Duke Ellington plays his symphonic jazz piece ('A Rhapsody of Negro Life') with his orchestra against slice-of-life background scenes. The four movements: 1) The Laborers, 2) A Triangle: ...
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Duke Ellington plays his symphonic jazz piece ('A Rhapsody of Negro Life') with his orchestra against slice-of-life background scenes. The four movements: 1) The Laborers, 2) A Triangle: Dance, Jealousy, Blues, 3) A Hymn of Sorrow, 4) Harlem Rhythm.Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I don't think that it was any accident that Duke Ellington wrote this Symphony In Black at the time he did. Right around this time the Gershwins and Dubose Hayward had done Porgy and Bess which purported to be a picture of black life. I suppose Ellington decided that his vision ought to be given a shot as well.
What fascinated me about this short subject was that it was done by Paramount Pictures which was not known as a studio that did topical films of social significance. This would have been something one of the smaller studios might have considered normally on a skimpy budget. But Adolph Zukor spent quite a bit on this considering it is a short subject.
We see shots of Ellington at the piano and with orchestra interspersed with various shots of black people just doing their daily routine. The setting of the working people might very well have influenced what was done at Universal for the Old Man River number that Paul Robeson sang in Showboat.
What we've got here is nothing less than an early music video presided over by one of America's greatest men of melody.
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