Symphony In Black

Duke Ellington

Ellington’s 1935 short with Billie Holiday

Symphony In Black is a short from 1935 that features Duke Ellington and his orchestra performing a concise five-part suite consisting of “Jealousy,” ”The Laborers,” “A Triangle (Dance/Jealousy/Blues),” ”A Hymn Of Sorrow” and “Harlem Rhythm.”

The suite was supposed to depict what is billed as a “Rhapsody of Negro Life,” including a work song, a love story, church and a Saturday night party.

The most famous section is “A Triangle” which has a then-unknown Billie Holiday silently acting before singing a chorus of “Blues.”

Featured in solos on this short are trumpeters Freddie Jenkins, Cootie Williams and Arthur Whetsel, trombonists Lawrence Brown and Tricky Sam Nanton, clarinetist Barney Bigard and altoist Johnny Hodges.

-Scott Yanow