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Duke Ellington: At the Côte d’Azur with Ella Fitzgerald and Joan Miró/The Last Jam Session

The rather dusty black-and-white footage, dating from the summer of 1966, opens with bikinis, beach umbrellas and Foster Grant-shaded sophisticates strolling La Croisette. The scene then shifts to a surprisingly drab hotel suite, where Duke Ellington explains that, though his career had taken him to all corners of the globe, this is his first visit to the French Riviera.

Ellington is there, with Ella Fitzgerald, for the Festival International de Jazz at Juan-les-Pins, but, as he enthuses in his introduction, he’s equally eager to indulge his love of modern art with up-close observation of works by Picasso, Calder, Alberto Giacometti and Joan Miró. As any fan of Ellington and/or Fitzgerald is well aware, an edited version of their four-night Côte d’Azur appearance was released in ’66 as a two-record set. That version found its way onto CD in 1997. A year later, a massive, eight-disc compendium served up the Duke and Ella sessions in their entirety.

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