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Duke Ellington


About this Artist

Easily the most significant pure composer to come out of big-band jazz - he now commands an eminent position in mainstream textbooks on 20th-century music - Duke Ellington was an American original. He was a master of instrumental color and texture and special timbral effects, and he experimented with harmony and form. Ellington began extending the size of his compositions with Creole Rhapsody in 1931. Soon his works approached the symphonic not merely in length, but also in motivic development and manipulation.

The size of his band grew as well. The decades of the 1930s and '40s are considered by many Ellington's prime creative years, but that may be in part simply purist snobbery, as in his later years he turned more to large suites (often inspired by places he visited with his band on increasingly frequent foreign tours), big sacred works, film scores, and music for stage productions (he left an opera, Boola, incomplete at his death). – John Henken