How Dapper Duke Ellington’s Jazz Legacy Became One of the Largest Ever Recorded

How Dapper Duke Ellington’s Jazz Legacy Became One of the Largest Ever Recorded

Cue the saxophone, sound the trumpet and unfetter the soulful rhythms of jazz music. Teeming with complex harmonies, distinct instrumental chords and call-and-response vocals, jazz is considered to be one of the most quintessential art forms in America, with its influence recognizable across the contemporary sounds of today.

Mastermind and prevoyer of some of jazz’s best-known raspy, warm scores is American composer, pianist, and bandleader, Duke Ellington. Born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington, D.C., he began studying piano at age 7; and by 15, had written his first song and was well on his way to playing professionally in New York City – aka the Jazz Capital of America and the entire world. His iconic blend of melodies, rhythms and ensembles bridged song titles, such as “Mood Indigo,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” and “Take the A Train,” giving nationwide audiences a new visual and auditory experience during The Harlem Renaissance. Ellington wrote or collaborated on more than one-thousand works gracing stages, screens, and contemporary songbooks; his personal jazz legacy was one of the largest recorded.

At Inside the Orchestra, we believe music is an extraordinarily powerful tool for connection and change. During Black History Month, we’re sharing the stories of Black American composers, musicians and educators, whose legacies and gifts played a monumental part in shaping the many historical and modern-day sounds of music.

For more educational content celebrating notable composers, musicians, and educators for your personal knowledge, school, or classroom, or to learn about Inside the Orchestra’s in-person programming for metro Denver schools, visit To dive even deeper into a diverse set of impactful composers, be sure to check out our Composer Cards and corresponding composer card platform here

About Inside the Orchestra

Inside the Orchestra brings music to children, cultivating music appreciation and enhancing their education through engaging, interactive experiences with orchestral music. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Learn more about our values and our work in the community.

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