Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and charisma, Ellington is generally considered to have elevated the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other more traditional musical genres.
His reputation continued to rise after he died, and he was awarded a special posthumous Pulitzer Prize for music in 1999. Daisy primarily played parlor songs and James preferred operatic arias.
Often collaborating with others, Ellington wrote more than one thousand compositions; his extensive body of work is the largest recorded personal jazz legacy, with many of his works having become standards.
Ellington also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, for example Juan Tizol's "Caravan", and "Perdido", which brought a Spanish tinge to big band jazz.
At first, he played in other ensembles, and in late 1917 formed his first group, "The Duke's Serenaders" ("Colored Syncopators", his telephone directory advertising proclaimed). The band included childhood friend Otto Hardwick, who began playing the string bass, then moved to C-melody sax and finally settled on alto saxophone; Arthur Whetsol on trumpet; Elmer Snowden on banjo; and Sonny Greer on drums.