the Road with Duke Ellington
(2002) - Docudrama
by Matt Rowe of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/D
Specs and Features
60 mins, NR, full frame (1:33:1), single-sided, single-layered,
Amaray keep case packaging, biographies for Duke Ellington and
filmmaker Robert Drew, stills gallery (12 photos), cast & crew
credits, Docurama video catalog trailers, program-themed menu
screens, scene access (12 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0),
remember those 60s documentary films that we all watched
at one time or another while in school? You know... the one with
shaky video and matter-of-fact narration by the man of a million
school reels? For those of you that remember, which is probably most
of you given the subject matter of this DVD, On
the Road with Duke Ellington will take you right back to
that time in your life. The difference is that you'll actually want
to watch this film.
Duke Ellington, one of jazz's most prolific composers and certainly
one of the most recognizable of the genre, has given to the world
untold enjoyment in his music. Schooled in piano at age 7 and
nicknamed Duke at 8 (by a school chum because of his regal quality),
Ellington eventually found himself in New York at age 24. He
performed at the famous Cotton Club during his first years in New
York and found style merging to be his ace in the hole. Developing
his skills as a front man and honing the abilities that eventually
won Duke his worldwide fame, he went on to perform in films, create
unique styles and mentor budding stars, as well as influencing
thousands of other musicians. Duke Ellington remains the world
standard in jazz, forever remembered for his tireless contributions.
This DVD details, in recognizable documentary style, the pursuits
of Duke. Filmed by Robert Drew in 1967, this piece captures the Jazz
legend wonderfully, from his beginnings to his end. Whether he's
composing religious pieces and teaching a choir to perform them to
perfection, or working on new compositions between concerts, Duke is
shown to be a star constantly in motion.
While the disc highlights the accomplishments of Ellington, it also
shows a very human side as well. A man of faith, Duke prayed before
every meal, no matter the level of sustenance. He also did not drink
tea or coffee, choosing to drink hot water with his meals.
Duke Ellington was in touch with his fans. Choosing to meet with
them while he was on the road, he never achieved a state of
alienation. In fact, Duke always gave in to audiences and their
requests for the many hits that he was responsible for, slipping in
the new songs between the old.
The disc does not show much in the way of full renditions of his
songs, relying on the film's display of intermittent pieces such as
Satin Doll and Solitude.
That's just the way that this film was created - a look into the
legend of Duke Ellington rather than a montage of his hits. There
is, however, a short rendition of his beloved Take
the A-Train which ends the film.
The quality of the video itself is grainy, as is expected
considering the time in which it was recorded and the type of film
used. It's presented in full-frame and lasts approximately 60
minutes. The sound is surprisingly clean, creating a pleasurable
listening experience. Extras include a detailed written biography of
Ellington, along with a photo gallery of 12 black and white stills.
There's also a written biography of the filmmaker, Robert Drew, and
a selection of trailers from other catalog titles from DVD
If you're a Duke Ellington fan, this disc will please you immensely
as it becomes a perfect complement to a musical DVD library.