Top 10 Duke Ellington Songs

Duke Ellington Songs

Our Top 10 Duke Ellington Songs list looks at a famous jazz pianist, composer and bandleader of his jazz orchestra. Duke Ellington was born in Washington D.C. on April 29, 1899. Duke Ellington was known for his style and elegance. Duke Ellington was most famous for creating the sound of Big Band Jazz and helping it become a part of mass culture, especially after he moved to New York. Duke Ellington has written and collaborated on more than 1,000 songs. A lot of his songs have become jazz standards. He won 14 Grammys during his career. Some of his hits include “Stormy Weather,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” “Caravan,” “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “Mood Indigo” as well as others.

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington took piano lessons at seven. He got his nickname “Duke” from his friends because of the way he dressed. They thought he dressed like a nobleman. He took his piano lessons seriously after he heard numerous pianists. He wrote his first composition when he was 15 years old. “Soda Fountain Rag” was one of the first compositions he wrote. Duke Ellington listened to and imitated ragtime pianists. He formed his first group in 1917 called the Duke’s Serenaders. They did several gigs while they were together. Duke Ellington left the Duke’s Serenaders to join the Harlem Renaissance. He recorded eight records in 1924. One thing led to another and a star was born.

Duke Ellington recorded several compilation albums throughout his career. He has recorded so many albums that it would be impossible to name all of them. Masterpieces By Ellington was released in 1951. The album features the singles “Mood Indigo,” “Sophisticated Lady” and “Solitude.” Yvonne Lanauze was the vocalist on this album. Ellington Uptown came out in 1952. It features the singles “The Mooche,” “Take the “A” Train,” “A-Tone Parallel to Harlem (Harlem)” and “Perdido.” Premiered by Ellington came out in 1953. It features the singles “Three Little Words,” “Stormy Weather,” “Cocktails for Two,” “Flamingo,” “Stardust,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Liza.” The Duke Plays Ellington came out in 1953. It features the singles “Prelude to a Kiss,” “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.”

Ellington’ 55 came out in 1955. It features the singles “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “In the Mood” and “Flying Home.” Dance to the Duke came out in 1955. It features the singles “C Jam Blues,” “Caravan” and “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.” Historically Speaking was released in 1956. It features the single “In a Mellow Tone.” A Drum Is a Woman came out in 1956. It features the singles “New Orleans” and “A Drum Is a Woman.” Such Sweet Thunder came out in 1957. It features the singles “Such Sweet Thunder,” “Madness and Great Ones” and “Lately.”

Blues in Orbit was released in 1960. It features the singles “Sentimental Lady,” “Brown Penny” and “The Swingers Get the Blue.” Piano in the Foreground came out in 1961. It features the singles “I Can’t Get Started,” “Summertime” and “All the Things You Are.” Featuring Paul Gonsalves was released in 1962. It features the singles “Happy Go Lucky,” “Jam with Sam” and “Paris Blues.” Midnight in Paris came out in 1962. It features the singles “I Wish You Love,” “Speak to Me of Love” and “No Regrets.”

My People came out in 1963. It features the singles “Come Sunday,” “Montage” and “My Mother, My Father.” The Jaywalker was released in 1967. The album features the single “Blood Count.” The Intimacy of the Blues came out in 1967. The album features the singles “Near North,” “Soul Country” and “The Intimacy of the Blues.”…And His Mother Called Him Bill came out in 1967. It features the singles “Daydream” and “Raincheck.” Two years later President Richard Nixon presented Duke Ellington with the Presidential Medal Of Freedom Award.

Duke Ellington is a classy composer who helped shape jazz music. Along with other jazz artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and a few others, Duke Ellington’s stamp on jazz music has influenced millions of musicians. The Duke Ellington Orchestra formed the template for big bands for generations. Duke Ellington released a lot of albums and composed a lot of singles during his career. He recorded for multiple record labels from Okeh to Victor to Brunswick to Columbia Records. Our Top 10 Duke Ellington Songs list presents some of his best songs that defined the legacy and lifetime of one of the greatest musicians of all time

Top 10 Duke Ellington Songs

# 10 – Satin Doll

The first song on our Top 10 Duke Ellington Songs list is “Satin Doll” from the album Satin Doll: Dedicated to Duke Ellington. The song has a pop sound. The mysterious song is about Duke Ellington’s mistress. He referred to his mistress as his “Satin Doll.” The song faced controversy because Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s relatives wanted to sue each other over writing credit. If you listen to the track without thinking about the story behind the scenes, you will be in for a treat. The arrangement of the song was brilliantly done. Duke Ellington recorded this version without vocals. This song is classic. Duke Ellington didn’t have a particular singer in mind when he created this song.

The band should be commended for what they were able to accomplish in this song. Every musician played a role in making this exquisite song sound beautiful. The track sounds like a big band track. The horn section is incredible. The song features the saxophone, trumpet, and trombone.

The saxophone solos will blow your mind because they are fantastic. Duke Ellington plays the piano with style and elegance. He knows how to tickle the ivories. He does a brilliant job conducting the orchestra on this song. You could get lost listening to the instrumentation of this song. There is a version that has lyrics, but we wanted to put the instrumental version on our list. Duke Ellington and the band did an incredible job with the music so we wanted to add it to our list.

# 9 – I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good

The next song on our Top 10 Duke Ellington Songs list is “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good. The song is featured on the album Jump for Joy by Ivie Anderson. The song has a jazz beat. The bittersweet song is about a woman who is with a man who never treats her right, but she loves him. The song is from the musical Jump for Joy. Women deal with this type of love all of the time. They can’t help loving someone who isn’t right for them. Ivie Anderson hits the nail on the head as she talks about what it’s like to be in love with someone who doesn’t love you back.

You don’t have to watch the musical for these lyrics to get to you. If you have been in a relationship with someone who isn’t the right one, you will know what she means. If you are in a relationship with someone who isn’t right for you, it won’t be a surprise if the lyrics will get to your heart. The music is breathtaking. Hearing Duke Ellington and his band playing is like taking a warm bubble bath because it’s soothing and relaxing.

They chose to tone down the volume on this track which was a good thing because it gives listeners a chance to focus on Ivie Anderson’s voice. Her voice is exquisite and it’s a treat to hear her sing. She sings with the right amount of smokiness to sell the song. Duke Ellington made the right choice to have her sing the song. She sounds like warm honey and we’re here for it.

# 8 – In a Sentimental Mood ft. John Coltrane

The sweet song is from the album Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. The song has a jazz beat. The emotional song is about being in love and the way it makes you feel. There are so many songs about love, but this manages to be different from the others. This song will make you believe in love. If you have been hurt so much that you want to give up on love, you should listen to this song. The track may restore your faith in it. This is the perfect music to listen to when you are in a sensitive mood. You can turn down the lights and let the musicians take you to another world.

This is the type of song you can play while you’re with that special someone. It’s perfect music for lovemaking. If you’re with your special someone out of the bedroom, you can slow dance to this song. This instrumental jam may not have vocals, but it gets the job done. The song is pure magic. Duke Ellington and John Coltrane work extremely well together. They were two legends of jazz music so it was a pairing made in heaven when they decided to work together on this song as well as the album. Duke Ellington is a maestro on the piano while John Coltrane is a genius on the tenor sax. They have solos in the song that will prove why they are gifted musicians. This classic track will never get old and deserves to be heard.

# 7 – Prelude To A Kiss

The elegant song is from the album The Duke Plays Ellington. The track has a jazz beat. The seductive song will set your heart on fire. The music is sensual and will put you in a loving mood. Duke Ellington is in a class by himself when it concerns composing beautiful music. He had a natural gift of knowing what his audience would want to hear in order to be in a romantic mood. This is the perfect song to dance to on your wedding day. If you want to dance cheek to cheek with the love of your life, this is a perfect song to hear.

“Prelude to a Kiss” showcases Duke Ellington’s talent on the piano very well. He tickles the ivories like no one else could do. He is truly gifted to be able to play the piano so well. Johnny Hodges is playing the saxophone on this jam. He had to arguably be one of the best saxophonist in music. His solo is amazing. He shows great control playing the saxophone.

During the midway point of the song, he does runs with the saxophone that probably couldn’t be duplicated today. There are different versions of this song that are available today, but we chose to include his version with Johnny Hodges for our list. You can look for the other versions of the song if you want to hear other renditions of this song. There are also renditions with lyrics. The song is just as moving without words as it in with them.

# 6 – Don’t Get Around Much Anymore

The sad song is from Duke Ellington’s compilation albums. The song has a jazz beat. The mournful song was originally titled “Never No Lament.” It was changed to “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” when lyrics were added to the track. Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra recorded this track and we applaud them for what they were able to accomplish on this song. They were able to tell this story without words the same way other people can with lyrics. This track takes the listeners on a journey and we are ready for the destination. The music is surprisingly upbeat considering it’s a sad song. This version of the song doesn’t have lyrics, but it’s meant to be a heartbreaking song.

Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra do a fantastic job of bringing this song to life. As we mentioned, the music is upbeat and that’s just what the doctor ordered. This song became so popular that several artists covered it. They wanted to get the chance to record an amazing song like this one and we can’t blame them at all for wanting to do that. Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra sound refined and elegant on this song. The sax solo is fire. Ben Webster’s saxophone solo is a treat for all listeners. The horn section gives the song a big band feel. Duke Ellington’s solo is out of this world. If you weren’t a fan of his work before, this song will erase any doubt for you. You may become a fan after listening to this track.

# 5 – Stormy Weather

The next song on our Top 10 Duke Ellington Songs list is “Stormy Weather” from the album All God’s Chillun. The song has a jazz sound. The sentimental song is about someone trying to get over a lover. She wants the man she loves to come back into her life. She’s not herself without her man in her life. She needs him to be in her life. She talks about how sad she is without him. You can’t help feeling sorry for her as she talks about losing the man she loves. She compares losing her man to the weather. She believes it rains all of the time because her relationship is over.

This touching song will make you feel emotional if you are in the same boat. If you’re not in a bad relationship, it will make you empathize with people who are dealing with this situation. There are different versions of this song that are available, but we wanted to feature this version with Ivie Anderson on our list. Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra recorded an instrumental version, but the version with lyrics is more heartfelt. The song was recorded decades ago, but the subject matter is just as relevant today as it was when it was recorded. Ivie Anderson doesn’t appear in the song right away.

The band plays for over a minute before she appears. She makes her appearance near the midway point. What else can we say about Duke Ellington’s talents on the piano? We can’t stress enough that he is a genius when it comes to playing the piano. He manages to make the song sound upbeat even though it’s a song about a woman losing the man she loves. The rest of the orchestra is incredible. They do an excellent job keeping up with Duke Ellington and Ivie Anderson.

# 4 – Caravan

The refined song is from the album Featuring Paul Gonsalves. The track has a jazz sound. The intriguing song will captivate you. Duke Ellington had the chance to record a song with a Middle Eastern flare to it. The song sounds exotic. There’s a hint of Spanish flavor added to the mix. The song has a quirky sound that makes the song stand out from the pack. Everyone involved in this song gave it their all. They created different sounds, which is sure to please fans of music. If you close your eyes, you would think you were in an exotic place while this song is playing.

“Caravan” sounds like something you would hear on a movie soundtrack. It also sounds like something you would hear in a smoky jazz club. If you are a fan of instrumental music, you will enjoy this track. You get a chance to focus on the instrumentation of the song. It has a haunting feel to it. Duke Ellington’s solo is absolutely phenomenal.

The other instruments are loud, but you can still hear Duke Ellington tickling the ivories. The sound of the song is a little menacing, but that makes the track sound mysterious. The flute solo is charming and you might feel like you took a trip to an exotic place after hearing it. You may find yourself putting this song on repeat so you can hear it as much as you want.

# 3 – Mood Indigo

The simple song is from the album Masterpieces By Ellington. The song has a jazz sound. The melancholy song is about a girl and a boy. The girl is in love with the boy. They never talk about their feelings. She loves the way he looks in his hat. He shows up at her house at a certain time every day. She always waits in the window to see if he’ll come by then one day he doesn’t come. The title of the song explains how she feels about him not showing up. The song plays out like a story. The writer Barney Bigard who co-composed many of Ellington’s songs definitely gets an A+ for the creative title.

Duke Ellington knows how to create a mood (no pun intended). He knew the right buttons to push when he composed songs. He knew to give this sad track a somber beat. The beat worked perfectly and matches Ivie Anderson’s mood. You will be ready to grab a drink and sit in a quiet place and think about life while hearing this song. This classic jam sounds like it was ahead of its time.

It was recorded decades ago, but it can still be appreciated today. Ivie Anderson’s vocals are beautiful. She will touch your heart while she sings about the boy she didn’t see again. She and Duke Ellington work well together so it makes sense that she was on another track. She doesn’t appear in the song until the halfway mark, but she takes the song to another level when she starts singing.

# 2 – I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart

The majestic song is from the album Cotton Club Parade. The track has a jazz beat to it. The upbeat song will make you think you are in a Cotton Club. It sounds like something you would hear at a jazz club. This song was perfect for the swing era. The song is beautifully arranged. The track is easy listening. The song has enough tempo for you to move around. You can get on the dance floor with the person you love or you can dance around to it at home. The music will be impossible to listen to without moving around.

“I Let s Song Go Out of My Heart” was a hit for Duke Ellington. The song was a chart topper when it was released. The melody is similar to the song “Dream a Little Dream.” If you listen to it carefully, you might notice it. The saxophone solos are beautifully done. There is a point in the song when two different saxophones are being played. They stand out in a pleasant way. There’s no way we could mention this song and not talk about Duke Ellington’s piano solo. He knows what he’s doing when he tickles the ivories. He makes playing the piano seem effortless. Listening to him play can put you in a trance.

# 1 –It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)

The number one song on our Top 10 Duke Ellington Songs list is “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” from the album Ellington’ 55. The title of the song was based on a saying that Duke Ellingiton’s trumpet player Bubber Miley used to say all the time. The song has a jazz beat to it. The celebratory song is a tribute to swing music. According to the song, swing music is responsible for jazz music. Duke Ellington became a household name during the height of his fame with help from swing music. The song had the potential of being a novelty song because it was about music. Duke Ellington and his team managed to pull it off. If you are a fan of swing and jazz music, you will enjoy this song.

This song was popular so it was covered quite a bit over the years, but nothing compares to Duke Ellington’s version of the track. Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra do a brilliant job on this track. They created a bouncy beat that’s perfect for a jazz club. The music was just what the doctor ordered for this song. Everyone poured their hearts out on this track. Ivie Anderson’s vocals are terrific. Her soprano vocals are a great match for the beat. Her phrasing is on point.

You can understand what she’s saying on this song. She skats towards the end of the song and it was a highlight of the track. She projects her voice so she can be heard over the loud music. There are a lot of instrumentalists on the song and she doesn’t get drowned out by any of them. This song is the type that you can hear without taking it too seriously.

Feature Photo: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Updated May 30, 2023

Top 10 Duke Ellington Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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