American Hustle: “ Jeep's Blues ”

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The 2013 movie American Hustle begins by blasting Duke Ellington’s "Jeep's Blues," which becomes a brief leitmotif representing the relationship between actors Christian Bale and Amy Adams. In the opening scene Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) introduces himself to Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) after catching a glimpse of her bracelet, which features portraits of Duke Ellington. They soon bond over their love of Ellington while listening to “Jeep’s Blues,” each claiming his music saved their life. The audience then hears internal monologu­es from both Rosenfeld and Prosser that express their attraction to one another and foreshadow their coming relationship. American Hustle is a star-studded movie staring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence. It was released on December 13, 2013 and earned 251.1 million at the box office.[1]

Director David O. Russell spoke about why he chose "Jeep's Blues" to set the stage for Amy Adam's and Christian Bale's relationship in an insightful interview with a Los Angeles news station. Russell speaks eloquently of how 1957 (the year “Jeep’s Blues” was recorded) was a year of reinvention for Duke Ellington as “the beboppers had surpassed him,” and how this film was about “reinvention, and identity, and the fragility of identity,” which is why he chose Ellington’s piece to be “cornerstone of [Bale and Adams] love affair.”

Christian Bale (CB): Is that Duke Ellington on your braclet?
Amy Adams (AA): Yeah, as a matter of fact it is. He died this year, you know?
CB: I know. I doubt anyone else here knows or cares about him.
AA: Well I care about him. He saved my life many times.
CB: Mine, too. ...which one?
AA: "Jeep's Blues"
CB: "Jeep's Blues"?
AA: Yeah, "Jeep's Blues"
CB: oh yeah?
CB: You, uh..., wanna hear it?
AA: Right now...sure?
*Jeep's Blues begins*
CB: Who starts a songs like that?!
AA: It's magic.
CB: Magic.

Personal note: I could barely contain myself when I saw this movie in theatres. "Jeep's Blues" is one of the first compositions that got me hooked on jazz. I bought the Duke Ellington Live at Newport in '57 album when I was just starting to get into jazz. Of course it was reccomended to me because of "Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue," which I did think was neat, but it was "Jeep's Blues" that really captured me.

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