Duke Pearson was an American jazz pianist and composer. All Music Guide notes him as being a "big part in shaping the Blue Note label's hard bop direction in the 1960s as a producer.
Born Columbus Calvin Pearson, Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia, Pearson first studied brass instruments at the early age of five, but dental issues forced him to pursue another instrument and he started to learn the piano. His budding talent moved his uncle to give him the nickname Duke, a reference to jazz legend Duke Ellington. He attended Clack College while also playing trumpet in groups in the Atlanta area before joining the United States Army in the early 1950s.
Pearson continued to perform with different ensembles in Georgia and Florida, including with Tab Smith and Little Willie John, before he moved to New York, New York in January of 1959