Perhaps the most important series of Soundies was produced in late November – early December 1941, and featured the orchestra of Duke Ellington. Duke, wily and forward-looking as ever, saw the commercial value in the films and his contract precluded any re-release of the films without a new contract; this is one reason why original prints are hard to come by, and are often in less-than-pristine shape.
Jam Session is just that: a three-minute jam that features a small group from the Ellington band going to town on C-Jam Blues. The short was filmed to playback, as were the great majority of Soundies, and you can hear the entire band in the closing chorus, even though only eight musicians are seen on screen.
The simple eight-note melody was introduced as “C” Blues on a September 1941 small group session under Barney Bigard’s name. As the name suggests, it is a simple 12-bar instrumental blues. Under the watchful pen of Ellington, and perhaps Billy Strayhorn as well, a four-bar break was added before each solo, something that helps elevate the arrangement, recording, and this performance to classic status.
There are many “unknowns” where the production dates are concerned, all covered in the upcoming Soundies book. Director Josef Berne has included the names of all of the soloists on screen … save for Duke and string bassist Junior Raglin.
And with that, we leave you with three minutes of superior jazz! And one of the best performance Soundie ever shared on the Panoram.