Friday, April 29, 2016

On Duke Ellington’s birthday

[Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra, 1930. Freddie Jenkins, Cootie Williams, Arthur Whetsol, trumpets. Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, Juan Tizol, trombones. Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, Barney Bigard, reeds. Fred Guy, banjo. Wellman Braud, bass. Sonny Greer, drums. Photograph from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. New York Public Library Digital Gallery. Click for a larger view.]

Duke Ellington was born on April 29, 1899.

Here is one of my favorite Ellington recordings from 1930: “Old Man Blues.” The soloists: Hodges (alto), Bigard, Williams, Bigard, Nanton, Carney, Nanton, Hodges (soprano), and Jenkins. So much music in three minutes.

And here is a clip of the same band playing “Old Man Blues” in the (otherwise execrable) Amos ’n’ Andy movie Check and Double Check (dir. Melville W. Brown, 1930). I think the band is playing in real time. (Watch the piano player.) The soloists are Nanton, Carney, Hodges, and Jenkins. Juan Tizol, you will notice, has been blacked up for the screen.

If you listen closely to the movie clip, you can hear someone — Ellington? — speak at 1:52 and 1:55: “C’mon, Harry” and “That’s it.” Yes, it is.

Related reading
All OCA Ellington posts (Pinboard)

[Do you recognize the source material for “Old Man Blues”? The title gives it away.]

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