A 1942 recording of C Jam Blues beformed by Duke Ellington and a collection of other Jazz giants in a famous recording called "Jam Session".
Other artist included Barney Bigard, Sonny Greer, Ray Nance, Joe 'Tricky Sam' Nanton, Rex Stewart, and Ben Webster.
Some of the musicians who joined Ellington at this time created a sensation in their own right. The short-lived Jimmy Blanton transformed the use of double bass in jazz, allowing it to function as a solo rather than a rhythm instrument alone. Terminal illness forced him to leave by late 1941 after only about two years. Ben Webster, the Orchestra's first regular tenor saxophonist, whose main tenure with Ellington spanned 1939 to 1943, started a rivalry with Johnny Hodges as the Orchestra's foremost voice in the sax section.
Trumpeter Ray Nance joined, replacing Cootie Williams who had "defected", contemporary wags claimed, to Benny Goodman. Additionally, Nance added violin to the instrumental colors Ellington had at his disposal. Recordings exist of Nance's first concert date on November 7, 1940, at Fargo, North Dakota. Privately made by Jack Towers and Dick Burris, these recordings were first legitimately issued in 1978 as Duke Ellington at Fargo, 1940 Live; they are among the earliest of innumerable live performances which survive. Nance was also an occasional vocalist, although Herb Jeffries was the main male vocalist in this era (until 1943) while Al Hibbler (who replaced Jeffries in 1943) continued until 1951. Ivie Anderson left in 1942 after eleven years: the longest term of any of Ellington's vocalists.
Once again recording for Victor (from 1940), with the small groups recording for their Bluebird label, three-minute masterpieces on 78 rpm record sides continued to flow from Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Ellington's son Mercer Ellington, and members of the Orchestra. "Cotton Tail", "Main Stem", "Harlem Airshaft", "Jack the Bear", and dozens of others date from this period. Strayhorn's "Take the "A" Train" a hit in 1941, became the band's theme, replacing "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo". Ellington and his associates wrote for an orchestra of distinctive voices who displayed tremendous creativity. Mary Lou Williams, working as a staff arranger, would briefly join Ellington a few years later.
Duke Ellington is best remembered for the over 3000 songs that he composed during his lifetime. His best known titles include; "It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing", "Sophisticated Lady", "Mood Indigo", “Solitude", "In a Mellotone", and "Satin Doll". The most amazing part about Ellington was the most creative while he was on the road. It was during this time when he wrote his most famous piece, "Mood Indigo"which brought him world wide fame.
When asked what inspired him to write, Ellington replied, "My men and my race are the inspiration of my work. I try to catch the character and mood and feeling of my people".
Duke Ellington's popular compositions set the bar for generations of brilliant jazz, pop, theatre and soundtrack composers to come. While these compositions guarantee his greatness, whatmakes Duke an iconoclastic genius, and an unparalleled visionary, what has granted him immortality are his extended suites. From 1943's Black, Brown and Beige to 1972's The Uwis Suite, Duke used the suite format to give his jazz songs a far more empowering meaning, resonance and purpose: to exalt, mythologize and re-contextualize the African-American experience on a grand scale.