red hot jazz jazzbanner

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.

Duke Ellington Symphony in Black (1935)
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

Duke Ellington Symphony in Black (1935) was a pioneering website during the "Information wants to be Free" era of the 1990s. In that spirit we are recovering the lost data from the now defunct site and sharing it with you.
Most of the music in the archive is in the form of MP3s hosted on or the French servers of where this music is all in the public domain.
Files unavailable from those sources we host ourselves. They were made from original 78 RPM records in the hands of private collectors in the 1990s who contributed to the original They were hosted as .ra files originally and we have converted them into the more modern MP3 format. They are of inferior quality to what is available commercially and are intended for reference purposes only. In some cases a Real Audio (.ra) file from will download. Don't be scared! Those files will play in many music programs, but not Windows Media Player.

Syncopated Times Radio

New Trad Jazz & Swing releases, interviews, live concerts, and a full roster of radio hosts.


Or look at our Subscription Options.