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)

Buy Track


Duke Ellington (piano),

and a 15-piece band featuring Ray Nance (trumpet), Jimmy Blanton (bass), Sonny Greer (drums)


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

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