Born in the 19 th century, Duke Ellington moved through the 20th either initiating or accompanying every modern phase that traversed the world of jazz. He began appearing at the Cotton Club in 1927, and went on to become no doubt one of that century's major jazz figures, recognized by both his peers and an audience that was immense. From the New Orleans style to the big bands of the swing era, from Swing itself to Bebop, and from the quot;Cool" to the modern jazz of Coltrane and Mingus, he composed and played with peerless musicians and made the transformation of jazz immortal, all in the course of a career lasting fifty years. His own orchestra made each phase tangible, and he composed a huge number of pieces for them. To those talents he added another: that of revealing, bringing to full bloom and giving new visibility to many, many musicians: Bubber Miley, Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart, Ray Nance, Joe Nanton, Cat Anderson, Billy Strayhorn… The list goes on.
The four sides of this album — covering the period 1928-1962 — illustrate not only the path of the
composer and the career of the conductor, pianist and bandleader; they also show the evolution of jazz throughout fifty years.