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PHSC Celebrates its 50th Anniversary and Black History Month: Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington at a piano

Duke Ellington

One of the greatest composers in American history, jazz giant Duke Ellington (1899-1974), pioneered the big band and swing styles, while writing and recording thousands of works.

  • Born in Washington D.C. as Edward Kennedy Ellington, he learned piano from his mother at an early age, and was a performer by seventeen.
  • Duke moved to New York in 1923 and eventually started performing at Harlem's famous Cotton Club, which launched his career into stardom.​
  • As he toured, he developed his big band sound, which was noted for allowing the skill of individual soloists to shine. This led to Ellington working closely with Billy Strayhorn.
  • Ellington would create thousands of recordings over his career, including with other legends like John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Frank Sinatra, and many more.


"Duke Ellington Biography," PBS American Masters, December 12, 2002,