While many are likely familiar with Otto Preminger’s 1959 courtroom drama, Anatomy of a Murder, many do not know that the original score was composed by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. In the particular case of Anatomy of a Murder, Ellington composed many great pieces of music, yet in the more than three-hour movie, barely 25 minutes worth of Ellington’s music was used (what was used was mainly in the background). Even earlier than 1959, was the musical short Black and Tan Fantasy (1929) and the Ellington band’s role in Check and Double Check (1930), a racially charged film featuring Amos and Andy. In the 1960s, Ellington’s writing for film took a different tone with Paris Blues, a 1961 film featuring Louis Armstrong, Paul Newman, and Sidney Poitier, and in 1966, Ellington composed the score for Assault on a Queen, which features Jack Donohue and Frank Sinatra. While many great pieces of music were written by Ellington for the silver screen, much of it remains unknown and unpublished. Join the Jazz St. Louis Big Band, and Dr. John Hasse, curator of American music at the Smithsonian Institute, as they take an in-depth look at Duke Ellington’s work for the silver screen. The concert features a discussion by Dr. Hasse, followed by a performance of some of Ellington’s work for film, much of it unpublished and unheard in a concert setting.
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