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Duke Ellington and His Orchestra

An unrivalled legend in the history of jazz, Duke Ellington wrote thousands of popular compositions and helped shape the American swing and big band scene with his elegant flamboyance. Becoming a huge star while leading the house band at New York's iconic Cotton Club during the late 1920s, his performances were broadcast live over the radio to huge audiences but, during the depression era, the extravagance of his 15-piece ensemble seemed out of place. A stunning performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 re-established the orchestra and led to their biggest-selling record Ellington At Newport (1956), followed by the acclaimed albums Such Sweet Thunder (1957), Ellington Indigos (1958) and Black, Brown and Beige (1958), which featured gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. The orchestra became a force in breaking down racial barriers, opening the door for more Afro-American bands, with Ellington winning 13 Grammy Awards, The Medal of Freedom and the Legion of Honour, before his death in 1974 from lung cancer.


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