably “A-tisket A-tasket” (1938). After Webb died in 1939, his band was renamed Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra. Two years later, she began her solo career and by the mid-1950s, she had become the first African-American to perform at the Mocambo. Her lucid intonation and broad range made her a top jazz singer. Her series of recordings for Verve (1955-9) in multi-volume “songbooks” are among the treasures of American popular song. Fitzgerald is known as “The First Lady of Song,” and was the most popular American female jazz singer for over fifty years. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums. With the exception of Jazz at Santa Monica Civic ’72, her latter recordings marked a decline in her voice due to complications from diabetes. The disease left her blind, and she had both legs amputated in 1994. She made her last recording in 1989 and her last public performance in 1991 at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Ella Fitzgerald died on June 15, 1996 in her Beverly Hills home. ella Fitzgerald was briefly married to Benny Kornegay, a convicted drug dealer and hustler, in 1941. She was married to bass player Ray Brown from 1947 to 1952; they adopted a child born to Fitzgerald’s half-sister whom they christened Ray Brown, Jr. Fitzgerald.

Count Basie Biography

byname of William Basie

( 1904 – 1984 )

(born August 21, 1904, Red Bank, New Jersey, U.S.—died April 26, 1984, Hollywood, Florida) American jazz musician noted for his spare, economical piano style and for his leadership of influential and widely heralded big bands. Basie studied music with his mother and was later influenced by the Harlem pianists James P. Johnson and Fats Waller, receiving informal tutelage on the organ from the latter. Vodpod videos no longer available. He began his professional career as an accompanist on the vaudeville circuit. Stranded in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1927, Basie remained there and eventually (in 1935) assumed the leadership of a nine-piece band composed of former members of the Walter Page and Bennie Moten orchestras. One night, while the band was broadcasting on a shortwave radio station in Kansas City, he was dubbed “Count” Basie by a radio announcer who wanted to indicate his standing in a class with aristocrats of jazz such as Duke Ellington. Jazz critic and record producer John Hammondheard the broadcasts and promptly launched the band on its career. Though rooted in the riff style of the 1930s swing-era big bands, the Basie orchestra played with the forceful drive and carefree swing of a small combo. They were considered a model for ensemble rhythmic conception and tonal balance—this despite the fact that most of Basie’s sidemen in the 1930s were poor sight readers; mostly, the band relied on “head” arrangements (so called because the band had collectively composed and memorized them, rather than using sheet music). The early Basie band was also noted for its legendary soloists and outstanding rhythm section. It featured such jazzmen as tenor saxophonists Lester Young (regarded by many as the premier tenor player in jazz history) and Herschel Evans, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry “Sweets” Edison, and trombonists Benny Morton and Dicky Wells. The legendary Billie Holiday was a vocalist with Basie for a short stint (1937–38), although she was unable to record with the band because of her contract with another record label; mostly, vocals were handled by Jimmy Rushing, one of the most renowned “blues bawlers.” The rhythm unit for the band—pianist Basie, guitarist Freddie Green (who joined the Basie band in 1937 and stayed for 50 years), bassist Walter Page, and drummer Jo Jones—was unique in its lightness, precision, and relaxation, becoming the precursor for modern jazz accompanying styles. Basie began his career as a stride pianist, reflecting the influence of Johnson and Waller, but the style most associated with him was characterized by spareness and precision. Whereas other pianists were noted for technical flash and dazzling dexterity, Basie was known for his use of silence and for reducing his solo passages to the minimum amount of notes required for maximum emotional and rhythmic effect. As one Basie band member put it, “Count don’t do nothin’. But it sure sounds good.” The Basie orchestra had several hit recordings during the late 1930s and early ’40s, among them “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” “Every Tub,” “Lester Leaps In,” “Super Chief,” “Taxi War Dance,” “Miss Thing,” “Shorty George,” and “One O’Clock Jump,” the band’s biggest hit and theme song. It had continued success throughout the war years, but, like all big bands, it had declined in popularity by the end of the 1940s. During 1950 and ’51, economy forced Basie to front an octet, the only period in his career in which he did not lead a big band. In 1952 increased demand for personal appearances allowed Basie to form a new orchestra that in many ways was as highly praised as his bands of the 1930s and ’40s. (Fans distinguish the two major eras in Basie bands as the “Old Testament” and “New Testament.”) The Basie orchestra of the 1950s was a slick, professional unit that was expert at sight reading and demanding arrangements. Outstanding soloists such as tenor saxophonists Lucky Thompson, Paul Quinichette, and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and trumpeters Clark Terry and Charlie Shavers, figured prominently. Singer Joe Williams, whose authoritative, blues-influenced vocals can be heard on hit recordings such as “Every Day I Have the Blues” and “Alright, Okay, You Win,” was also a major component in the band’s success. Arrangers Neal Hefti, Buster Harding, and Ernie Wilkins defined the new band’s sound on recordings such as “Li’l Darlin’,” “The Kid from Red Bank,” “Cute,” and “April in Paris” and on celebrated albums such as The Atomic Mr. Basie (1957). The 1950s band showcased the sound and style Basie was to employ for the remainder of his career, although there were to be occasional—and successful—experiments such as Afrique (1970), an album of African rhythms and avant-garde compositions that still managed to remain faithful to the overall Basie sound. Throughout the 1960s, Basie’s recordings were often uninspired and marred by poor choice of material, but he remained an exceptional concert performer and made fine records with singers Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Frank Sinatra. When jazz record producer Norman Granz formed his Pablo label in the 1970s, several established jazz artists, including Basie, signed on in order to record unfettered by commercial demands. Basie benefited greatly from his association with Granz and made several recordings during the ’70s that rank among his best work. He recorded less often with his big band during this era (although when he did, the results were outstanding), concentrating instead on small-group and piano-duet recordings. Especially noteworthy were the albums featuring the duo of Basie and Oscar Peterson, with Basie’s economy and Peterson’s dexterous virtuosity proving an effective study in contrasts. Many of Basie’s albums of the ’70s were Grammy Award winners or nominees. Suffering from diabetes and chronic arthritis during his later years, Basie continued to front his big band until a month before his death in 1984. The band itself carried on into the next century, with Thad Jones, Frank Foster, and Grover Mitchell each assuming leadership for various intervals. Basie’s autobiography, Good Morning Blues, written with Albert Murray, was published posthumously in 1985. Along with Duke Ellington, Count Basie is regarded as one of the two most important and influential bandleaders in the history of jazz.


Early life

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April 29, 1899 to James Edward Ellington and Daisy Kennedy Ellington. Daisy and J.E. were both pianists. She primarily played parlor songs and he operatic airs. They lived with his maternal grandparents at 2129 Ida Place (now Ward Place), NW in the West End neighborhood of Washington, D.C  His father, James Edward Ellington was born inLincolnton, North Carolina on April 15, 1879 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1886 with his parents. Daisy Kennedy, was born in Washington, D.C. on January 4, 1879, and was the daughter of a former American slave. James Ellington made blueprints for the United States Navy. He also worked as a butler for Dr. Middleton F. Cuthbert, a prominent white physician, and occasionally worked as a White House caterer.   At the age of seven Ellington began taking piano lessons from Marietta Clinkscales . Daisy surrounded her son with dignified women to reinforce his manners and teach him to live elegantly. Ellington’s childhood friends noticed that “his casual, offhand manner, his easy grace, and his dapper dress gave him the bearing of a young nobleman”,[12] and began calling him Duke. Ellington credited his “chum” Edgar McEntree for the nickname. “I think he felt that in order for me to be eligible for his constant companionship, I should have a title. So he called me Duke.”Though Ellington took piano lessons, he was more interested in baseball. “President Roosevelt (Teddy) would come by on his horse sometimes, and stop and watch us play,” he recalled.[14] Ellington went to Armstrong Technical High School in Washington, D.C. He got his first job selling peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games. In the summer of 1914, while working as a soda jerk at the Poodle Dog Cafe, he wrote his first composition, “Soda Fountain Rag” (also known as the “Poodle Dog Rag”). Ellington created “Soda Fountain Rag” by ear, because he had not yet learned to read and write music. “I would play the ‘Soda Fountain Rag’ as a one-step, two-step, waltz, tango, and fox trot,” Ellington recalled. “Listeners never knew it was the same piece. I was established as having my own repertoire.” In his autobiography, Music is my Mistress (1973), Ellington said he missed more lessons than he attended, feeling at the time that playing the piano was not his talent. Ellington started sneaking into Frank Holiday’s Poolroom at the age of fourteen. Hearing the poolroom pianists play ignited Ellington’s love for the instrument and he began to take his piano studies seriously. Among the many piano players he listened to, he listened to Doc Perry, Lester Dishman, Louis Brown, Turner Layton, Gertie Wells, Clarence Bowser, Sticky Mack, Blind Johnny, Cliff Jackson, Claude Hopkins, Phil Wurd, Caroline Thornton, Luckey Roberts, Eubie Blake, Joe Rochester, and Harvey Brooks.[16] Ellington began listening to, watching, and imitating ragtime pianists, not only in Washington, D.C., but in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, where he vacationed with his mother during the summer months. Dunbar High School music teacher Henry Lee Grant gave him private lessons in harmony. With the additional guidance of Washington pianist and band leader Oliver “Doc” Perry, Ellington learned to read sheet music, project a professional style, and improve his technique. Ellington was also inspired by his first encounters with stride pianists James P. Johnson and Luckey Roberts. Later in New York he took advice from Will Marion Cook, Fats Waller, and Sidney Bechet. Ellington started to play gigs in cafés and clubs in and around Washington, D.C. and his attachment grew to be so strong that he turned down an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1916. Three months before graduating he dropped out of Armstrong Manual Training School, where he was studying commercial art. From 1917 through 1919, Ellington launched his musical career, painting commercial signs by day and playing piano by night. Through his day job, Duke’s entrepreneurial side came out: when a customer would ask him to make a sign for a dance or party, he would ask them if they had musical entertainment; if not, Ellington would ask if he could play for them. He also had a messenger job with the U.S. Navy and State Departments. Ellington moved out of his parents’ home and bought his own as he became a successful pianist. At first, he played in other ensembles, and in late 1917 formed his first group, “The Duke’s Serenaders” (“Colored Syncopators”, his telephone directory advertising proclaimed). He was not only a member, but also the booking agent. His first play date was at the True Reformer’s Hall, where he took home 75 cents. Ellington played throughout the Washington, D.C. area and into Virginia for private society balls and embassy parties. The band included Otto Hardwick, who switched from bass to saxophone; Arthur Whetsol on trumpet; Elmer Snowden on banjo; and Sonny Greer on drums. The band thrived, performing for both African-American and white audiences, a rarity during the racially divided times.

Early career

When his drummer Sonny Greer was invited to join the Wilber Sweatman Orchestra in New York City, Ellington made the fateful decision to leave behind his successful career in Washington, D.C., and move to Harlem, becoming one of the figures of the Harlem Renaissance. New dance crazes like the Charleston emerged in Harlem, as well as African-American musical theater, including Eubie Blake’s Shuffle Along. After the young musicians left the Sweatman Orchestra to strike out on their own, they found an emerging jazz scene that was highly competitive and hard to crack. They hustled pool by day and played whatever gigs they could find. The young band met Willie “The Lion” Smith who introduced them to the scene and gave them some money. They played at rent-house parties for income. After a few months the young musicians returned to Washington, D.C., feeling discouraged. In June 1923 a gig in Atlantic City, New Jersey, led to a play date at the prestigious Exclusive Club in Harlem. This was followed in September 1923 by a move to the Hollywood Club – 49th and Broadway – and a four-year engagement, which gave Ellington a solid artistic base. He was known to play the bugle at the end of each performance. The group was called Elmer Snowden and his Black Sox Orchestra and had seven members, including James “Bubber” Miley. They renamed themselves “The Washingtonians”. Snowden left the group in early 1924 and Ellington took over as bandleader. After a fire the club was re-opened as the Club Kentucky (often referred to as the “Kentucky Club”), an engagement which set the stage for the biggest opportunities in Ellington’s life. Ellington made eight records in 1924, receiving composing credit on three including Choo Choo. In 1925 Ellington contributed four songs to Chocolate Kiddies, an all-African-American revue which introduced European audiences to African-American styles and performers. “Duke Ellington and his Kentucky Club Orchestra” grew to a ten-piece organization; they developed their distinct sound by displaying the non-traditional expression of Ellington’s arrangements, the street rhythms of Harlem, and the exotic-sounding trombone growls and wah-wahs, high-squealing trumpets, and sultry saxophone blues licks of the band members. For a short time soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet played with the group, imparting his propulsive swing and superior musicianship to the young band members. This helped attract the attention of some of the biggest names of jazz, including Paul Whiteman. In 1927 King Oliver turned down a regular booking for his group as the house band at Harlem’s Cotton Club; the offer passed to Ellington. With a weekly radio broadcast and famous white clientele nightly pouring in to see them, Ellington and his band thrived in the period from 1932 to 1942, a golden age for the band. Ellington was joined in New York City by his wife, Edna Thompson, and son Mercer in the late twenties, but the couple soon permanently separated.[21] According to her obituary in Jet magazine, she was “[h]omesick for Washington” and returned (she died in 1967).[22] Although trumpeter Bubber Miley was a member of the orchestra for only a short period, he had a major influence on Ellington’s sound.[23] An early exponent of growl trumpet, his style changed the “sweet” dance band sound of the group to one that was hotter, which contemporaries termed ‘jungle’ style. He also composed most of “Black and Tan Fantasy” and “Creole Love Call”. An alcoholic, Miley had to leave the band before they gained wider fame. He died in 1932 at the age of twenty-nine. He was an important influence on Cootie Williams, who replaced him. In 1927 Ellington made a career-advancing agreement with agent-publisher Irving Mills, giving Mills a 45% interest in Ellington’s future. Mills had an eye for new talent and early on published compositions by Hoagy Carmichael, Dorothy Fields, and Harold Arlen. During the 1930s Ellington’s popularity continued to increase – largely as a result of the promotional skills of Mills – who got more than his fair share of co-composer credits. Mills arranged recording sessions on the Brunswick, Victor, and Columbia labels which gave Ellington popular recognition. Mills lifted the management burden from Ellington’s shoulders, allowing him to focus on his band’s sound and his compositions. Ellington ended his association with Mills in 1937, although he continued to record under Mills’ banner through to 1940. At the Cotton Club, Ellington’s group performed all the music for the revues, which mixed comedy, dance numbers, vaudeville, burlesque, music, and illegal alcohol. The musical numbers were composed by Jimmy McHugh and the lyrics by Dorothy Fields (later Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler), with some Ellington originals mixed in. Weekly radio broadcasts from the club gave Ellington national exposure. In 1929 Ellington appeared in his first movie, a nineteen-minute all-African-American RKO short, Black and Tan, in which he played the hero “Duke”. In the same year, The Cotton Club Orchestra appeared on stage for several months in Florenz Ziegfeld’s Show Girl, along with vaudeville stars Jimmy Durante, Eddie Foy, Jr., Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, and with music and lyrics byGeorge Gershwin and Gus Kahn. That feverish period also included numerous recordings, under the pseudonyms “Whoopee Makers”, “The Jungle Band”, “Harlem Footwarmers”, and the “Ten Black Berries”. In 1930 Ellington and his Orchestra connected with a whole different audience in a concert with Maurice Chevalier and they also performed at the Roseland Ballroom, “America’s foremost ballroom”. Noted composer Percy Grainger was also an early admirer and supporter. In 1929, when Ellington conducted the orchestra for Show Girl, he met Will Vodery, Ziegfeld’s musical supervisor. In his 1946 biography, Duke Ellington, Barry Ulanov wrote:

From Vodery, as he (Ellington) says himself, he drew his chromatic convictions, his uses of the tones ordinarily extraneous to the diatonic scale, with the consequent alteration of the harmonic character of his music, its broadening, The deepening of his resources. It has become customary to ascribe the classical influences upon Duke – Delius, Debussy and Ravel – to direct contact with their music. Actually his serious appreciation of those and other modern composers, came after his meeting with Vodery.

As the Depression worsened, the recording industry was in crisis, dropping over 90% of its artists by 1933. Ellington and his orchestra survived the hard times by taking to the road in a series of tours. Radio exposure also helped maintain popularity. Ivie Anderson was hired as their featured vocalist. Sonny Greer had been providing occasional vocals and continued to do in a cross-talk feature with Anderson. Ellington, however, later had many different vocalists, including Herb Jeffries (until 1943) and Al Hibbler (who replaced Jeffries in 1943 and continued until 1951). Ellington led the orchestra by conducting from the keyboard using piano cues and visual gestures; very rarely did he conduct using a baton. As a bandleader Ellington was not a strict disciplinarian; he maintained control of his orchestra with a crafty combination of charm, humor, flattery, and astute psychology. A complex, private person, he revealed his feelings to only his closest intimates and effectively used his public persona to deflect attention away from himself. While the band’s United States audience remained mainly African-American in this period, the Cotton Club had a near-exclusive white clientele and the Ellington orchestra had a huge following overseas, exemplified by the success of their trip to England in 1933 and their 1934 visit to the European mainland. The English visit saw Ellington win praise from members of the ‘serious’ music community, including composer Constant Lambert, which gave a boost to Ellington’s aspiration to compose longer works. For agent Mills it was a publicity triumph, as Ellington was now internationally known. On the band’s tour through the segregated South in 1934, they avoided some of the traveling difficulties of African-Americans by touring in private railcars. These provided easy accommodations, dining, and storage for equipment while avoiding the indignities of segregated facilities. The death of Ellington’s mother in 1935 led to a temporary hiatus in his career. Competition was also intensifying, as African-American and white swing bands began to receive popular attention, including those of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Carter, Earl Hines, Chick Webb, and Count Basie. Swing dancing became a youth phenomenon, particularly with white college audiences, and “danceability” drove record sales and bookings. Jukeboxes proliferated nationwide, spreading the gospel of “swing”. Ellington band could certainly swing, but Ellington’s strengths were mood and nuance, and richness of composition; hence his statement “jazz is music; swing is business” Ellington countered with two developments. He made recordings of smaller groups (sextets, octets, and nonets) drawn from his then-15-man orchestra and he composed pieces intended to feature specific instrumentalist, as with “Jeep’s Blues” for Johnny Hodges, “Yearning for Love” for Lawrence Brown, “Trumpet in Spades” for Rex Stewart, “Echoes of Harlem” for Cootie Williams and “Clarinet Lament” for Barney Bigard. In 1937 Ellington returned to the Cotton Club which had relocated to the mid-town theater district. In the summer of that year, his father died, and due to many expenses, Ellington’s finances were tight. Things improved in 1938 and he met and moved in with Cotton Club employee Beatrice “Evie” Ellis. After splitting with agent Irving Mills, he signed on with the William Morris Agency. The 1930s ended with a very successful European tour just as World War II loomed. Ellington delivered some huge hits during the 1930s, which greatly helped to build his overall reputation. Some of them include: “Mood Indigo” (1930), “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (1932), “Sophisticated Lady” (1933), “Solitude” (1934), “In a Sentimental Mood” (1935), “Caravan” (1937), “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart” (1938). “Take the “A” Train” which hit big in 1941, was written by Billy Strayhorn. Strayhorn, originally hired as a lyricist, began his association with Ellington in 1939.Nicknamed “Swee’ Pea” for his mild manner, Strayhorn soon became a vital member of the Ellington Organization. Ellington showed great fondness kept the Duke Ellington Orchestra going for Strayhorn and never failed to speak glowingly of the man and their collaborative working relationship, “my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine”. Strayhorn, with his training in classical music, not only contributed his original lyrics and music, but also arranged and polished many of Ellington’s works, becoming a second Ellington or “Duke’s doppelganger”. It was not uncommon for Strayhorn to fill in for Duke, whether in conducting or rehearsing the band, playing the piano, on stage, and in the recording studio.

the Duke in the 1940s

Duke Ellington at the Hurricane Club in New York, May 1943

The band reached a creative peak in the early 1940s, when Ellington and a small hand-picked group of his composers and arrangers wrote for an orchestra of distinctive voices who displayed tremendous creativity. Some of the musicians created a sensation in their own right. The short-lived Jimmy Blanton transformed the use of double bass in jazz, allowing it to function as a solo rather than a rhythm instrument alone. Ben Webster, the Orchestra’s first regular tenor saxophonist, started a rivalry with Johnny Hodges as the Orchestra’s foremost voice in the sax section. Ray Nance joined, replacing Cootie Williams (who had “defected”, contemporary wags claimed, to Benny Goodman). Nance, however, added violin to the instrumental colors Ellington had at his disposal. Three-minute masterpieces flowed from the minds of Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Ellington’s son Mercer Ellington, Mary Lou Williams and members of the Orchestra. “Cotton Tail”, “Main Stem”, “Harlem Airshaft”, “Sidewalks of New York (East Side, West Side)”, “Jack the bear”, and dozens of others date from this period. Privately made recordings of Nance’s first concert date, at Fargo, North Dakota, on November 7, 1940 by Jack Towers and Dick Burris, are probably the most effective display of the band during this period. These recordings, later released as Duke Ellington at Fargo, 1940 Live, are among the first of innumerable live performances which survive, made by enthusiasts or broadcasters, significantly expanding the Ellington discography. Ellington’s long-term aim became to extend the jazz form from the three-minute limit of the 78 rpm record side, of which he was an acknowledged master.[32] He had composed and recorded Creole Rhapsody as early as 1931 (issued as both sides of 12″ record for Victor and both sides of a 10″ record for Brunswick), and his tribute to his mother, “Reminiscing in Tempo,” had filled four 10″ record sides in 1935; however, it was not until the 1940s that this became a regular feature of Ellington’s work. In this, he was helped by Strayhorn, who had enjoyed a more thorough training in the forms associated with classical music than Ellington. The first of these, “Black, Brown, and Beige” (1943), was dedicated to telling the story of African-Americans, and the place of slavery and the church in their history. Ellington debuted Black, Brown and Beige in Carnegie Hall on January 23, 1943, beginning a series of concerts there suited to displaying Ellington’s longer works. While some jazz musicians had played at Carnegie Hall before, few had performed anything as elaborate as Ellington’s work. Unfortunately, starting a regular pattern, Ellington’s longer works were generally not well-received. Jump for Joy, a full-length musical based on themes of African-American identity, debuted on July 10, 1941 at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles. Although it had the support of the Hollywood establishment, and received mostly positive reviews, its socio-political outlook provoked a negative reaction among some members of the public. It ran for 122 performances until September 29, 1941, with a brief revival in November of that year. Its subject matter did not make it appealing to Broadway, despite Ellington’s plans to take it there.[33] The settlement of the first recording ban of 1942–43 had a serious effect on all the big bands because of the increase in royalty payments to musicians which resulted from it. The financial viability of Ellington’s Orchestra came under threat, though Ellington’s income as a songwriter ultimately subsidized it. Ellington always spent lavishly and although he drew a respectable income from the Orchestra’s operations, the band’s income often just covered expenses.[34] The music industry’s focus shifted away from the Big Bands to the work of solo vocalists such as the young Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and mainstream groups like The Andrews Sisters as World War II drew to a close. While Ellington had featured some of the most talented singers of the day fronting his orchestra, he and his band took a back seat to no one, which set him down a path that put him increasingly at odds with the growing recording industry which was profiting from celebrity singers who were cheaper to keep than a big band, and produced bigger revenues. By the mid 1940s artists were creatively changing. One of Ellington’s composer-arrangers, Mary Lou Williams, left Ellington in 1943 and by 1945 was working with Dizzy Gillespie on a new form of jazz music, “Bebop.” Bebop rebelled against mainstream jazz and the strict forms of which Ellington was perhaps its most well known standard-bearer. The music, which had redefined the American sound over 35 years, was about to be shaken up. It would take another ten years for Bebop to begin catching on with jazz aficionados world-wide, but it was an early hit with club owners of smaller venues who could draw the jazz form’s growing audiences in New York City at a fraction of the cost of hosting a big band, particularly one of Ellington’s caliber. Newer, smaller bands and splinter forms of music increasingly put pressure on the bigger clubs who paid out increasingly more to maintain their big bands. Ellington’s elite band was a costly enterprise that, along with his excessive personal spending, always teetered on the brink of break-even. The new music trends eventually pushed it over the edge and put Ellington out on the road in search of venues that could afford to showcase his music. Bebop was also a huge shift for young talent, from Charlie Parker to John Coltrane to Thelonious Monk who did not embrace Big Band and sought out new creative frontiers, redefining “modern” jazz music forever. Ellington did not recruit or embrace these new artists and change with the times. In 1950 another emerging musical trend, the African-American popular music style known as Rhythm and Blues driven by a new generation of composers and musicians like Fats Domino drew away young audiences from both the African-American and white communities, and ultimately unified those audiences as R&B morphed into Rock & Roll which expanded the cults of the singers from the Big Band era to the singer/songwriters from Domino to Elvis Presley to Buddy Holly. Again, Ellington did not embrace the new musical form, leaving him further in the growing dust cloud of musical history. Ellington continued on his own course through these tectonic shifts in the music business. He did not wholly resist trends while trying to turn out major works. The Kay Davis vocal feature “Transblucency” was an attempt to cater to the singer-centric music world. He still performed major extended compositions such as Harlem (1950), whose score he presented to music-loving PresidentHarry Truman, but these works were rapidly becoming reflections of his greatness in the 1930s and 1940s, and not ground-breaking works that rattled the music world back into the Big Band camp. In 1951, Ellington suffered a major loss of personnel, with Sonny Greer, Lawrence Brown, and most significantly Johnny Hodges, leaving to pursue other ventures. Lacking overseas opportunities and motion picture appearances, Ellington’s Orchestra survived on “one-nighters” and whatever else came their way. By the summer of 1955 the band was performing for six weeks at the Aquacade in Flushing, New York, where Ellington is supposed to have “invented” a drink known as “The Tornado,” the only alcoholic concoction that features his signature Coca-Cola and sugar.[citation needed] Ellington had hoped that television would provide a significant new outlet for his type of jazz was not fulfilled. Tastes and trends had moved on without him. The introduction of the 33 1/3 rpm LP record and hi-fi phonograph though, did give new life to many of his older compositions. However by 1955, after three years of recording for Capitol, Ellington no longer had a regular recording affiliation.

The August 20, 1956 cover of Timefeatured Ellington.

Career revival

The music business’ increasing factionization into specific forms of rock-and-roll, country, bluegrass, or jazz broke down into even more sub-sets, and opened the door for the second act in Duke Ellington’s career. An international fascination with Jazz re-opened the door at record labels to artists like Ellington and Louis Armstrong who had found themselves out of step with the times for the last half-decade. The Ellington who was too big or too proud to change would now appear with a variety of artists from the different jazz forms. Ellington’s appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 7, 1956 returned him to wider prominence and exposed him to new audiences. The feature “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”, with saxophonist Paul Gonsalves’s six-minute saxophone solo, had been in the band’s book since 1937, but on this occasion nearly created a riot. The revived attention should not have surprised anyone – Hodges had returned to the fold the previous year, and Ellington’s collaboration with Strayhorn had been renewed around the same time, under terms more amenable to the younger man. Such Sweet Thunder (1957), based onShakespeare’s plays and characters, and The Queen’s Suite, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II, were products of the renewed impetus which the Newport appearance helped to create. A new record contract with Columbia produced Ellington’s best-selling LP Ellington at Newport and yielded six years of recording stability under producer Irving Townsend, who coaxed both commercial and artistic productions from Ellington  In 1957, CBS (Columbia’s parent corporation) aired a live television production of A Drum Is a Woman, an allegorical suite which received mixed reviews. Festival appearances at the new Monterey Jazz Festival and elsewhere provided venues for live exposure, and a European tour in 1958 was wildly received. After a 25-year gap, Ellington (with Strayhorn) returned to work on film scores, this time for Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and Paris Blues (1961). Ellington and Strayhorn, always looking for new musical territory, produced adaptations of John Steinbeck’s novel Sweet Thursday, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt. The late 1950s also saw Ella Fitzgerald record her Duke Ellington Songbook with Ellington and his orchestra—a recognition that Ellington’s songs had now become part of the cultural canon known as the “Great American Songbook”.

Ellington in 1973

Detroit Free Press music critic Mark Stryker concludes that the work of Billy Strayhorn and Ellington in Anatomy of a Murder, the trial court drama film directed byOtto Preminger in 1959, is “indispensable, [although] . . . too sketchy to rank in the top echelon among Ellington-Strayhorn masterpiece suites like Such Sweet Thunder and The Far East Suite, but its most inspired moments are their equal.  Film historians have recognized the soundtrack “as a landmark – the first significant Hollywood film music by African Americans comprising non-diegetic music, that is, music whose source is not visible or implied by action in the film, like an on-screen band.” The score avoided the cultural stereotypes which previously characterized jazz scores and rejected a strict adherence to visuals in ways that presaged the New Wave cinema of the ’60s”. In the early 1960s, Ellington embraced recording with artists who had been fierce rivals of the past, or who had been young artists from the Bebop beginnings whom he did not associate with. The Ellington and Count Basie orchestras recorded together. During a period when he was between recording contracts he made a records with Louis Armstrong (Roulette), Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane (both for Impulse) and participated in a session with Charles Mingus and Max Roachwhich produced the Money Jungle (United Artists) album. Ironically, the singer most responsible for setting off the changes that brought an end to the big band era became Ellington’s salvation. He signed to Frank Sinatra’s new Reprise label. Musicians who had previously worked with Ellington returned to the Orchestra as members: Lawrence Brown in 1960 and Cootie Williams in 1962. The international mania for jazz reinstated Ellington as one of the highest earning artists in jazz. He performed all over the world; a significant part of each year was now spent making overseas tours. He formed notable new working relationships with international artists from around the world, including the Swedish vocalist Alice Babs, and South African musicians Dollar Brand and Sathima Bea Benjamin (A Morning in Paris, 1963/1997). His earlier hits became big sellers in the rediscovery of the music world-wide, earning Ellington impressive royalties. “The writing and playing of music is a matter of intent…. You can’t just throw a paint brush against the wall and call whatever happens art. My music fits the tonal personality of the player. I think too strongly in terms of altering my music to fit the performer to be impressed by accidental music. You can’t take doodling seriously.

[edit]Last years

Ellington was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1965, but was turned down. His reaction at 67 years old: “Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn’t want me to be famous too young.” In September of the same year, the first of his Sacred Concerts was given its premiere. It was an attempt to fuse Christian liturgy with jazz, and even though it received mixed reviews, Ellington was proud of the composition and performed it dozens of times. This concert was followed by two others of the same type in 1968 and 1973, known as the Second and Third Sacred Concerts. This caused controversy in what was already a tumultuous time in the United States. Many saw the Sacred Music suites as an attempt to reinforce commercial support for organized religion, though Ellington simply said it was, “the most important thing I’ve done.The Steinway piano upon which the Sacred Concerts were composed is part of the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Like Haydn and Mozart, Ellington conducted his orchestra from the piano – he always played the keyboard parts when the Sacred Concer ts were performed.

Ellington receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom fromPresident Nixon, 1969.

Ellington continued to make vital and innovative recordings, including The Far East Suite (1966), the New Orleans Suite (1970), and The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse (1971), much of it inspired by his world tours. It was during this time that Ellington recorded his only album with Frank Sinatra, entitled Francis A. & Edward K. (1967). Ellington was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966. He was later awarded several other prizes, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, an Honorary PhD from the Berklee College of Music in 1971, and the Legion of Honor by France in 1973, the highest civilian honors in each country.[2] He died of lung cancer and pneumonia on May 24, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday, and was interred in theWoodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York City. At his funeral attended by over 12,000 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Ella Fitzgerald summed up the occasion, “It’s a very sad day. A genius has passed. Mercer Ellington picked up the reins of the orchestra immediately after Duke’s death. Ellington’s last words were, “Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered

Work in films and the theater

Ellington’s film work began in 1929 with the short film Black and Tan.[44] Symphony in Black (1935) featured his extended piece ‘A Rhapsody of Negro Life’. It introduced Billie Holiday, and won an Academy Award as the best musical short subject. He also appeared in the Amos ‘n’ Andyfilm Check and Double Check (1930). Ellington and his Orchestra continued to appear in films through the 1930s and 1940s, both in short films and in features such as Murder at the Vanities and Belle of the Nineties (1934), and Cabin in the Sky (1943). In the late 1950s, his work in films took the shape of scoring for soundtracks, notablyAnatomy of a Murder (1959), with James Stewart, in which he appeared fronting a roadhouse combo, and Paris Blues (1961), which featured Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as jazz musicians. He wrote an original score for director Michael Langham’s production of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada which opened on July 29, 1963. Langham has used it for several subsequent productions, most recently in an adaptation by Stanley Silverman which expands the score with some of Ellington’s best-known works. Ellington composed the score for the musical Jump For Joy, which was performed in Los Angeles during 1941. Ellington’s sole book musical, Beggar’s Holiday, was staged on Broadway in 1946.Sophisticated Ladies, an award-winning 1981 musical revue, incorporated many tunes from his repertoire.

Private life

Ellington married his high school sweetheart, Edna Thompson, on July 2, 1918, when he was 19. Shortly after their marriage, on March 11, 1919 Edna gave birth to their only son, Mercer Kennedy Ellington. Mercer played trumpet, led his own band and worked as his father’s business manager, eventually taking full control of the band after Duke’s death. He was an important archivist of his father’s musical life. Ellington’s sister Ruth (1915–2004) later ran Tempo Music, Ellington’s music publishing company. Ruth’s second husband was the bass-baritone McHenry Boatwright, whom she met when he sang at her brother’s funeral. Ellington’s grandson Edward Ellington is a musician and maintains a small salaried band known as the Duke Ellington Legacy, which frequently comprises the core of the big band operated by The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts.


Duke Ellington’s work has come to be recognized as a cornerstone of American culture and heritage. He is widely regarded as the most important composer in jazz; he was also a galvanizing bandleader who inspired many of his musicians to produce their best work, whilst himself being a significant exponent of jazz piano. His works have been revisited by artists and musicians around the world both as a source of inspiration and a bedrock of their own performing careers. Ellington’s compositions are now the staple of the repertoire of music conservatories, and even high school band programs that have embraced his music continue to give it life and voice. His son, Mercer Ellington kept his big band alive after his passing. When Mercer died, Paul Ellington kept the Duke Ellington Orchestra going. It plays in concert halls around the world to this day.

Awards, honors and recognitions

Grammy Awards

Ellington earned 12 Grammy awards from 1959 to 2000, six while he was alive.


The grave of Duke Ellington

Numerous memorials have been dedicated to Duke Ellington, in cities from New York and Washington, DC to Los Angeles. In Ellington’s birthplace of Washington, D.C., there is a school dedicated to his honor and memory as well as one of the bridges over Rock Creek Park. The Duke Ellington School of the Arts educates talented students, who are considering careers in the arts, by providing intensive arts instruction and strong academic programs that prepare students for post-secondary education and professional careers. The Calvert Street Bridge was renamed the Duke Ellington Bridge; built in 1935, it connects Woodley Park to Adams Morgan. On February 24, 2009, the United States Mint launched a new coin featuring Duke Ellington, making him the first African-American to appear by himself on a circulating U.S. coin. Ellington appears on the reverse (“tails”) side of the District of Columbia quarter.The coin is part of the U.S. Mint’s program honoring the District and the U.S. territories and celebrates Ellington’s birthplace in the District of Columbia.] Ellington is depicted on the quarter seated at a piano, sheet music in hand, along with the inscription “Justice for All”, which is the District’s motto. Ellington lived for years in a townhouse on the corner of Manhattan’s Riverside Drive and West 106th Street. After his death, West 106th Street was officially renamed Duke Ellington Boulevard. A large memorial to Ellington, created by sculptor Robert Graham, was dedicated in 1997 in New York’s Central Park, near Fifth Avenue and 110th Street, an intersection named Duke Ellington Circle. Although he made two more stage appearances before his death, Ellington performed what is considered his final “full” concert in a ballroom atNorthern Illinois University on March 20, 1974. The hall was renamed the Duke Ellington Ballroom in 1980.

Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6535 Hollywood Blvd.

A statue of Ellington at a piano is featured at the entrance to UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall. According to UCLA magazine, “When UCLA students were entranced by Duke Ellington’s provocative tunes at a Culver City club in 1937, they asked the budding musical great to play a free concert in Royce Hall. ‘I’ve been waiting for someone to ask us!’ Ellington exclaimed”. “On the day of the concert, Ellington accidentally mixed up the venues and drove to USC instead. He eventually arrived at the UCLA campus and, to apologize for his tardiness, played to the packed crowd for more than four hours. And so, “Sir Duke” and his group played the first-ever jazz performance in a concert venue. He is one of only five jazz musicians ever to have been featured on the cover of Time (the other four being Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Wynton Marsalis, and Dave Brubeck). The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival is a nationally renowned annual competition for prestigious high school bands. Started in 1996 at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the festival is named after Ellington because of the large focus that the festival places on his works.

Homage from critics

Gunther Schuller wrote, “Ellington composed incessantly to the very last days of his life. Music was indeed his mistress; it was his total life and his commitment to it was incomparable and unalterable. In jazz he was a giant among giants. And in twentieth century music, he may yet one day be recognized as one of the half-dozen greatest masters of our time.”[51] Martin Williams said “Duke Ellington lived long enough to hear himself named among our best composers. And since his death in 1974, it has become not at all uncommon to see him named, along with Charles Ives, as the greatest composer we have produced, regardless of category.” In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Duke Ellington on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[53] Andre Previn said, “You know, Stan Kenton can stand in front of a thousand fiddles and a thousand brass and make a dramatic gesture and every studio arranger can nod his head and say, ‘‘Oh, yes, that’s done like this.’’ But Duke merely lifts his finger, three horns make a sound, and I don’t know what it is

Duke Ellington discography

Year Single Chart positions
1927 “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” 10
1928 “Black and Tan Fantasy” 15
“Creole Love Call” 19
“Doin’ the New Low Down” 20
“Diga Diga Doo” 17
“The Mooche” 16
1930 “Three Little Words” 1
“Ring Dem Bells” 17
1931 “Blue Again” 12
“Mood Indigo” 3
“Rockin’ In Rhythm” 19
“Creole Rhapsody Parts 1 & 2” 18
“Limehouse Blues” 13
1932 “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” 6
“Creole Rhapsody”(new version) 19
“Rose Room (In Sunny Roseland)” 15
“Moon Over Dixie” 14
“Blue Ramble” 16
1933 “Drop Me Off At Harlem” 17
“Sophisticated Lady” 3
“Stormy Weather” 4
“I’m Satisfied” 11
“In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree” 13
1934 “Daybreak Express” 20
“Cocktails For Two” 1
“Moon Glow” 2
“Solitude” 2
“Saddest Tale” 9
1935 “Merry Go Round” 6
“In a Sentimental Mood” 14
“Accent On Youth” 6
“Cotton” 4
1936 “Isn’t Love the Strangest Thing?” 12
“Love Is Like a Cigarette” 8
“Clarinet Lament” 12
“Echoes of Harlem” 19
“Oh Babe! Maybe Someday” 8
“Jazz Lips” 20
“Yearning For Love” 16
1937 “The New East St. Louis Toodle-Oo” 16
“There’s a Lull In My Life” 12
“Scattin’ At the Kit Kat” 9
“Caravan” 4
“Azure” 13
“All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” 14
1938 “Harmony In Harlem” 15
“If You Were In My Place (What Would You Do?)” 10
“I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” 1
“The Gal From Joe’s” 20
“Lambeth Walk” 7
“Prelude To a Kiss” 18
1940 “You, You, Darlin'” 28
“Ko Ko” 25
“At a Dixie Roadside Diner” 27
“Sepia Panorama” 24
1941 “Flamingo” 11
“Take the A Train” 11
“I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” 13
1942 “Hayfoot, Strawfoot” 10
1943 “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” 8 1
“Perdido” 21
“Take the A Train”(re-entry) 19
“Bojangles” 19
“A Slip of the Lip” 19 1
“Sentimental Lady” 19 1
1944 “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” 10 1
“Main Stem” 23 1
“My Little Brown Book” 4
“Someone” 7
“I Don’t Mind” 9
1945 “I’m Beginning To See the Light” 6 4
“Don’t You Know I Care” 10
“I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues” 4
1946 “Come To Baby, Do” 13
1948 “Don’t Be So Mean To Baby” 15
1953 “Satin Doll” 27
“Boo Dah” 30
1954 “Skin Deep” 7


During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Ellington and his band recorded for the labels BluDisc, Pathe, Victor, Brunswick, Columbia, Okeh, Vocalion, Cameo, RCA-Victor, Plaza, Durium and ARC. Some labels, such as RCA-Victor, Okeh and Brunswick, have collected Ellington’s early recordings into box sets, while material from other labels is scattered. The most comprehensive source for Ellington’s early work are the Classics releases, although note that these records omit alternate takes, which may be found in other collections.


  • 1924-1926: The Birth of A Band Vol. 1 (EPM Musique) (released 1988)
  • The Birth of Big Band Jazz (Riverside) (EP) (released 1956)
  • Complete Edition (1924–1926) (Masters of Jazz)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1924-1927 (Classics)
  • Complete Edition (1926–1927) (Masters of Jazz)


  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1927-1928 (Classics) (Released 1996)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1928 (Classics)
  • Complete Vol. 1: 1925-1928 (Columbia – France) (released 1973)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1927-1928 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1928 (Classics)
  • Complete Edition (1927–1928) (Masters of Jazz)
  • Complete Edition (1928) (2 discs) (Masters of Jazz)


  • Flaming Youth (1927–1929) (RCA Victor) (Released 1965)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1928-1929 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1929 (Classics)
  • Complete Edition (1929) (2 discs) (Masters of Jazz)



  • The OKeh Ellington (Columbia) (1927–1930) (released 1991)
  • The Works of Duke: Vol. 1 – Vol. 5 (RCA) (1927–1930)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1929-1930 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1930 (2 volume) (Classics)
  • Complete Edition (1929–1930) (Masters of Jazz)
  • Complete Edition (1930) (2 discs) (Masters of Jazz)


  • Early Ellington: The Complete Brunswick Recordings (3 discs) (Decca) (1926–1931) (released 1994)
  • Jazz Heritage Brunswick/Vocalion Rarities (1926–1931) (MCA) (released 1983)
  • Mood Indigo (1927–1931) (Columbia) (released 1992)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1930-31 (Classics)
  • Complete Edition (1930–1931) (Masters of Jazz)


  • Jungle Nights in Harlem (1927–1932) (Bluebird) (released 1991)
  • Jazz Cocktail (AVS/Living Era) (1928–1932)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1931-32 (Classics)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1932-33 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1933 (Classics)


  • Early Ellington: 1927-1934 (Bluebird) (released 1954; CD release 1990 on RCA)
  • Duke Ellington 1927-1934 (Nimbus) (1991)
  • Great Original Performances 1927-1934 (Mobile Fidelity (released 1989)
  • Jubilee Stomp (Bluebird) (1928–1934)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1933-35 (Classics)


  • Rockin’ in Rhythm (1927–1936) (Jazz Hour) (Released 1996)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1935-36 (Classics)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1936-37 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1937 (2 volumes) (Classics)


  • Braggin’ in Brass: The Immortal 1938 Year (Portrait)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1938 (Classics)


  • Duke Ellington Playing the Blues (1927–1939) (Black and Blue) (Released 2002)
  • The Duke’s Men: Small Groups vol. 2, 1938-1939 (Columbia/Vocalion)
  • The Blanton–Webster Band (1939–1942) (RCA/BlueBird)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1938-39 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1939 (2 volumes) (Classics)


The early 1940s saw limited output due to the recording ban, but Ellington did make annual visits to Carnegie Hall, listed below. In the January 1943 concert, Ellington introduced his first extended suite, “Black, Brown and Beige.” This era also saw the appearance of the “Liberian Suite” and his highly regarded recordings featuring Jimmy Blanton and Ben Webster, “the best Ellington band” according to critic Bob Blumenthal.[1]


  • On the Air
  • Duke Ellington at Fargo, 1940 Live (Vintage Jazz Classics)
  • The Duke in Boston (Jazz Unlimited)
  • The British Connection: 1933-1940 (Jazz Unlimited)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1939-40 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1940 (2 volumes) (Classics)


  • Take the ‘A’ Train (Vintage Jazz Classics)
  • The Great Ellington Units (Bluebird)
  • “1941 Classics – Live in Hollywood” (Alamac)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1940-41 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1941 (Classics)


  • Hollywood Swing & Jazz (1937–1942) (Rhino)
  • Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band (1939–1942)


  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: January 1943 (Prestige – released 1977)
  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: December 1943 (Storyville)
  • Live at the Hurricane (Storyville)


  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: December 1944 (Prestige – released 1977)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1942-44 (Classics)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1944-45 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1945 (2 volumes) (Classics)
  • The Treasury Shows 1943-1945 (13 double LPs) (D.E.T.S.)
  • Duke’s Joint (1943–1945) (Buddha)
  • The Duke Ellington World Broadcasting Series (Circle)


  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: January 1946 (Prestige – released 1977)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1945-46 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1946 (2 volumes) (Classics)
  • The Great Chicago Concerts (Music Masters)
  • Happy Go Lucky Local (Musicraft)


  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: December 1947 (Prestige – released 1977)
  • Daybreak Express
  • Live at the Hollywood Bowl
  • Duke Ellington Vol. 4: April 30, 1947
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1946-47 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1947 (2 volumes) (Classics)
  • Duke Ellington at Ciro’s (Dems)
  • Liberian Suite (Columbia)


  • Live at Click Restaurant Philadelphia Vol. 1
  • Live at Click Restaurant Philadelphia Vol. 2
  • Carnegie Hall 30 November 1948
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1947-48 (Classics)
  • Cornell University (Music Masters)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1948-49 (Classics)
  • Duke Ellington at the Hollywood Empire (Storyville)


Ellington began the 1950s losing Johnny Hodges, Sonny Greer and Lawrence Brown. The second half of the 1950s, however, feature his famous “comeback” appearance at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, with Paul Gonsalves running through 27 choruses of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.”


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1949-50 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1950 (Classics)
  • Live In Zurich, Switzerland 2.5.1950 (TCB Music)
  • Great Times! (Riverside)


  • Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington, and Billy Strayhorn All Stars (Prestige)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1950-51 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1951 (Classics)
  • Masterpieces by Ellington (Columbia)


  • Ellington Uptown
  • Duke on the Air
  • The Seattle Concert
  • Live at the Blue Note (Bandstand)
  • Duke Ellington at Birdland (Jazz Unlimited)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1952 (Classics)


  • The Pasadena Concert (GNP)
  • Duke Ellington Plays the Blues
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1952-53 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1953 (2 volumes) (Classics)
  • Premiered by Ellington (Capitol)
  • The Duke Plays Ellington (Capitol) released on CD as Piano Reflections


  • Ellington ‘55 (Capitol)
  • Dance to the Duke! (Capitol)
  • Duke Ellington Plays
  • Happy Birthday Duke! April 29 Birthday Sessions (Laserlight)
  • 1954 Los Angeles Concert (GNP)


  • Ellington Showcase (Capitol)
  • Duke’s Mixture (Columbia)
  • Here’s the Duke (Columbia)
  • The Duke and His Men
  • Jazz Masters: 1953-1955 (EMI)
  • The Washington, D.C. Armory Concert (Jazz Guild)
  • The Complete Capitol Recordings of Duke Ellington
  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: March 1955


  • Blue Rose (Columbia) with Rosemary Clooney
  • Historically Speaking (Bethlehem)
  • Duke Ellington Presents… (Bethlehem)
  • Ellington at Newport (Columbia) rereleased with restoration of the complete 1956 Newport Jazz Festival performance in 1999 as Ellington at Newport Complete
  • Duke Ellington and the Buck Clayton All Stars at Newport
  • Al Hibbler Sings with the Duke (Columbia)
  • The Complete Porgy and Bess
  • Ellington ’56 (Charly)
  • Live From The 1956 Stratford Festival (Music and Arts)
  • A Drum Is a Woman (Columbia)


  • Studio Sessions, Chicago 1956 (LMR) – released as The Private Sessions Volume One in 1987
  • Such Sweet Thunder (Columbia)
  • Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook
  • Live at the 1957 Stratford Music Festival (Music & Arts)
  • All-Star Road Band – Volume 2 (CBS)
  • In a Mellotone (RCA-Victor)


  • Black, Brown and Beige (Columbia)
  • Dance Concerts, California 1958 (LMR) – released as The Private Sessions Volume Two in 1987
  • Dance Dates, California 1958 (LMR) – released as The Private Sessions Volume Six in 1987
  • Duke Ellington at the Bal Masque (Columbia)
  • The Cosmic Scene (Columbia)
  • Happy Reunion (Sony)
  • Ellington Indigos (Columbia)
  • Newport 1958 (Columbia) Later re-released on an extended double CD as Live at Newport 1958.
  • Jazz at the Plaza Vol. II (Columbia)
  • Duke Ellington at the Alhambra (Pablo)


  • Jazz Party (Columbia)
  • Back to Back: Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges Play the Blues (Verve)
  • Side by Side (Verve)
  • Anatomy of a Murder (Columbia – soundtrack album)
  • Live at the Blue Note (Roulette)
  • Festival Session (Columbia)
  • Blues in Orbit (Columbia)


In the 1960s, Ellington made recordings with a number of top stars, including Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Coleman Hawkins. He also wrote and recorded a number of suites, such as his religious “Sacred Concerts”, the “Perfume Suite” and the “Latin American Suite.”


  • The Nutcracker Suite (Columbia) released on CD as part of Three Suites
  • Piano in the Background (Columbia)
  • Swinging Suites by Edward E. and Edward G. (aka Peer Gynt Suite/Suite Thursday) released on CD as part of Three Suites
  • Unknown Session (Columbia, released 1979)
  • Hot Summer Dance (Red Baron)
  • Live At Monterey 1960 (Status)


  • Piano in the Foreground (Columbia)
  • The Great Reunion with Louis Armstrong (Roulette)
  • Together Again with Louis Armstrong (Roulette)
The above two were later re-released together in 2001 by Blue Note Records as The Great Summit.
  • Paris Blues (United Artists)
  • First Time! The Count Meets the Duke – with Count Basie (Columbia)
  • The Girl’s Suite & The Perfume Suite (Columbia)


  • All American in Jazz (Columbia)
  • Featuring Paul Gonsalves (Fantasy)
  • Studio Sessions 1957 & 1962 (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volume Seven in 1987
  • Midnight in Paris (Columbia)
  • Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (Impulse!)
  • Money Jungle (United Artists)
  • Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (Impulse!, released 1963)
  • Will the Big Bands Ever Come Back? (Reprise)
  • Studio Sessions, New York, 1962 (LMR) – released as The Private Collection Volume Three in 1987
  • Recollections of the Big Band Era (Atlantic, released 1974)
  • The Feeling of Jazz (Black Lion)
  • Duke 56/62 (in three volumes) (CBS)


  • Afro-Bossa (Reprise)
  • The Great Paris Concert (Atlantic, released 1973)
  • The Symphonic Ellington (Reprise)
  • Duke Ellington’s Jazz Violin Session (Atlantic, released 1976)
  • Serenade to Sweden – with Alice Babs (Reprise)
  • Studio Sessions New York 1963 (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volme Four in 1987
  • My People (Red Baron)


  • Ellington ’65 (Reprise)
  • Duke Ellington Plays Mary Poppins (Reprise)
  • Jazz Group 1964 (Jazz Anthology)
  • Live at Carnegie Hall 1964 (Jazz Up)
  • Harlem (Pablo)
  • All-Star Road Band (CBS)
  • At Basin Street East (Music & Arts)
  • London: The Great Concerts (MusicMasters)
  • New York Concert (Musicmasters)


  • Ellington ’66 (Reprise)
  • Concert in the Virgin Islands (Reprise)
  • Ella at Duke’s Place (Verve)
  • The Duke at Tanglewood
  • Jumpin’ Pumkins
  • 65 Revisited (Affinity)
  • Two Great Concerts (1949 and 1965) (Accord)
  • A Concert of Sacred Music From Grace Cathedral (Status)


  • The Stockholm Concert, 1966 (Pablo)
  • The Popular Duke Ellington (RCA)
  • In the Uncommon Market (recorded 1963-66 – released 1986) (Pablo)
  • Soul Call (Verve)
  • Ella and Duke at the Cote D’Azur (Status)
  • The Far East Suite (RCA)


  • Johnny Come Lately
  • North of the Border in Canada
  • Live at the Rainbow Grill
  • Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington (1927–1967) (Smithsonian)
  • Live in Italy (Jazz Up)
  • 1967 European Tour (Lone Hill)
  • Studio Sessions, 1957, 1965, 1966, 1967, San Francisco, Chicago, New York (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volume Eight in 1987
  • Berlin ’65 / Paris ’67 (Pablo)
  • The Jaywalker (recorded 1966-7 – released 2004) (Storyville)
  • The Greatest Jazz Concert In The World (Pablo)
  • …And His Mother Called Him Bill (RCA)
  • Francis A. & Edward K. (Reprise)


  • Yale Concert (issued 1973) (Fantasy)
  • Second Sacred Concert (Prestige)
  • Studio Sessions New York, 1968 (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volume Nine in 1987


  • 70th Birthday Concert

Ellington remained active to the end of his life, recording three final major suites in the 1970s, his “Third Sacred Concert,” the “New Orleans Suite,” the “Toga Brava Suite” and “The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse,” his most explicit venture into what would be called “world music.” His concert at Eastbourne was Ellington’s final recording.


  • Latin American Suite (recorded 1968 & 1970 – released 1972) (Fantasy)
  • The Pianist (recorded 1966 & 1970 – released 1974) (Fantasy)
  • New Orleans Suite (Atlantic)
  • Orchestral Works (Decca)
  • The Suites, New York 1968 & 1970 (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volume Five in 1987
  • The Intimacy of the Blues (recorded 1967-70 – released 1986) (Fantasy)


  • The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse (Fantasy)
  • Studio Sessions New York & Chicago, 1965, 1966 & 1971 (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volume Ten in 1987
  • The Intimate Ellington (recorded 1969-71 – released 1977) (Pablo)
  • Togo Brava Suite (United Artists)


  • Live at the Whitney (released 1995) (Impulse!)
  • The Ellington Suites (recorded 1959-72 – released 1976) (Pablo)
  • This One’s for Blanton! – with Ray Brown (Pablo)
  • Up in Duke’s Workshop (recorded 1969-72 – released 1979) (Pablo)


  • Duke’s Big 4 (Pablo)
  • It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing – with Teresa Brewer (Flying Dutchman)
  • Third Sacred Concert (RCA)


  • Eastbourne Performance (RCA)


  • Complete Works: 1924-1947 (Proper UK) (2003) (40 discs)
  • The Centennial Edition: The Complete RCA-Victor Recordings (1999) (24 discs)
  • The Complete RCA-Victor Mid-Forties Recordings (2000)
  • The Private Collection (1956–1971) (Saja) (10 discs)
  • The Duke Box (Storyville) (2007) (8 discs)
  • 1936-40 Small Group Sessions (Mosaic) (7 discs)
  • The Complete Capitol Recordings (Blue Note) (1999) (5 discs)
  • The Reprise Studio Recordings (Mosaic) (5 discs)
  • Early Ellington: The Complete Brunswick And Vocalion Recordings Of Duke Ellington, 1926-1931 (GRP Records/ Verve Music Group) (3 discs)
  • Masterpieces, 1926-1949 (Proper) (4 discs)
  • The Gold Collection, 40 Classic Performances (Proper/Retro) (2 discs)
  • Duke Ellington’s Incidental Music for Shakespeare’s Play Timon of Athens, adapted by Stanley Silverman (1993). Ellington does not perform on this recording, but it includes previously unreleased compositions.

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