Believe it or not, I was initially unimpressed by Duke Ellington when I first started collecting swing music; since then, I’ve learned the error of my ways. The Duke had such a long music career that spanned decades and many genres of jazz music, that, well, some of his music actually isn’t swing dance music…it’s Hot Jazz, Be-Bop or something else. But the stuff that swings…swings hard.

Edward “Duke” Ellington was an American pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader. He started playing music in Washington, D.C. in 1917. Influences on his piano style included stride pianists like James P. Johnson and Willie “the Lion” Smith. In 1923 he and some of his band mates moved to New York City and started playing as “the Washingtonians,” with Ellington eventually assuming leadership of the band. Although Ellington made several recordings and played clubs around Manhattan, it wasn’t until the Ellington Orchestra took a spot as the house band at the Cotton Club, with regular radio broadcasts of their performances, that the Duke achieved a solid claim to fame and became an American household name. Duke’s band was one of the few that successfully made the transition from the Hot Jazz of the 1920s to the swing of the 1930s, and his band grew in popularity and stature through the 40s and 50s.  Duke Ellington died from cancer in 1974.

Never No Lament

Recommended individual tracks:

The Duke Box

Recommended individual tracks:

Never No Lament: Duke Ellington Dance Tracks