La Plus Belle Africaine – 1969

Duke Ellington

A dramatic version of the memorable Ellington composition

Unlike most artists in any field, Duke Ellington continued to evolve and grow throughout his career as a composer and a pianist, even in his later years.

One of his most memorable compositions of the 1960s, “La Blue Belle Africaine,” paid tribute to Ellington’s visits to Africa.

He and his orchestra performed the piece often in 1966 and occasionally during the next six years.

For this haunting yet ultimately witty version, filmed at the Tivoli Garden in Copenhagen in the fall of 1969, bassist Victor Gaskin (who bows quite well), Ellington on piano, and baritonist Harry Carney (who takes a cadenza that displays his massive tone) are each featured.

-Scott Yanow