Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Duke Ellington -- "Jeep's Blues" (1956)

David Russell -- the director of Three Kings, The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle -- is known for the care with which he chooses music cues for his movies.

Here's the trailer for American Hustle:

Russell has been a fan of Duke Ellington's "Jeep's Blues" for over 30 years, and he's been saving it to use in just the right movie.  "That’s my favorite Duke Ellington track," Russell told a reporter.  "You have a secret treasure chest of magic, and one day you say, 'Maybe this magic belongs in this movie.  I'm going to share this beautiful thing, not knowing if anyone else is going to feel about it the way I do.' That's the danger in sharing something you love."

Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and David Russell
I had never heard "Jeep's Blues" until I heard it on the soundtrack of American Hustle.  The two main characters in the movie -- two con artists (played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams, both of whom are almost sure bets to garner Academy Award nominations for their performances) -- discover that they both love the song shortly after they meet for the first time at a pool party.  They're a couple from that moment on.

Duke Ellington
Why did the director choose that particular song for those particular characters?  "I thought those two would love that song.  It says everything about them," the director explained.  "They’ve chosen lives of elegance, like Duke Ellington.”
That's an interesting point of view, because it seemed to me that they had chosen lives characterized more by deception and dishonesty than elegance.  (Any elegance in their lives is merely skin-deep, and usually involves things -- paintings, designer dresses, and the like -- that belong to other people.)

Ellington wrote "Jeep's Blues" for his long-time alto saxophone player, Johnny Hodges, whose nickname was "Jeep."  This version of "Jeep's Blues" used in American Hustle was recorded live at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.  Big bands were on the way out by then, and Ellington was barely able to keep his band together.  But the recording of his 1956 Newport concert gave Ellington's career a shot in the arm.  Some critics believe it was the best Ellington concert ever.

Here's "Jeep's Blues":

Click below to buy "Jeep's Blues" from Amazon:

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