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Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was a legendary black African American composer, pianist, and bandleader of a jazz orchestra, which he led from 1923 to 1974, in a career spanning over fifty years. 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. Some of the musicians who were members of Ellington's orchestra, such as saxophonist Johnny Hodges, are considered to be among the best players in jazz, and Ellington melded them into the best-known orchestral unit in the history of jazz. Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and charisma, Ellington elevated jazz to an art form. His reputation continued to rise after he passed away in 1974 at the age of 75, and he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for music in 1999.
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