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Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn: Jazz Composers; April 4- June 28, 2009

When we think of jazz musicians, it’s usually first and foremost of performers who take the stage and improvise on songs or instrumentals. But it is composers who work offstage and behind the scenes to create a repertory for performers to play. Two of the greatest composers of jazz were Duke Ellington (1899– 1974) and Billy Strayhorn (1915–1967), and they collaborated on hundreds of works.

Billy Strayhorn demonstrating a passage to Duke Ellington.

Billy Strayhorn demonstrating a passage to Duke Ellington. Frank Driggs Collection.

This exhibition examines two jazz standards, each one its author’s most-recorded piece: Caravan, written in 1936 by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol, and Take the "A" Train, composed in 1941 by Billy Strayhorn. Caravan debuted with a combo that included Ellington and was led by his clarinetist Barney Bigard, and "A" Train was premiered by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In addition to many recordings made by Ellington, Caravan has been recorded by other musicians more than 1,100 times and "A" Train more than 900 times.

Explore this exhibition:

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