At age 7, Duke began playing the piano. His original name was Edward Kennedy Ellington, but was fondly known as “The Duke”. He was one of the most important composers in American music.

He was giant figure in jazz, a jazz pianist and a composer who had formed his first band in 1917 – The Duke’s Serenaders. This group, with its growing fame, had performed throughout Washington and other US cities. They also performed with famous artists like Louis Armstrong and Miles Davies.

Duke Ellington (1899 – 1974)
Duke led his band through decades of performing and recording

In 1999, Duke received honorary doctorates from Howard and Yale Universities and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation. In 1971, he was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Duke Ellington had recorded over 2000 compositions, most of which are jazz pieces. Since young, Duke received high expectations from his parents whom wanted him to become a musician. He received his early piano education and inspirations from one of the renowned Jazz pianists.

Although he had always used harmonies and improvisation from the jazz culture, it was his wish, however, to want to create music that was unclassifiable. He preferred to brand his music ‘American music’ than jazz. His persistency in his music seeking had allowed him to remain as one of the most popular and important composers and pianists in his era, and to lead his loyal band members through decades of performing and recording. Ellington’s band was a mode of expression, both for himself, a dreamer, as well as his musicians.

Some of his notable works include “Sophisticated Lady," "Crescendo in Blue," "In A Sentimental Mood," "Prelude to A Kiss," "Mood Indigo."

~ Written by Boon Sin Ler

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