Duke Ellington: Take the 'A' Train (1941) – as heard in Woody Allen's Radio Days (1987)
Take the 'A' Train
Duke Ellington (piano)
Ken Burns Jazz: Duke Ellington (Columbia/Legacy CK 61444)
Duke Ellington (piano),
Composed by Billy Strayhorn.
Recorded: Hollywood, February 15, 1941
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
In 1941, Duke Ellington escaped the bondage of jungle music via an underground railway called the ‘A’ train. Duke's motorman Billy Strayhorn, picking up a carload of familiar Swing Era passengers—catchy theme smoothly stated by saxes, punchy punctuation from the brasses, steady rhythmic pulse—transports us to Sugar Hill in Harlem, a destination just this side of paradise. Combining Benny Goodman's precision with Count Basie's nonchalance, Ellington's band rode its own express line to immortality. If you're looking for a single track to both epitomize and justify the Swing Era, take the ‘A’ Train.
Reviewer: Alan Kurtz