I was looking up Duke Ellington on The Allmusic site this evening and noticed that they baldly and unequivocally describe him as set out in the heading to this post.
Are they right? The word ‘all-round’ is important here I guess in that I’m not sure exactly what it means but it feels like a qualification and a caveat. I think it means that he was able to work in the genre of jazz but take it across into classical, film music and widespread acceptance- thus he had an ‘all-round’ impact second to none. But I’m not sure. Take it out and leave just ‘greatest musical figure of the 20th century’ and he may still be a contender, I suppose. But I’d plump for Shostakovich, for my money the greatest and most fascinating ‘classical’ composer of the century. Paul McCartney is also a clear candidate. Any others?