Duke Ellington was the mainstay of jazz music for 50 years. We called him “maestro.” He really was a complete maestro. He started by writing in the 1920s and carried through to the 1970s. He always had wonderful people in his bands; they were like a Shakespeare company. Everybody was in awe of him. He was a wonderful band leader, the best emcee and a fantastic piano player. And the ladies loved him. When he met a lady, he would say, “You make that dress look very beautiful.” I had the utmost admiration for him, and had the honor to join the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1974 and later the orchestra of his Broadway show “Sophisticated Ladies.”

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