When the Duke met Dr. King

I’m listening to the audio version of Terry Teachout’s 2013 biography of Duke Ellington, which has led me to seek out some Ellington rarities. One that I stumbled across is a 48-minute BBC documentary called “Reminiscing in Tempo,” which was first released in 1994. Apparently this is the second half. I don’t know if part one is available anywhere or not.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so I was especially taken with a story about the first time Ellington met Dr. King. Apparently each was awestruck by the other. It’s a nice story. And the film is terrific, with lots of archival footage. The video is pretty rough in some parts, but the audio is fine throughout. Just close your eyes.

“Reminiscing in Tempo,” by the way, is the name of an extended piece that Ellington recorded with his orchestra in 1935. Teachout doesn’t think much of it, but Ellington considered it one of his masterpieces. Give it a listen.

I also learned from the Teachout bio about “Black and Tan Fantasy,” a 1929 fictional film starring Ellington and one of his many paramours, Fredi Washington. It’s 15 minutes long and is absolutely wild. The video and audio quality are excellent once you get past the opening credits.

Update: I left out the link to “Black and Tan Fantasy,” but it’s now fixed.