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New book chronicles the lives of jazz legends Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie

This April 24, 1969 file photo shows musician Duke Ellington in New York.
John Duricka
This April 24, 1969 file photo shows musician Duke Ellington in New York.

Biographer Larry Tye's new book "The Jazzmen" highlights the lives of three of the most influential jazz musicians in history — and their collective impact on American culture.

Three of the most legendary jazz musicians of all time are the focus of a new book from author Larry Tye. It’s titled “The Jazzmen: How Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie Transformed America,” and focuses on their impact on jazz music as well as the country at-large.

Tye told KCUR that the artists not only defined the jazz music of their eras, but contributed to the push for racial equality in the 20th century through that very music; Martin Luther King, Jr. himself even argued that they played a crucial role.

"(King) understood that these three guys and other jazz musicians opened America's ears and souls to the magnificence of their melodies," Tye said. "And that white men, who would never let a Black man come through their front door, were wooing their sweethearts with the tunes of the Count, the Duke and gravel-throated Satchmo."

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