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1940s Society Shop >  History >  Articles on the 1940s >  Jump for Joy

Jump for Joy

An all black American musical that opened in 1941 in Los Angeles


Jump for Joy
Written By Nigel Bewley


Jump for Joy was a revue, subtitled 'A Sun-Tanned Revu-sical', that opened at the Mayan Theatre in Los Angeles at 9:10 on the evening of Thursday 10 July 1941. Duke Ellington and Hal Borne wrote the music and Paul Webster and Sid Kuller were the lyricists.

The show was an all black musical with a social message, written, according to Ellington, "to take Uncle Tom out of the theatre, eliminate the stereotyped image that had been exploited by Hollywood and Broadway, and say things that would make the audience think."

The orchestra for Jump for Joy was Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra, the line-up of the time is usually known as the Blanton-Webster band after bassist Jimmy Blanton and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster. This incarnation of Duke's band is considered by many people to be his finest. Despite competition at the Biltmore Theatre, six blocks away, where Ethel Waters and the original Broadway cast were filling the seats with Cabin in the Sky, Jump for Joy did well but closed on 27 September 1941. The curtain finally came down as many of the young show-stoppers became part of the strengthening of America's military establishment and were soon to become part of the big show of the time: World War II. The revue has never been revived since.

Jimmy Blanton left the band through illness in November 1941 and died of tuberculosis on 30 July 1942 aged 23. Duke and his Orchestra made several studio recordings whilst they were resident in Los Angeles during the summer of 1941 whilst participating in Jump for Joy and appearing at the Trianon Ballroom, the Casa Mañana and at other dates in southern California. Six songs from the revue were recorded that summer but it was on the first day of a two day session starting on 2 July 1941 in a studio in Hollywood that the band cut two versions of the revue's title song, Jump for Joy. The first take featured Herb Jeffries on vocals and on the second take the singer was Ivie Anderson. That first version of the song is one of the most beautiful pieces that I have ever heard, and certainly my favourite version of my favourite Ellington composition. The eight bar intro seems to have Ellington's piano, Blanton's bass and the brass section at odds over the key, but when Harry Carney's sonorous baritone sax kicks in the arrangement falls smack into place. Jeffries rich voice takes up the cause, hinting at a spiritual, whilst the rest of the band swing along in an outstanding fashion. The whole track is an absolute joy!

Jump for Joy can be found on the superb compact disc re-issue set:

Duke Ellington: The Blanton-Webster Band Bluebird 74321 13181 2

The 3 CD box set mentioned above can be purchased here in conjunction with Amazon.
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