To read a brief Ellington Appreciation and selective list of his well-known compositions. Click here.
Video playlist from the class:
To watch Ellington's 1935 film "Symphony in Black" on Youtube, click here.
A similar film called "Black and Tan Fantasy" (1929), is based on a thin but interesting dramatic story line. This film has a brief scene involving comic, racial stereotypes, that are sadly in keeping with the year it was made. The music is genuine Ellington. Click here.
The Ellington Band playing "Cotton Tail" with some athletic dancing by fantastic dancers made up to look like teenagers. It;s a great piece of music and really enjoyable choreography I had intended to show this in class but there wasn't time. Click here.
Jazz Icons DVD.Ellington. We saw samples from this in class, eg., "Rockin' in Rhythm" with the opening Ellington piano solo. All of the Jazz Icons DVDs are excellent, but this one is special . Click here for Amazon page. (Only $20 per DVD, if there are any left.)
"The Intimate Ellington", a DVD of his trio and an octet with some of his favorite soloists, filmed by Danish TV in 1967. It has two stunning sessions one of trio and the other of an 8-piece ensemble. The DVD is $29 on Amazon. Because of the videography, it is almost as good as attending the performance in person. The octet session is priceless -- there is no better showcase for the Ellington band soloists. The version of Take the A Train played in class came from this DVD. Click here for Amazon page.
this is a style of piano playing that evolved in the late 1920s and continues to be employed by later pianists (for example in the Thelonious Monk version of Satin Doll -- link below).). although. Duke Ellington was influenced by Stride pianists like Willie "The Lion" Smith, Luckey Roberts, James P. Johnson, and Fats Waller.. One of the first piano pieces he learned was James P. Johnson's "Carolina Shout," which he learned by ear after listening to the record multiple times. Ellington also was influenced by Fats Waller, a stride pianist who was also a prolific composer. One of his pieces "Handful of Keys" (recorded in 1929) is a joyous and technically impressive romp exploring a few ideas in a playful way. After listening to that, check out Ellington's composition played in the stride style called "Black Beauty." On this 1928 recording (one of the best versions of the tune) and with acceptable audio quality, note the wistful and sometimes melancholic nature of the music as compared with Fats Waller's bon vivant style. It is relaxed and thoughtful, despite the demands of the style, which is to be technically impressive and upbeat.
Thelonious Monk (solo piano) playing Ellington's music at Berlin Jazz Festival, 1969), showing his admiration for Ellington as well as his indebtedness to stride piano -- played in his own idiosyncratic way, a wonderful example of Monk fully exploiting syncopation and dissonant harmony. (Click here.)
Here is the repertoire in this fairly lengthy Youtube video -- but "Satin Doll" is first: Satin Doll Sophisticated Lady Caravan (particularly exciting exploration) In My Solitude Crespescule With Nellie (Sarah Vaughan, and other pianists follow Monk on stage in this long video from Berlin.)