NPR's 'Jazz Profiles' This documentary series profiles the legends and legacy of jazz. Hosted by singer Nancy Wilson, the program brings to life the vibrant history of the genre through music, interviews, and commentary. The fascinating stories reflected in this series are very human tales that any news junkie or jazz aficionado can relate to.

Jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald during a 1958 visit to London. John Downing/Getty Images hide caption

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The Ella Fitzgerald Centennial: Our 'First Lady Of Song'

Her incredible technical abilities were self-evident, but in front of a microphone, she radiated pure joy.

The Ella Fitzgerald Centennial: Our 'First Lady Of Song'

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Nat Adderley recorded many albums under his own name while working with his brother's group. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images hide caption

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Nat Adderley: Brotherly Swing

He devoted much of his career to the band led by his more famous brother, saxophonist Cannonball Adderley.

Nat Adderley: Brotherly Swing

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In the late '80s, Betty Carter achieved sustained recognition upon signing to a major label, which also reissued much of her back catalog. Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images hide caption

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Betty Carter: Fiercely Individual

An electric performer, Carter was an irrepressible and incomparable practitioner of the jazz vocal tradition. For nearly 50 years, the intense vocalist blazed her own trail in jazz, powered by her passionate, intense singing.

Betty Carter: Fiercely Individual

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Bill Evans continued to perform and record up until his death in 1980. Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images hide caption

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Bill Evans: 'Piano Impressionism'

Evans' introspective lyricism and subtle, Western classical flourishes have echoes in a legion of fellow keyboard players. As a leader and composer, he introduced an influential, highly interactive approach to trio and small-group performances.

Bill Evans: 'Piano Impressionism'

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Bessie Smith, shown here ca. 1935, remained an active performer until her sudden death at age 43. Three Lions/Getty Images hide caption

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Bessie Smith: 'Blues Empress'

Through hit recordings and a busy nationwide touring schedule, the singer gave the blues a raw, regal poignancy — and marketability. Her feverish growls and impassioned delivery informed nearly all African American music.

Bessie Smith: 'Blues Empress'

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Nat King Cole, May 16, 1960. Fox Photos/Getty Images hide caption

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Nat King Cole: 'The Singer'

Nat King Cole emerged in the late 1930s as an elegant piano stylist and leader of his influential working trio. But his greatest fame began when he took up a microphone to sing, and soon became a consummate and world-renowned entertainer.

Nat King Cole: 'The Singer'

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Hoagy Carmichael's early music, including the 1927 melody to "Stardust," was heavily influenced by jazz, including the work of his friend and collaborator Bix Beiderbecke. Baron/Getty Images hide caption

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Hoagy Carmichael: 'Stardust Melodies'

With a laid-back, familiar style, the composer, pianist and singer created popular hits for decades — and logged numerous entries into the great American songbook. When asked about his tuneful gift, he credited his early roots in jazz.

Hoagy Carmichael: 'Stardust Melodies'

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Sarah Vaughan, Jan. 22, 1960. Terry Disney/Central Press/Getty Images hide caption

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Sarah Vaughan: Vocal Virtuosity

Sarah Vaughan was affectionately known as both "Sassy" and "The Divine One," nicknames that reflect the extraordinarily wide range of expression she achieved in her singing.

Sarah Vaughan: Vocal Virtuosity

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As of 2008, Dave Brubeck still tours extensively with his jazz quartet, often performing his religious works. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way

Unlike the vast majority of jazz musicians, the pianist and composer was blessed with both talent and commercial success. His blend of experimental and lyrical approaches made him one of the biggest draws of his day — and ever since.

Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way

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Jimmy Witherspoon at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival. Courtesy of Concord Music Group hide caption

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Jimmy Witherspoon: Shouting the Blues

During a career more than five decades long, "Spoon" brought a strong dose of blues to many of the jazz world's finest bands. With his full, powerful baritone delivery, he was one of the best of the "blues shouters."

Jimmy Witherspoon: Shouting the Blues

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Willie "The Lion" Smith was a major influence on Duke Ellington, who wrote several compositions dedicated to him. William P. Gottlieb/Library of Congress via flickr.com hide caption

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Willie 'The Lion' Smith: Stride Piano Master

The pianist was well-known for his flamboyant behavior, ever-present cigar, and trademark derby hat. But in front of the keys, he was also a leading purveyor of the ragtime-based style called Harlem Stride.

Willie 'The Lion' Smith: Stride Piano Master

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The legendary bandleader and composer Duke Ellington produced more than one thousand lasting works. Keystone/Getty Images hide caption

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Duke Ellington: The Composer, Pt. 1

Duke Ellington composed some of the most enduring music of the 20th century, producing more than one thousand lasting works. With groundbreaking hits such as "Sophisticated Lady" and "Mood Indigo," Ellington vividly communicated universal ideas, while inventing musical concepts that helped elevate jazz to a sophisticated art form.

Duke Ellington: The Composer, Pt. 1

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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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Duke Ellington: The Composer, Pt. 2

The scope and breadth of Duke Ellington's compositions were far-reaching, drawing many influences together to create a cohesive and diverse sound. Composing consumed Ellington around the clock, and his musical legacy is a timeless contribution to American music.

Duke Ellington: The Composer, Pt. 2

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Bud Powell was the first, and arguably the greatest pianist to create a bebop-based improvisational style for the piano. Metronome/Getty Images hide caption

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Bud Powell: Bebop Pianism

Admired by his peers as an adventurous original who forged a style of unrivaled virtuosity, Powell is still remembered for redrawing the course of modern jazz piano by pioneering bebop improvisation at the keyboard.

Bud Powell: Bebop Pianism

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Abbey Lincoln was the powerful voice of Max Roach's political piece, We Insist! Freedom Now Suite. John Sann hide caption

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Abbey Lincoln: The Power Of Voice

Few singers have the emotional depth and versatility of Lincoln, who died Saturday at the age of 80. With a voice capable of evoking the joys and pains of life, she carved out a niche as a singer, songwriter and storyteller for more than 40 years.

Abbey Lincoln: The Power Of Voice

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During multiple stints with Miles Davis' groups of the 1950s and early '60s, John Coltrane began to develop his signature sound. Evening Standard/Getty Images hide caption

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John Coltrane: Saxophone Icon, Pt. 1

The most influential jazz musician after bebop, the tenor saxophonist nurtured a career marked by rapid growth in improvisational technique and ideas. By the late 1950s, he had already produced his first masterpieces.

John Coltrane: Saxophone Icon, Pt. 1

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John Coltrane's rapid stylistic evolution was not always admired as it is today: One critic called a 1961 performance "anti-jazz," and the label stuck with his detractors. Jan Persson/Courtesy of Concord Music Group hide caption

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John Coltrane: Saxophone Icon, Pt. 2

After years of playing with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, the saxophonist emerged as a jazz virtuoso by the end of the 1950s. But it was the restless exploration to follow that made him a pioneer of American music.

John Coltrane: Saxophone Icon, Pt. 2

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Melba Liston performs on Art Ford's Jazz Party, a television program broadcast from Newark, N.J., in 1958. Nancy Miller-Elliott/Courtesy of the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University hide caption

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Melba Liston: Bones Of An Arranger

She cut her teeth as a trombonist in the big bands of Gerald Wilson and Dizzy Gillespie. She scored classic records for everyone from Marvin Gaye to Randy Weston. And, against the odds, she made it as a woman in jazz.

Melba Liston: Bones Of An Arranger

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Artie Shaw's ideas were often deemed too modern, and his temperament was ill-suited to the role of star. John Pratt/Keystone Features/Getty Images hide caption

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Artie Shaw: The Reluctant Jazz Star

Shaw was the temperamental leader of some of the hottest swing bands of his era. Though he had huge hits with Begin the Beguine and Frenesi, Shaw disdained the spotlight, and his bands never lasted long.

Artie Shaw: The Reluctant Jazz Star

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Ella Fitzgerald, circa 1973. Evening Standard/Getty Images hide caption

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Ella Fitzgerald, 'First Lady Of Song'

This show celebrates the music of one of the greatest singers of our time with interviews that include Ella herself; vocalists Betty Carter, Jon Hendricks and Joe Williams; writers Gene Lees and Albert Murray; and pianist Oscar Peterson.

Ella Fitzgerald, 'First Lady Of Song'

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Anita O'Day: High Times And Hard Times

Celebrated jazz singer Anita O'Day experienced both the "high times and hard times" — as her autobiography is so aptly titled. Despite drug addiction that interfered with her potential for super-stardom, she made a profound impact with her exceptional range, improvisation and skillful interpretion of lyrics.

Anita O'Day: High Times And Hard Times

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Milt Hinton: The Ultimate Timekeeper

Bassist Milt Hinton, known as the "Judge," was considered to be the ultimate timekeeper. With his buoyant tempos and fat, booming sound, Hinton provided the rhythmic foundation for many jazz greats.

Milt Hinton: The Ultimate Timekeeper

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Jay 'Hootie' McShann: Kansas City Swingman

"Hootie" to his friends, bluesman supreme Jay McShann served as the living legacy to Kansas City jazz. As bandleader, pianist, singer and composer, McShann was an unsung yet influential figure. During the '40s, his orchestra became an important launching pad for prominent soloists including Charlie Parker.

Jay 'Hootie' McShann: Kansas City Swingman

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James Moody. Warner Bros. hide caption

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In Memoriam, James Moody

He was a virtuoso musician, known for his work on multiple saxophones and flute. He was also a man who radiated love -- when you met him, he'd hold you tight and kiss you on both cheeks as if you were old friends. Romantic, witty and earthy, his sound was an extension of his personality.

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