No. 1

Duke Ellington

Number One, the Staff Ace, the Main Man. Watching him spin his magic, you realize he plays the game like no one else. An absolute original, terrific in the clubhouse, natural leader. America's great musical genius, if genius means doing something not only superbly, but doing something that cannot be imitated. His sound remains only his; no one has ever written music like this. He also managed to assemble and for five decades lead the best band in jazz, a collection of outsized musical personalities whom the Duke somehow taught to speak with one thrilling voice.