Duke Ellington, (1899-1974) started his climb to fame in 1926 at the New York Kentucky Club. In December, 1927, he opened at the Cotton Club with a ten-piece band which included three men who had left Washington with him in 1924. Ellington always composed with his own orchestra in mind, and consequently most of his musical writings were not very successfully performed by other bands.
Duke has always understood the capabilities and styles of his men and while his influence on them is immeasurable, he has not dominated them by specifying the exact notes they should play. The fact that the personnel of the Ellington organization changed very little over the years attests to this loyalty. Duke realized early on that a performance cannot be hot without improvisation, and he generally laid out an outline for them to fill in and provided a harmonic background to coincide with their particular styles.
This album cover was from a Victor "Smart Set" reissue collection that came out in the mid-1940s, most likely after the famous "recording ban" instigated by various musician unions in 1942. This resulted in a number of reissues at the time, since the record companies were prohibited by law from recording any new material for several years. These eight sides covered the span from 1927 through 1940, and are listed below from the W.A.M.S. database: