Courtesy of the Frank Driggs Collection.
Born April 29, 1899, in Washington, D.C.
Died May 24, 1974, in New York City
“If jazz means anything,” Edward Kennedy Ellington once said, “it is freedom of expression.” No one in the history of jazz expressed himself more freely –– or with more variety or swing or sophistication. He was a masterful pianist but his real instrument was the orchestra he led for half a century. More consistently than anyone else in jazz history, Ellington showed how great music could simultaneously be shaped by the composer and created on the spot by the players. Each of his almost 2,000 compositions – love songs and dance tunes, ballet and film scores, musical portraits and tone poems, orchestral suites and choral works and more –– was crafted to bring out the best in one or another of the extraordinary individuals who traveled the road with him. Ellington hated what he called “categories,” and refused to conform to anyone else’s notion of what he should be doing. As a result he managed to encompass in his music not only what he once called “Negro feeling put to rhythm and tune” but the rhythm and feeling of his whole country and much of the wider world, as well.
Learn More: www.dukeellington.com
Listen to more music at Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio: www.jazzatlincolncenter.org/jazzcast/program.asp?programNumber=88