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Duke Ellington: Master Composer
Duke Ellington
Photo: Library of Congress
One of the most significant figures in music history, Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was born on April 29, 1899, in Washington, D.C. He began studying the piano at the age of seven. He started playing jazz as a teenager, and moved to New York City to become a bandleader. As a pianist, composer, and bandleader, Ellington was one of the creators of the big band sound, which fueled the "swing" era. He continued leading and composing for his jazz orchestra until his death in 1974. "Ellington plays the piano, but his real instrument is his band. Each member of his band is to him a distinctive tone color and set of emotions, which he mixes with others equally distinctive to produce a third thing, which I like to call the 'Ellington Effect.'" —Billy Strayhorn, composer and arranger

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