There are many books about Ellington currently in print. If you
are wondering where to turn for more information, here is some
For The Beginner
Hasse, John Edward. Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. This is the best book with which to begin an exploration of Duke Ellington. It is a complete biography with an "Essential Ellington" section at the end of almost every chapter consisting of recommended recordings. It has been issued both in hardback and paperback.
Ellington, Duke. Music Is My Mistress. New York: Doubleday, 1973. Also issued as a paperback by Da Capo Press. This is Ellington's autobiography, so expect to be charmed.
Yanow, Scott. Duke Ellington. New York: Friedman/Fairfax, 1999. This is just what was lacking in the Ellington bibliography! A coffee table book mainly consisting of photographs. The narration of Ellington's life and achievements is sketchy at best, so this is not an adequate substitute for the Hasse book. But the photographs are glorious!
For The Fan
Once you've mastered the basic Ellington oevure, you'll want to deepen your understanding.
Tucker, Mark, editor. The Duke Ellington Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. This is a wonderful collection of articles about Ellington published throughout his long career.
Hajdu, David. Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996. Ellington's composing partner Billy Strayhorn worked with Ellington from 1938 until Billy's death in 1967. Ellington fans have appreciated Billy Strayhorn all along. Now this richly talented man is getting the more general acclaim he deserves.
For The Fanatic
So you're hooked? Got to know everything? Well, the world of Ellington is so enormous, one life is not enough to digest it all. These books and periodical will help mightily. Each and every one of them are life-time achievements.
Lambert, Eddie. Duke Ellington: A Listener's Guide. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, 1999. Order from the publisher at 1-800-462-6420. Quite simply, this is the best book about Ellington's music. I've listed it first for just that reason. It is easy to be consumed by the details of recording dates and personnel, but forget not that it is the music that matters. This is an in-depth textual treatment of Ellington's recordings.
Timner, W.E. Ellingtonia: The Recorded Music of Duke Ellington and His Sidemen, 4th ed. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, 1996. This book lists all the recorded music of Duke Ellington in chronological order. It includes personnel and location for each date. It has many other useful features, such as an index by title and a personnel chart.
Massaglio, Luciano & Volonte, Giovanni. The New DESOR: Duke Ellington Story On Records. Milan: Luciano Massagli, Foro Buonaparte 52, 20121 - Milano, Italy. 1999. Two volumes, 1600 pages! This is a more traditional discography than Timner. Incredibly, it even indexes every recorded solo of more than eight bars!!!!!
Stratemann, Klaus. Ellington Day by Day and Film by Film. Copenhagen: JazzMedia, 1992. This wonderful book is a chronological record of everything Ellington did (well, almost everything - we must observe some decorum). It includes recordings as well as unrecorded concert appearences.
The DEMS Bulletin. The Duke Ellington Music Society Bulletin is the best Ellington periodical. This is how you keep up with everything new. Here is the address if you would like to inquire about joining.
The Duke Ellington Music Society