"Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington" (April 29 1899 – May 24 1974), also known simply as "Duke" (see Jazz royalty), was an American jazz composer, pianist, and bandleader.
Many regard Duke Ellington as the most important figure to emerge from the U.S. jazz scene in the twentieth century, although Ellington himself might have quibbled with the description, as he was reluctant to describe his work as anything more specific than "music". The word "jazz" was too narrow for Ellington, a man whose greatest compliment was to describe others who had impressed him as "beyond category". Indeed, Ellington has proved to be enigmatic, slipping through the easy classifications of biographers. Musicians run into much the same kind of problem when dealing with Ellington's compositions. Musically, he wore many hats, and he could never settle on just one.
Through the ranks of Duke Ellington's Orchestra passed some of the biggest names in jazz, including Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Bubber Miley, Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton, Barney Bigard, Ben Webster, Harry Carney, Sonny Greer, Otto Hardwick, Clark Terry, Jimmy Blanton, Ray Nance, Paul Gonsalves, and Wellman Braud.