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LGM Film Club, Part 7: Symphony in Black


Tonight’s film is the 1935 Duke Ellington vehicle Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life. Directed by Fred Waller, who was a director of short films, it highlights Ellington’s new composition and is also the screen debut of Billie Holiday. It was Ellington’s intention to capture parts of black life in this composition and the film switches back and forth from Ellington writing the piece, performing it with the full orchestra, and acted scenes that include work, dance, jealousy, and a funeral. Holiday plays the jilted lover in the jealousy scene and she has the only vocals in the film. Solos in this are by Ellington, clarinetist Barney Bigard, and trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton. A pretty cool document.

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