Born April 29, 1899 in Washington DC, composer, bandleader, and pianist Edward Kennedy (“Duke”) Ellington was recognized in his lifetime as one of the greatest jazz composers and performers. Duke began learning to play piano at age 7, and his earliest influences were the ragtime pianists. He made his professional debut at age 17. Duke Ellington is known for many interesting styles of music. He composed jazz symphonies, such as Harlem, and Black, Brown, and Beige. (both featured on this page in videos) He is known for his “call-and-response” styles, shown in such pieces as Cotton Tail. He was also great at improvisation. Ellington’s work has most certainly been a major influence in the modern jazz world. His many honors and awards included honorary doctorates from Howard and Yale Universities, membership in the American Institute of Arts and Letters, election as the first jazz musician member of the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
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This is the first song Duke ever wrote!
This video is a famous recording called “Jam Session.” It features several other prominent jazz musicians. Filmed in 1942!
It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing): Super fun song!
Cat Anderson is one of the best trumpet players of his time, check him out!
Duke Ellington’s band played all over the world. Here they are in Switzerland!