Wonderful Tunes Provided By Friends. Wild Tangents Provided By Me.

Long before music videos completely disappeared from MTV’s line-up and even before Debbie Reynolds’ unholy hammer swinging alliance with Scopitone, there were the soundies. Soundies were a series of (mostly) musical short films made to be played on Panoram visual jukeboxes. More than 1800 were released between 1940 and 1947 and if you love them as much as I do, you can view many of them on archive.org.

“C Jam Blues,” the song featured in this 1942 soundie, was written by Ellington and recorded during what is known as the band’s Blanton-Webster period. Double bassist Jimmy Blanton and saxophonist Ben Webster were only in The Duke Ellington Orchestra from 1940-1942 but many people call those two years the orchestra’s golden age. This film names almost every musician individually which was almost unheard of at the time but these men were all famous enough to warrant it. Sadly, the unnamed bassist featured in this video is not Blanton. He was probably either very ill or already dead by the time this was filmed. He contracted tuberculosis and died in July of 1942. He was 23. Ben Webster left the band the following year. Apparently there was an ugly fight where Webster cut up one of Ellington’s suits! (So says Wikipedia with a cautious [citation needed] thereafter)

I posted on Facebook today that my daughter cannot tell the difference between Batman and Spiderman which makes me a failure as a nerd mom. BUT today we went to see “Toy Story 3” finally and she turned up her nose at the hip-hop tunes they were playing before the show. When we got home and I cranked up “C Jam Blues” she said “Oh cool I love this song!” So as a jazz loving mom, it appears I’m doing something right! I shall end now and carefully omit the part where I confess that she also really really loves the song “Achy Breaky Heart.” *sigh* I have got to get this child out of “Mayberry!”


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