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Duke Ellington Symphony in Black (1935)

Symphony in Black, A Rhapsody of Black Life is Duke Ellington‘s second movie. It was directed by Fred Waller for Adolph Zukor at Paramount Pictures and was released in 1935.

One of the most interesting aspects of this short film is the lack of stereotypical, racist depictions of African-Americans which mar most early jazz films. This film presented Ellington as composer that was on the same level as someone like George Gershwin the famous composer of “Rhapsody In Blue“.

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra are portrayed as professional, dignified musicians. The symphony, is divided into four parts; “The Laborers,” “A Triangle,” “A Hymn of Sorrow” and “Harlem Rhythm”.

“A Triangle,” features solos by Barney Bigard and Joe Nanton as well as vocals by Jazz singer Billie Holiday making her film debut in the “Triangle” section of the symphony.

Click link below to see video
Symphony in Black
A Rhapsody of Black Life – 9:36
Windows Media clip (49 MB)
Quicktime clip (40 MB)

On YouTube


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