Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

Born: April 29, 1899 (Washington, D.C., U.S.)
Died: May 24, 1974 (aged 75) (New York City, U.S.)
Website: http://dukeellington.com/

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra, which he led from 1923 until his death over a career spanning more than six decades.

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. Although widely considered 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.

Some of the jazz musicians who were members of Ellington’s orchestra, such as saxophonist Johnny Hodges, are considered among the best players in the idiom. Ellington melded them into the best-known orchestral unit in the history of jazz. Some members stayed with the orchestra for several decades. A master at writing miniatures for the three-minute 78 rpm recording format, Ellington wrote more than one thousand compositions; his extensive body of work is the largest recorded personal jazz legacy, and many of his pieces have become standards. He also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, for example Juan Tizol’s “Caravan”, and “Perdido”, which brought a Spanish tinge to big band jazz. In the early 1940s, Ellington began a nearly thirty-year collaboration with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn, whom he called his writing and arranging companion. With Strayhorn, he composed many extended compositions, or suites, as well as additional short pieces. Following an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in July 1956, Ellington and his orchestra enjoyed a major revival and embarked on world tours. Ellington recorded for most American record companies of his era, performed in and scored several films, and composed a handful of stage musicals.

Ellington was noted for his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and for his eloquence and charisma. His reputation continued to rise after he died, and he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize Special Award for music in 1999.

Early Life And Career

Ellington grew up in a secure middle-class family in Washington, D.C. His family encouraged his interests in the fine arts, and he began studying piano at age seven. He became engrossed in studying art during his high-school years, and he was awarded, but did not accept, a scholarship to the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. Inspired by ragtime performers, he began to perform professionally at age 17.

Ellington’s Ensemble

Ellington first played in New York City in 1923. Later that year he moved there and, in Broadway nightclubs, led a sextet that grew in time into a 10-piece ensemble. The singular blues-based melodies; the harsh, vocalized sounds of his trumpeter, Bubber Miley (who used a plunger [“wa-wa”] mute); and the sonorities of the distinctive trombonist Joe (“Tricky Sam”) Nanton (who played muted “growl” sounds) all influenced Ellington’s early “jungle style,” as seen in such masterpieces as “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” (1926) and “Black and Tan Fantasy” (1927).

Duke Ellington's original 14-member band

Duke Ellington’s original 14-member band included such musicians as cornetist Rex Stewart, trombonist Lawrence Brown, baritone saxophonist Harry Carney, and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges.

Extended residencies at the Cotton Club in Harlem (1927–32, 1937–38) stimulated Ellington to enlarge his band to 14 musicians and to expand his compositional scope. He selected his musicians for their expressive individuality, and several members of his ensemble—including trumpeter Cootie Williams (who replaced Miley), cornetist Rex Stewart, trombonist Lawrence Brown, baritone saxophonist Harry Carney, alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, and clarinetist Barney Bigard—were themselves important jazz artists. (The most popular of these was Hodges, who rendered ballads with a full, creamy tone and long portamentos.) With these exceptional musicians, who remained with him throughout the 1930s, Ellington made hundreds of recordings, appeared in films and on radio, and toured Europe in 1933 and 1939.

The expertise of this ensemble allowed Ellington to break away from the conventions of band-section scoring. Instead, he used new harmonies to blend his musicians’ individual sounds and emphasized congruent sections and a supple ensemble that featured Carney’s full bass-clef sound. He illuminated subtle moods with ingenious combinations of instruments; among the most famous examples is “Mood Indigo” in his 1930 setting for muted trumpet, unmuted trombone, and low-register clarinet. In 1931 Ellington began to create extended works, including such pieces as Creole Rhapsody, Reminiscing in Tempo, and Diminuendo in Blue/Crescendo in Blue. He composed a series of works to highlight the special talents of his soloists. Williams, for example, demonstrated his versatility in Ellington’s noted miniature concertos “Echoes of Harlem” and “Concerto for Cootie”. Some of Ellington’s numbers—notably “Caravan” and “Perdido” by trombonist Juan Tizol—were cowritten or entirely composed by sidemen. Few of Ellington’s soloists, despite their importance to jazz history, played as effectively in other contexts; no one else, it seemed, could match the inspiration that Ellington provided with his sensitive, masterful settings.

Masterworks And Popular Songs Of The 1930s And ’40s

A high point in Ellington’s career came in the early 1940s, when he composed several masterworks—including the above-mentioned “Concerto for Cootie,” his fast-tempo showpieces “Cotton Tail” and “Ko-Ko,” and the uniquely structured, compressed panoramas “Main Stem” and “Harlem Air Shaft”—in which successions of soloists are accompanied by diverse ensemble colours. The variety and ingenuity of these works, all conceived for three-minute, 78-rpm records, are extraordinary, as are their unique forms, which range from logically flowing expositions to juxtapositions of line and mood. Tenor saxophonist Ben Webster and bassist Jimmy Blanton, both major jazz artists, were with this classic Ellington band. By then, too, Billy Strayhorn, composer of what would become the band’s theme song, “Take the ‘A’ Train,” had become Ellington’s composing-arranging partner.

Not limiting himself to jazz innovation, Ellington also wrote such great popular songs as “Sophisticated Lady,” “Rocks in My Bed,” and “Satin Doll;” in other songs, such as “Don’t Get Around Much Any More,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Solitude,” and “I Let a Song Go out of My Heart,” he made wide interval leaps an Ellington trademark. A number of these hits were introduced by Ivy Anderson, who was the band’s female vocalist in the 1930s.

Classical Forms

During these years Ellington became intrigued with the possibilities of composing jazz within classical forms. His musical suite Black, Brown and Beige (1943), a portrayal of African-American history, was the first in a series of suites he composed, usually consisting of pieces linked by subject matter. It was followed by, among others, Liberian Suite (1947); A Drum Is a Woman (1956), created for a television production; Such Sweet Thunder (1957), impressions of William Shakespeare’s scenes and characters; a recomposed, reorchestrated version of Nutcracker Suite (1960; after Peter Tchaikovsky); Far East Suite (1964); and Togo Brava Suite (1971). Ellington’s symphonic A Rhapsody of Negro Life was the basis for the film short Symphony in Black (1935), which also features the voice of Billie Holiday (uncredited). Ellington wrote motion-picture scores for The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and composed for the ballet and theatre—including, at the height of the American civil rights movement, the show My People (1964), a celebration of African American life. In his last decade he composed three pieces of sacred music: In the Beginning God (1965), Second Sacred Concert (1968), and Third Sacred Concert (1973).


Although Ellington’s compositional interests and ambitions changed over the decades, his melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic characteristics were for the most part fixed by the late 1930s, when he was a star of the swing era. The broken, eighth-note melodies and arrhythms of bebop had little impact on him, though on occasion he recorded with musicians who were not band members—not only with other swing-era luminaries such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Coleman Hawkins but also with later bop musicians John Coltrane and Charles Mingus. Ellington’s stylistic qualities were shared by Strayhorn, who increasingly participated in composing and orchestrating music for the Ellington band. During 1939–67 Strayhorn collaborated so closely with Ellington that jazz scholars may never determine how much the gifted deputy influenced or even composed works attributed to Ellington.

The Ellington band toured Europe often after World War II; it also played in Asia (1963–64, 1970), West Africa (1966), South America (1968), and Australia (1970) and frequently toured North America. Despite this grueling schedule, some of Ellington’s musicians stayed with him for decades; Carney, for example, was a band member for 47 years. For the most part, later replacements fit into roles that had been created by their distinguished predecessors; after 1950, for instance, the Webster-influenced Paul Gonsalves filled the band’s solo tenor saxophone role originated by Webster. There were some exceptions to this generalization, such as trumpeter-violinist Ray Nance and high-note trumpet specialist Cat Anderson.

Not least of the band’s musicians was Ellington himself, a pianist whose style originated in ragtime and the stride piano idiom of James P. Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith. He adapted his style for orchestral purposes, accompanying with vivid harmonic colours and, especially in later years, offering swinging solos with angular melodies. An elegant man, Ellington maintained a regal manner as he led the band and charmed audiences with his suave humour. His career spanned more than half a century—most of the documented history of jazz. He continued to lead the band until shortly before his death in 1974.

Ellington’s sense of musical drama and of his players’ special talents and his wide range of moods were rare indeed. His gift of melody and his mastery of sonic textures, rhythms, and compositional forms translated his often subtle, often complex perceptions into a body of music unequaled in jazz history. Charles Ives is perhaps his only rival for the title of the greatest American composer. Ellington’s autobiography, Music Is My Mistress, was published in 1973.



During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Ellington and his band recorded for almost every label (BluDisc, Pathé, Perfect, Victor, Brunswick, Columbia Records, Okeh, Vocalion, Cameo, Romeo, Lincoln, Banner, Domino, Jewel, and Hit of the Week). Some labels, such as RCA Victor, Okeh and Brunswick, have collected Ellington’s early recordings into box sets, while material from other labels is scattered. The most comprehensive source for Ellington’s early work are the Classics releases, although that series omits alternate takes, which may be found in other collections.

  • 1924–1926: The Birth of A Band Vol. 1 (EPM Musique) (released 1988)
  • The Birth of Big Band Jazz (Riverside) (EP) (released 1956)
  • Complete Edition (1924–1926) (Masters of Jazz)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1924–1927 (Classics)
  • Complete Edition (1926–1927) (Masters of Jazz)


  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1927–1928 (Classics) (Released 1996)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1928 (Classics)
  • Complete Vol. 1: 1925–1928 (Columbia – France) (released 1973)
  • Duke Ellington: The Beginning 1926–1928 (Decca Jazz Heritage Series)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1927–1928 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1928 (Classics)
  • Complete Edition (1927–1928) (Masters of Jazz)
  • Complete Edition (1928) (2 discs) (Masters of Jazz)


  • Flaming Youth (1927–1929) (RCA Victor) (Released 1965)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1928–1929 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1929 (Classics)
  • Complete Edition (1929) (2 discs) (Masters of Jazz)



  • The OKeh Ellington (Columbia) (1927–1930) (released 1991)
  • The Works of Duke: Vol. 1 – Vol. 5 (RCA) (1927–1930)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1929–1930 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1930 (2 volume) (Classics)
  • Complete Edition (1929–1930) (Masters of Jazz)
  • Complete Edition (1930) (2 discs) (Masters of Jazz)


  • Early Ellington: The Complete Brunswick Recordings (3 discs) (Decca) (1926–1931) (released 1994)
  • Jazz Heritage Brunswick/Vocalion Rarities (1926–1931) (MCA) (released 1983)
  • Mood Indigo (1927–1931) (Columbia) (released 1992)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1930–31 (Classics)
  • Complete Edition (1930–1931) (Masters of Jazz)


  • Jungle Nights in Harlem (1927–1932) (Bluebird) (released 1991)
  • Jazz Cocktail (AVS/Living Era) (1928–1932)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1931–32 (Classics)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1932–33 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1933 (Classics)


  • Early Ellington: 1927–1934 (Bluebird) (released 1954; CD release 1990 on RCA)
  • Duke Ellington 1927–1934 (Nimbus) (1991)
  • Great Original Performances 1927–1934 (Mobile Fidelity (released 1989)
  • Jubilee Stomp (Bluebird) (1928–1934)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1933–35 (Classics)


  • Rockin’ in Rhythm (1927–1936) (Jazz Hour) (Released 1996)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1935–36 (Classics)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1936–37 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1937 (2 volumes) (Classics)


  • Braggin’ in Brass: The Immortal 1938 Year (Portrait)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1938 (Classics)


  • Duke Ellington Playing the Blues (1927–1939) (Black and Blue) (Released 2002)
  • The Duke’s Men: Small Groups vol. 2, 1938–1939 (Columbia/Vocalion)
  • The Blanton–Webster Band (1939–1942) (RCA/BlueBird)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1938–39 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1939 (2 volumes) (Classics)


The early 1940s saw limited output due to the recording ban, but Ellington did make annual visits to Carnegie Hall, listed below. In the January 1943 concert, Ellington introduced his first extended suite, “Black, Brown and Beige.” This era also saw the appearance of the “Liberian Suite” and his highly regarded recordings featuring Jimmy Blanton and Ben Webster, “the best Ellington ” according to critic Bob Blumenthal.


  • On the Air
  • Harlem Air Shaft (Victor)
  • Duke Ellington at Fargo, 1940 Live (various labels)
  • The Duke in (Jazz Unlimited)
  • The British Connection: 1933–1940 (Jazz Unlimited)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1939–40 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1940 (2 volumes) (Classics)


  • Take the ‘A’ Train (Vintage Jazz Classics)
  • The Great Ellington Units (Bluebird)
  • “1941 Classics – Live in ” (Alamac)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1940–41 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1941 (Classics)


  • Swing & Jazz (1937–1942) (Rhino)
  • Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster (Bluebird, 1939–1942 [2003])


  • Black, Brown, and Beige (Victor, 1946)
  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: January 1943 (Prestige – released 1977)
  • Black, Brown & Beige: The 1944-1946 Recordings (Bluebird, 1944-46 [1988])
  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: December 1943 (Storyville)
  • Live at the Hurricane (Storyville)


  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: December 1944 (Prestige – released 1977)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1942–44 (Classics)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1944–45 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1945 (2 volumes) (Classics)
  • The Treasury Shows 1943–1945 (13 double LPs) (D.E.T.S.)
  • Duke’s Joint (1943–1945) (Buddha)
  • The Duke Ellington World Broadcasting Series (Circle)


  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: January 1946 (Prestige – released 1977)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1945–46 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1946 (2 volumes) (Classics)
  • The Great Concerts (MusicMasters)
  • Happy Go Lucky Local (Musicraft)


  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: December 1947 (Prestige – released 1977)
  • Daybreak Express
  • Live at the Bowl
  • Duke Ellington Vol. 4: April 30, 1947
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1946–47 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1947 (2 volumes) (Classics)
  • Duke Ellington at Ciro’s (Dems)
  • Liberian Suite


  • Live at Click Vol. 1
  • Live at Click Vol. 2
  • Carnegie Hall 30 November 1948
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1947–48 (Classics)
  • Cornell (MusicMasters)


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1948–49 (Classics)
  • Duke Ellington at the Empire (Storyville)


Ellington began the 1950s losing Sonny Greer, Johnny Hodges, and Lawrence Brown (the latter two later rejoined). The second half of the 1950s, however, feature his famous “comeback” appearance at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, with Paul Gonsalves running through 27 choruses of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.”


  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1949–50 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1950 (Classics)
  • Live In Zurich, Switzerland 2.5.1950 (TCB)
  • Great Times! (Riverside)


  • Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington, and Billy Strayhorn All Stars (Prestige)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1950–51 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1951 (Classics)
  • Masterpieces by Ellington (Columbia)


  • Ellington Uptown (Columbia)
  • Duke on the Air
  • The Seattle Concert
  • Live at the Blue Note (Bandstand)
  • Duke Ellington at Birdland (Jazz Unlimited)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1952 (Classics)


  • The Pasadena Concert (GNP)
  • Duke Ellington Plays the Blues
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1952–53 (Classics)
  • The Chronological Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1953 (2 volumes) (Classics)
  • Premiered by Ellington (Capitol)
  • The Duke Plays Ellington (Capitol) released on CD as Piano Reflections


  • Ellington ’55 (Capitol)
  • Dance to the Duke! (Capitol)
  • Duke Ellington Plays
  • Happy Birthday Duke! April 29 Birthday Sessions (Laserlight)
  • 1954 Los Angeles Concert (GNP)


  • Ellington Showcase (Capitol)
  • Duke’s Mixture (Columbia)
  • Here’s the Duke (Columbia)
  • The Duke and His Men
  • Jazz Masters: 1953–1955 (EMI)
  • The Washington, D.C. Armory Concert (Jazz Guild)
  • The Complete Capitol Recordings of Duke Ellington
  • The Carnegie Hall Concerts: March 1955


  • Blue Rose (Columbia, with Rosemary Clooney)
  • Historically Speaking (Bethlehem)
  • Duke Ellington Presents… (Bethlehem)
  • Ellington at Newport (Columbia) rereleased with restoration of the complete 1956 Newport Jazz Festival performance in 1999 as Ellington at Newport Complete
  • Duke Ellington and the Buck Clayton All Stars at Newport
  • Al Hibbler Sings with the Duke (Columbia)
  • The Complete Porgy and Bess
  • Ellington ’56 (Charly)
  • Live From The 1956 Stratford Festival (Music and Arts)
  • A Drum Is a Woman (Columbia)


  • Studio Sessions, Chicago 1956 (LMR) – released as The Private Sessions Volume One in 1987
  • Such Sweet Thunder (Columbia)
  • All Star Road Band (Doctor Jazz) released 1983
  • Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook (Verve, with Ella Fitzgerald)
  • Live at the 1957 Stratford Music Festival (Music & Arts)
  • In a Mellotone (RCA– Victor)


  • Black, Brown and Beige (Columbia)
  • Dance Concerts, California 1958 (LMR) – released as The Private Sessions Volume Two in 1987
  • Dance Dates, California 1958 (LMR) – released as The Private Sessions Volume Six in 1987
  • Duke Ellington at the Bal Masque (Columbia)
  • The Cosmic Scene (Columbia)
  • Happy Reunion (Sony)
  • Ellington Indigos (Columbia)
  • Newport 1958 (Columbia) Later re–released on an extended double CD as Live at Newport 1958.
  • Jazz at the Plaza Vol. II (Columbia)
  • Duke Ellington at the Alhambra (Pablo, live)


  • Jazz Party (Columbia)
  • Back to Back: Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges Play the Blues (Verve)
  • Side by Side (Verve)
  • The Duke’s D.J. Special (Fresh Sound Records) Previously released as “Ellington Moods” (Jazz Legacy LP)
  • Anatomy of a Murder (Columbia – soundtrack album)
  • Live at the Blue Note (Roulette)
  • Festival Session (Columbia)
  • Blues in Orbit (Columbia)


In the 1960s, Ellington made recordings with a number of other star names, including Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Coleman Hawkins. He also wrote and recorded a number of suites, such as his religious “Sacred Concerts”, the “Perfume Suite” and the “Latin American Suite.”


  • The Nutcracker Suite (Columbia) released on CD as part of Three Suites
  • Piano in the Background (Columbia)
  • Swinging Suites by Edward E. and Edward G. (aka Peer Gynt Suite/Suite Thursday) released on CD as part of Three Suites
  • Unknown Session (Columbia, released 1979)
  • Hot Summer Dance (Red Baron) released 1991
  • Live at Monterey 1960 (Status)


  • Piano in the Foreground (Columbia)
  • The Great Reunion with Louis Armstrong (Roulette)
  • Together Again with Louis Armstrong (Roulette)
  • The above two were later re–released together in 2001 by Blue Note as The Great Summit.
  • Paris Blues (United Artists)
  • First Time! The Count Meets the Duke – with Count Basie (Columbia)
  • The Girl’s Suite and The Perfume Suite (Columbia, 1957/61 [1983])
  • The Asphalt Jungle (television series theme; composer)


  • All American in Jazz (Columbia)
  • Featuring Paul Gonsalves (Fantasy)
  • Studio Sessions 1957 & 1962 (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volume Seven in 1987
  • Midnight in Paris (Columbia)
  • Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (Impulse!)
  • Money Jungle (United Artists)
  • Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (Impulse!, released 1963)
  • Will the Big Bands Ever Come Back? (Reprise)
  • Studio Sessions, New York, 1962 (LMR) – released as The Private Collection Volume Three in 1987
  • Recollections of the Big Band Era (Atlantic, released 1974)
  • The Feeling of Jazz (Black Lion)
  • Duke 56/62 (in three volumes) (CBS)


  • Afro-Bossa (Reprise)
  • The Great Paris Concert (Atlantic, released 1973)
  • The Symphonic Ellington (Reprise)
  • Duke Ellington’s Jazz Violin Session (Atlantic, released 1976)
  • Serenade to Sweden – with Alice Babs (Reprise)
  • Studio Sessions New York 1963 (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volume Four in 1987
  • My People (Red Baron)


  • Ellington ’65 (Reprise)
  • All Star Road Band Volume 2 (Doctor Jazz, 1964 [1985])
  • Duke Ellington Plays Mary Poppins (Reprise)
  • Jazz Group 1964 (Jazz Anthology)
  • Live at Carnegie Hall 1964 (Jazz Up)
  • Harlem (Pablo)
  • At Basin Street East (Music & Arts)
  • London: The Great Concerts (MusicMasters)
  • New York Concert (Musicmasters)


  • Ellington ’66 (Reprise)
  • Concert in the Virgin Islands (Reprise)
  • Ella at Duke’s Place (Verve)
  • The Duke at Tanglewood (RCA Victor) with the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler and arranged by Richard Hayman
  • Jumpin’ Pumkins
  • ’65 Revisited (Affinity)
  • Two Great Concerts (1949 and 1965) (Accord)
  • A Concert of Sacred Music From Grace Cathedral (Status)


  • The Stockholm Concert, 1966 (Pablo, with Ella Fitzgerald, live)
  • The Popular Duke Ellington (RCA)
  • In the Uncommon Market (recorded 1963–66 – released 1986) (Pablo)
  • Soul Call (Verve, live)
  • Ella and Duke at the Cote D’Azur (Verve, with Ella Fitzgerald, live)
  • The Far East Suite (RCA)


  • Johnny Come Lately
  • North of the Border in Canada (Decca) with the Ron Collier Orchestra
  • Live at the Rainbow Grill
  • Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington (1927–1967) (Smithsonian)
  • Live In Italy (Jazz–up)
  • Studio Sessions, 1957, 1965, 1966, 1967, San Francisco, Chicago, New York (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volume Eight in 1987
  • Berlin ’65/Paris ’67 (Pablo)
  • The Jaywalker (recorded 1966–7 – released 2004) (Storyville)
  • The Greatest Jazz Concert in the World (Pablo, live)
  • …And His Mother Called Him Bill (RCA)
  • Francis A. & Edward K. (Reprise, with Frank Sinatra)


  • Yale Concert (issued 1973) (Fantasy)
  • Second Sacred Concert (Prestige)
  • Studio Sessions New York, 1968 (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volume Nine in 1987


  • 70th Birthday Concert (Solid State)


Ellington remained active to the end of his life, recording three final major suites in the 1970s, the “New Orleans Suite”, his “Third Sacred Concert”, the “Toga Brava Suite”, and “The Afro–Eurasian Eclipse”, his most explicit venture into what would be called “world music.” His concert at Eastbourne was Ellington’s final recording.


  • Latin American Suite (recorded 1968 & 1970 – released 1972) (Fantasy)
  • The Pianist (recorded 1966 & 1970 – released 1974) (Fantasy)
  • New Orleans Suite (Atlantic)
  • Orchestral Works (Decca)
  • The Suites, New York 1968 & 1970 (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volume Five in 1987
  • The Intimacy of the Blues (recorded 1967–70 – released 1986) (Fantasy)


  • The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse (Fantasy)
  • Studio Sessions New York & Chicago, 1965, 1966 & 1971 (LMR) released as The Private Collection Volume Ten in 1987
  • The Intimate Ellington (recorded 1969–71 – released 1977) (Pablo)
  • Togo Brava Suite (United Artists)


  • Live at the Whitney (released 1995) (Impulse!)
  • The Ellington Suites (recorded 1959–72 – released 1976) (Pablo)
  • This One’s for Blanton! – with Ray Brown (Pablo)
  • Up in Duke’s Workshop (recorded 1969–72 – released 1979) (Pablo)


  • Duke’s Big 4 (Pablo)
  • It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing – with Teresa Brewer (Flying Dutchman)
  • Third Sacred Concert (RCA)


  • Eastbourne Performance (RCA)