Karen Marie Richardson (right) plays the title role in the Long Beach Opera's staging of Queenie Pie, the jazz opera Duke Ellington left unfinished when he died in 1974. Bryan Frank/Long Beach Opera hide caption

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Duke Ellington signs his biography in London in 1958, with Billy Strayhorn in the background. Ellington and Strayhorn collaborated to create 1960's The Nutcracker Suite. Reg Davis/Getty Images hide caption

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Duke Ellington (1899-1974) at the piano at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon, during a British tour on Feb. 10, 1963. John Pratt/Getty Images hide caption

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Duke Ellington rehearses for a 1973 concert in London's Westminster Abbey. Central Press/Getty Images hide caption

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Duke Ellington's compositions present a timeless contribution to American music's legacy. Victor Drees//Evening Standard/Getty Images hide caption

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A sampling of one listener's cherished classical Christmas albums from a few years back. Mito Habe-Evans/NPR hide caption

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Gary Bartz performs at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival. The saxophonist is often cited as a messenger of black empowerment in music. David Redfern/Redferns hide caption

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