Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, born April 29, 1899, is regarded as one of the most prolific American composers of the Twentieth century. His career spanned more than 50 years and included leading his orchestra, composing an inexhaustible songbook, scoring for movies, composing stage musicals, and performing on world tours. Duke Ellington called his music "American Music" rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as "beyond category." He remains one of the most influential figures in jazz, if not in all American music, and is widely considered as one of the Twentieth century's best known African American personalities. In his fifty year career, he played over 20,000 performances in the United States, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. Ellington led his band from 1923 until his death on May 24, 1974 at the age of 75. At that point, his son Mercer Ellington took leadership of the band. Mercer was an accomplished trumpet player and composer who wrote many songs for his father's orchestra including the standard "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." As director, he toured and recorded the orchestra for the next 22 years until his own death in 1996, when the baton was then passed to Mercer's son, Paul Mercer Ellington. The Duke Ellington Orchestra has been performing worldwide for the past 91 years under the guidance of three generations of the Ellington family and will continue to do so for many years to come. Pianist and composer Tommy James now acts as the conductor for the band that continues to tour around the world year-round.