Über Duke Ellington
The contributions Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington has made to American music cannot be overstated. Ellington led an earthshaking big band with musicians that helped shape jazz and his charts influenced countless arrangers. He wrote dozens of what are now considered standards while he continued to explore and experiment with longer suites. Ellington could produce a great swing song, then a ballad, and then follow it up with an avant-garde orchestral piece -- all of equal quality. On his own, Ellington was a powerhouse who used members of his orchestra like a painter uses colors and optimized the talents and sounds of each musician. When Billy Strayhorn joined him as a co-arranger, songwriter and piano player, their combined talents led the orchestra to even greater heights. When Duke Ellington was asked to define jazz he replied, "there are only two kinds of music, good and bad." The Duke just may have created more "good" music than anyone in history.