Mood Indigo

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"Mood Indigo"
Song by Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra
GenreJazz standard
LabelRCA Victor
Composer(s)Duke Ellington, Barney Bigard
Lyricist(s)Irving Mills

"Mood Indigo" is a jazz song with music by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard and lyrics by Irving Mills.[1]


Although Irving Mills—Jack Mills's brother and publishing partner—took credit for the lyrics, Mitchell Parish claimed in a 1987 interview that he had written the lyrics.[2]

The tune was composed for a radio broadcast in October 1930 and was originally titled "Dreamy Blues". It was "the first tune I ever wrote specially for microphone transmission", Ellington recalled. "The next day wads of mail came in raving about the new tune, so Irving Mills put a lyric to it." Renamed "Mood Indigo", it became a jazz standard."[3]

The main theme was provided by Bigard, who learned it in New Orleans, Louisiana from his clarinet teacher Lorenzo Tio, who called it a "Mexican Blues". Ellington's arrangement was first recorded by his band for Brunswick on October 17, 1930. It was recorded twice more in 1930. These recordings included Arthur Whetsel (trumpet), Tricky Sam Nanton (trombone), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Duke Ellington (piano), Fred Guy (banjo), Wellman Braud (bass), Sonny Greer (drums). Ellington blended muted trumpet, muted trombone, and clarinet.

Ellington took the traditional front-line—trumpet, trombone, and clarinet—and inverted them. He chose Yvonne Luanauze (real name Eve Duke) as the band’s vocalist because her mellow timbre was similar to the sound of a saxophone.[4] At the time of these first three recordings in 1930, the usual voicing of the horns would be clarinet at the top (highest pitch), trumpet in the middle, and the trombone at the bottom (lowest pitch). In "Mood Indigo" Ellington voices the trombone right at the top of the instrument's register, and the clarinet at the very lowest. This was unheard of at the time, and also created (in the studio) a so-called "mike-tone"—an effect generated by the overtones of the clarinet and trombone (which was tightly muted as well). The "mike-tone" gives the audio-illusion of the presence of a fourth "voice" or instrument. Ellington used this effect in "(In My) Solitude" (1932), "Dusk" (1940), and many other pieces throughout his career. The Ellington band performed and recorded the song continuously throughout its 50 years, both in its original form and as a vehicle for individual soloists.

Other versions[edit]

Film appearances[edit]

"Mood Indigo" is featured in the films Bait (1954); The Continental Twist (1961); Paris Blues (1961); All Night Long (1962); Julia (1977); Rough Cut (1980); Renacer [es] (1981); Frances (1982); The Cotton Club (1984); The Untouchables (1987); Harlem Nights (1989); The White Countess (2005); White Men Can't Jump (1992); Curtain Call (1999); Pitch People (1999); The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000); Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002); Hart's War (2002); Up In the Air (2009); and Keep On Keepin' On (2014).

It can also be heard in the TV movie Relentless: Mind of a Killer (1993); in the miniseries Come In Spinner (1990) and Mildred Pierce (2011); and in episodes from two HBO series created by David Chase: "Walk Like a Man" from The Sopranos (1999–2007) and "El Dorado," the series finale of Boardwalk Empire (2011–2014).[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ACE Repertory". Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  2. ^ Holden, Stephen (1 February 1987). "Theater; Mitchell Parish: A Way With Words". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  3. ^ Hasse, John Edward (22 March 1995), Beyond Category: The Life And Genius Of Duke Ellington, Da Capo Press, pp. 134–, ISBN 978-0-306-80614-8, retrieved 8 November 2018
  4. ^ "Frank Sinatra – in the Wee Small Hours – Classic Music Review". 4 July 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. New York City: Oxford University Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4.
  6. ^ Lonergan, David F. (2005), Hit Records, 1950-1975, Scarecrow Press, pp. 151–, ISBN 978-0-8108-5129-0, retrieved 8 November 2018
  7. ^ "". Retrieved 2019-01-02.
  8. ^ Adinolfi, Francesco (2008). Mondo Exotica: Sounds, Visions, Obsessions of the Cocktail Generation. Duke University Press. p. 118. ISBN 9780822341567. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  9. ^ Stevens, Peter (July 11, 1980). "Some interesting music from across the Atlantic". The Windsor Star. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  10. ^ Lawson, Terry (October 18, 1996). "Prelude to a Kiss". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  11. ^ ."'Prelude to a Kiss' Track List". Decca Classics. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Mulgrew Miller Discography". Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  13. ^ Meeker, David. "Jazz on the Screen". Library of Congress. Retrieved 28 December 2015.

External links[edit]