Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington

Suite from The River

            Jazz is considered primarily a musical style defined by solo improvisers, and rightly so.  But, it would be a mistake to diminish the important rôle played by composers and arrangers in that tradition.  If Louis Armstrong is the apotheosis of the former, then surely Duke Ellington is the preëminent of the latter.  Composer of perhaps two thousand songs, jazz suites, film scores, and later in life, even liturgical music, he used his long-touring big band as a vehicle for the development of some of the most sophisticated jazz ever written.  If there is one gift out of a plethora that should be singled out, it is his acute sensitivity to the unique talents of the men who played for him.   He skillfully exploited the variety of their individual tone colors and performing styles