Born: 29 April 1899 in Washington, District Of Columbia, USA.
Died: 24 May 1974 in New York City, New York, USA (aged 75).
"Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don't want it." Duke Ellington.
Ellington was an outstanding composer. He wrote thousands of works, composing popular songs, art songs, a wide variety of instrumentals, suites, symphonic works, movie and TV scores, and music for ballet – all of a very high quality.
But to say merely that Ellington was a great composer ignores his achievement as a musician. Ellington is probably the only musician whose name has been associated with a particular style "Ellingtonia". This style does not imply a specific tempo or specific mood, but also a certain standard of quality. Whoever plays "Ellingtonia" must adhere to these standards. Many significant bands have attempted to copy his style.
For Jazz, Ellington was the first orchestra leader to substitute voices for instruments, he popularized the Baritone Sax when he engaged Harry Carney, he influenced countless bands and dance orchestras.
Beginning with his "Jungle Band" to his "Famous Orchestra" which appeared at Carnegie Hall numerous times and even introduced several Jazz suite that Duke had composed, Ellington his the most successful and important orchestra leader in Jazz history. Success did not come easily taking him many years of devoted work to make a name for himself.
He began as a Ragtime pianist in his hometown of Washington. His first composition was "Soda Fountain Rag" which he never recorded. In 1922 he led a fairly successful band which featured Sonny Greer and Otto Hardwick. Several years later, when he opened at the New York Kentuky Club he succeeded in capture the public fancy. This was the first band to capture the now legendary Ellington sound which is clearly present in the number "The Creeper", recorded at the end of 1926.
On 12 April 1927, Duke & his orchestra began the engagement which was to make him world famous: Irvin Mills brought them to the Cotton Club, where they stayed five years. There he laid the Jungle, the Mood and other styles. From December 1926 to October 1930 the Ellington band spent at least 64 days in the studios of 14 recording companies, using 18 different pseudonyms for his band, they recorded about 170 titles.