Released in 1999, this four-CD set spotlighting Duke Ellington's early to middle years commemorates what would have been Ellington's 100th birthday. Disc One features Ellington's earliest group, while Disc Two features music from his Cotton Club days in the 1930s. Discs Three and Four feature a more prosperous orchestra as they were heard in the years during and just following World War Two.
Tracing the Ellington legacy over the span of 20 years, this album reveals the incredible evolution of his band. Loyalists including trumpeter Cootie Williams, alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, and clarinetist Barney Bigard are heard here in top form. A veritable treasure trove of classic Ellington compositions is included on this compilation, such as "The Mooche," "Caravan," "Koko," "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," and "Prelude to a Kiss."