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On the Road With Duke Ellington

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description



Filmed in 1967 and first shown in 1974, filmmaker Robert Drew's hour-long documentary is less a biography of Duke Ellington, the man now widely regarded as the 20th century's most important composer, than a brief slice of his remarkable life. "Every night I give a house party," Ellington says of his days on the road, "and I'm the guest of honor." Yet while there's plenty of performance footage of the maestro and his musicians (most of it, unfortunately, a bit on the grainy side, with audio that's less than stellar), we also see him in the studio, at work at his piano, doing business, eating his daily breakfast of steak, potatoes, and hot water, attending the funeral of musical partner Billy Strayhorn, and considerably more. What emerges is a reasonably intimate portrait of a smart, debonair (but oh-so-hip) man whose life was simply consumed with music--much to the benefit of us all. --Sam Graham

Special Features

  • Ellington photo gallery
  • Ellington biography
  • Robert Drew biography

Product Details

  • Actors: Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Mercer Ellington, Don Morrow, Johnny Hodges
  • Directors: Robert Drew
  • Producers: Anne Drew
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: May 28, 2002
  • Run Time: 57 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000669BP
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,851 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "On the Road With Duke Ellington" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Connor on July 6, 2002
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
"One the Road With Duke Ellington" was first broadcast on October 13, 1967 on NBC. Filming began in earlier that year. Here's an idea of what is included in the film.
In April 1967 Ellington prepared his "Salute to Morgan State." He performed it on May 1, 1967. (Ellington received an Honorary Doctorate from the College.) He also performed "Take the A Train" and "Jones" which are included in the film.
On May 31, 1967 Billy Strayhorn died. Included in this documentary is footage of Ellington at Strayhorn's funeral.
On July 11, 1967 he and his band were in the RCA studios recording "Rondolet." This is included on the "Private Collection Volume 8"cd.
On July 26, 1967 he performed at the Gillmore Brothers Auto Park in Kalamazoo Michigan where (probably) "Traffic Jam" (aka "The Biggest and Busiest Intersection") and "In the Beginning God" were recorded.
Other interviews were filmed during the summer and early fall of 1967.
I don't know when Louis Armstrong showed up back stage to talk to Ellington, but it's very interesting. You see Ellington pull his cheek kissing bit (four kisses--one for each cheek) on Armstrong about two years before he pulled the same bit on Richard Nixon.
It should be said that the musical numbers are often abridged. No doubt that will anger some viewers, but it is fine by me. You can listen to Ellington's music any time. And this film really isn't about Ellington performing his music, it's about Ellington getting up in the morning, having his potato and steak breakfast, making calls, answering his mail, noodling at the piano, going on stage and performing, flirting with women (both young and old). For a 68 year old man, he's living just the way he wants to. He gets to write his music, record it, and perform it. Like I said--Welcome To Duke's World.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Groothuis on December 18, 2009
Format: DVD
This is less a full documentary of Duke's incomparable life as it is a glimpse of his life on the road in the mid to late 1960s. We hear him speak of his passion for music-making and life in general (including his philosophy of breakfast).

The film is minimally and tastefully narrated, and lets Duke and his orchestra do the talking. We see and hear Duke with his road band, with symphony orchestras, performing sacred music, and in a trio format, which ends the film. His rendition of "Take the A Train" accompanied by only bass and drums is (to use a Duke-ism) "beyond category." There is so much information supercharged in every note, every chord, and every pause...that one feels the entire history of jazz in just a few fleeting but unforgettable moments.

I hate most all television for many reasons, but this was shown on television in 1974. In this case, the medium fits the message, even if the man is larger than life. I recommend it to every student and lover of jazz.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Katharine Cary on May 26, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I really appreciated this story line of Duke's musical talent as composer and jazz pianist. I particuliarly related to the reference of his performance in Michigan. I was privileged to attend his very last concert performed, before his death. It was in Sturgis, Mich. at the Sturges-Young Auditoriam. I can still see Duke sauntering onto the stage and to the grand piano, with his own orchestra behind him. He gave a stellar performance, unknown to people at the time that he was not feeling well. The orchestra and Duke traveled to Chicago, where there next performance was scheduled. However, due to his illness, the performance never took place and not long afterwards Duke passed away. A historical placque is places on the front lawn of the Sturges-Young Auditorium, with reference to the Duke and his last public performance. I am so happy to see this DVD mentioned, and immediately ordered it. I highly recommend this great musical of Duke's influence in the Jazz idiom. You will appreciate this talented musician, composer, and performer.
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