Monday, January 24, 2011

Jazz at the Super Bowl

It’s a fair bet that there won’t be any jazz during the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl. But once upon a time, they not only used the whole halftime show to pay tribute to recently deceased jazz legend; they didn’t even cut away to commentators or commercials! (Duke Ellington had died a little over seven months prior to this event. The death of Satchmo inspired a similar gesture in 1972.)

Super Bowl IX was supposed to be played indoors at the newly constructed New Orleans Superdome, but it wasn’t completed in time. Instead, the January 12, 1975 game was played outside in Tulane Stadium.

At halftime, the Pittsburgh Steelers led the Minnesota Vikings by the score of 2-0. The temperature on the field was in the mid-40s. Anyone who has played a musical instrument can tell you that it’s hard to stay in tune when the weather is cold. As the Grambling band marches onto the field, you can hear the effect it has on their intonation.

After Grambling’s overture, the Duke Ellington band, under the direction of son Mercer Ellington, takes over. (Dig Mercer’s jacket!) Fortunately, they don’t fall prey to the same intonation problems.

The band is crowded onto a relatively small float. As they play, Ellington themed cupcakes surreally swirl around the field. The last of the old guard, Cootie Williams, gets a significant amount of solo time on Take the “A” Train and “C-Jam Blues.” He’s in fine spirits, even though increasing health problems would make this his last year with the band.

The halftime show is spread between these two video clips. It starts about 3 minutes in on the first one and concludes on the second one.

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