In A Mellotone – 1961

Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington


One of the very few times that Armstrong and Ellington were filmed playing together


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Although they were major names during the same period of time, from the 1920s to the beginning of the 1970s, and they were mutual admirers, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington rarely had the opportunity to play together.

The only joint recordings that exist are one number (“Long Long Journey”) with the Esquire All-Stars in 1946, and a double-Lp from 1961 that featured Ellington with the Armstrong All-Stars; they also worked (but did not play together) on the film Paris Blues with Ellington supplying the music and Armstrong appearing on screen.

However, around the time of that double-Lp, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington appeared on an edition of the Ed Sullivan Show, performing two numbers, “In A Mellotone” and “Duke’s Place”; this was the only time they were ever captured on film playing together.

The more exciting number of the two was “In A Mellotone” which has some pretty modern playing from Ellington, a dramatic statement from the trumpeter, and spots for trombonist Trummy Young and clarinetist Joe Darensbourg, members of the Louis Armstrong All-Stars.

While they should have performed together much more (it would have been something to hear Armstrong with the Ellington Orchestra), jazz fans can be grateful that this classic version of “In A Mellotone” from two of the true giants of American music exists.

-Scott Yanow

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