I’ve always said that Duke Ellington is the “Boardwalk” in the (fictional) game of Jazzopoly. He’s the top of the line, the most noble of jazz royalty.

While Ellington released more jazz recordings than just about anyone, he often preferred to call his music “beyond category.” He felt that labelling his music strictly “jazz” would do a disservice to his embrace of folk, world and classical styles in his many compositions and suites. A generous collaborator, he loved his songwriting partners — namely Billy Strayhorn and Juan Tizol — and would tailor his arrangements to showcase the many talents of his band mates.

Between his first charting single East St. Louis Toodle-Oo in 1927 and his final recorded concert Eastbourne Performance in 1973 (posthumously released two years later), Duke managed to release more than 200 albums along with countless singles.

Out of that fantastically lengthy library of music, here are five albums that will give you perhaps the best idea of how influential and important Duke Ellington was and remains to this day.