Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist and bandleader of jazz orchestras. He led his orchestra from 1923 until his death, his career spanning over 50 years.
Born in Washington, D.C., Ellington was based in New York City from the mid-1920s onward, and gained a national profile through his orchestra’s appearances at the Cotton Club in Harlem. In the 1930s, his orchestra toured in Europe. Though widely considered to have been a pivotal figure in the history of jazz, Ellington embraced the phrase “beyond category” as a “liberating principle”, and referred to his music as part of the more general category of “American Music”, rather than to a musical genre such as “jazz”.