Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington (29 April,1899 –24 May 1974)

260px-Duke_Ellington_hatDuke Ellington strikes me as a musician with lots of contrasts. I often feel that his early body of work is often neglected on the swing dance scene, yet his later work is often heard. Maybe this comes down to the crackly sound quality on some of the earlier recordings, I don’t know.

Anyway, for your delight and delectation, here are four of his classics, two from earlier years and two from later on. See what you think. I will be playing some of these tracks when we start classes on 5 January at Bar Titania.

The Mooche

Here is a recording of “The Mooche” which comes from 1928.

Black Beauty (1928)

This was originally a jazz novelty solo stride piano composition, written as a musical portrait of singer, dancer, and comedienne Florence Mills, an elegy for her after her death in 1927. It became one of Ellington’s signature songs.

Duke Ellington didn’t write much solo piano music, which, for one of the most distinguished composers, arrangers and Big Band leaders, was a bit unusual. There is speculation that it could have been a very personal piece, or that he was trying to cash in on the sheet music craze for Jazz in the Roaring Twenties.

Compare the piano original with the big band version which became a hit.

C Jam Blues (1942)

A 1942 recording of C Jam Blues beformed by Duke Ellington and a collection of other Jazz giants in a famous recording called “Jam Session”. It’s a rather corny film clip but worth showing none-the-less.

“C Jam Blues” is a Duke Ellington composition that the famous bandleader put together in 1942. Naturally it’s in C and uses a blues form.

Barney Biggard, here playing the clarinet, is likely the author of the actual melody, but it remains the object of speculation, as the Duke is no longer with us.


  • Duke Ellington, piano
  • Rex Stuart, trumpet
  • Ben Webster, tenor sax
  • Joe Nanton, trombone
  • Barney Bigard, clarinet
  • Junior Raglin, bass
  • Sonny Greer, drums

Take The A Train

This is a segment from the film Reveille with Beverly from 1943; the song was composed in 1939.

Eleanor Ellis photoSee you on 5 January at Bar Titania, when I will be playing all five of these tracks!


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