By Harvey G. Cohen
Univ. of Chicago. 688 pp. $40
This account of the life and times of Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington -- by far the most distinguished and important native son of Washington, D.C. -- is maddeningly overlong, mindlessly repetitious and, for all that, undeniably valuable. Harvey G. Cohen, an American academic who began his career at the University of Maryland and is now an associate professor of cultural and creative industries at King's College in London, has done prodigious research, much of it as a Kluge Scholar at the Library of Congress, and has unearthed an astonishing amount of material. All of this lends powerful support to his view that Ellington's high stature derives not just from the music he composed and played but from the remarkable life, both private and public, that he led.