Duke Ellington’s America

book cover

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra “C Jam Blues” from the film short “Jam Session” (1942)

(Quotes are from Duke Ellington’s America)

I particularly love this “soundie” clip because it’s so rare to see Ellington and his bandmates in an informal setting. One can get a sense of their personalities, musical and otherwise. Many of the legendary Ellington orchestra stalwarts are shown in action close-ups: Barney Bigard, Sonny Greer, Joe Nanton, Ben Webster, and more. “Soundies” were “promotional musical short films shown as movie trailers or in nickelodeon-like machines.” Ellington’s “soundie” films demonstrated that the Ellington orchestra, as serious and artistic as they sometimes were, could also be as fun or innocuous as any other swing band on the scene. All the Ellington soundies are available on YouTube, including “Bli-Blip,” “Cotton Tail” and “Flamingo.”