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Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra, which he led from 1923 until his death over a career spanning more than six decades.

Born in Washington, D.C., Ellington was based in New York City from the mid-1920s onward and gained a national profile through his orchestra's appearances at the Cotton Club in Harlem. In the 1930s, his orchestra toured in Europe. Although widely considered a pivotal figure in the history of jazz, Ellington embraced the phrase "beyond category" as a liberating principle and referred to his music as part of the more general category of American Music.

Some of the jazz musicians who were members of Ellington's orchestra, such as saxophonist Johnny Hodges, are considered among the best players in the idiom. Ellington melded them into the best-known orchestral unit in the history of jazz. Some members stayed with the orchestra for several decades. A master at writing miniatures for the three-minute 78 rpm recording format, Ellington wrote more than one thousand compositions; his extensive body of work is the largest recorded personal jazz legacy, and many of his pieces have become standards. He also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, for example Juan Tizol's "Caravan", and "Perdido", which brought a Spanish tinge to big band jazz. In the early 1940s, Ellington began a nearly thirty-year collaboration with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn, whom he called his writing and arranging companion. With Strayhorn, he composed many extended compositions, or suites, as well as additional short pieces. Following an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in July 1956, Ellington and his orchestra enjoyed a major revival and embarked on world tours. Ellington recorded for most American record companies of his era, performed in and scored several films, and composed a handful of stage musicals.

Ellington was noted for his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and for his eloquence and charisma. His reputation continued to rise after he died, and he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize Special Award for music in 1999.

Birth and Death Data: Born April 29th, 1899 (Washington, D.C.), Died May 24th, 1974 (New York City)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1924 - 1968

Roles Represented in DAHR: piano, composer, leader, director, arranger, songwriter, lyricist

Recordings (Results 326-329 of 329 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Decca GB 6038 10-in. 7/13/1933 Hyde Park (Every tub) Duke Ellington Orchestra arranger, leader, instrumentalist, piano  
Decca GB 6039 10-in. 7/13/1933 Harlem speaks Duke Ellington Orchestra arranger, leader, instrumentalist, piano  
Decca GB 6040 10-in. 7/13/1933 Ain't misbehavin' Duke Ellington Orchestra arranger, leader, instrumentalist, piano  
Decca GB 6041 10-in. 7/13/1933 Chicago Duke Ellington Orchestra arranger, leader, instrumentalist, piano  
(Results 326-329 of 329 records)


Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Ellington, Duke," accessed December 1, 2020,

Ellington, Duke. (2020). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from

"Ellington, Duke." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2020. Web. 1 December 2020.

DAHR Persistent Identifier



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