Giant Steps: Jazz Greats
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Edward "Duke" Ellington's confident, aristocratic bearing may very well have been justified, since he was one of the most popular and important jazz composers of the twentieth century. Drawn to the piano at an early age, Ellington became increasingly interested in composition while on tour with his first band in the 1920s. His tendency to break musical rules and work collaboratively with his fellow musicians led to Ellington's reputation as a major American composer. It also landed his band a long-term contract with New York's Cotton Club, where he made songs like "Mood Indigo" and "Sophisticated Lady" into jazz standards. Subsequent recordings with Columbia and Victor led to the hits "Take the A Train" and "Cotton Tail," both of which became signature numbers. Although not as uniquely innovative as some other jazz musicians, Ellington created a large body of work that includes many classics of modern American music. This photograph was taken around 1946.