By the time of Duke Ellington
's engagement to write and record the music for Otto Preminger
's Anatomy of a Murder, he was an elder statesman of jazz. He'd performed in, and contributed music to, various movies before, but those were almost all short subjects or B-musicals, or confined to a handful of numbers (Belle of the Nineties) -- Anatomy of a Murder, by contrast, was a four-star feature film with a first-class cast (led by James Stewart, Lee Remick
, and Ben Gazzara) and director. He rose to the occasion, creating a virtuoso jazz score -- moody, witty, sexy, and -- in its own quiet way -- playful. Ellington
naturally subordinated his music to the action in the film, but "Midnight Indigo," "Flirtibird," "Happy Anatomy," and "Sunswept Sunday" (the latter highlighted by Jimmy Hamilton
's clarinet theme) would have slotted in nicely in other contexts, on any of his standard albums. The 1999 reissue (Columbia-Legacy 65569) includes several unedited studio performances by the band, some variant performances and arrangements, an open-ended Ellington
interview intended to publicize the film and the album, and rehearsal excerpts. The main difference from the original LP or the earlier foreign CD reissue is that, in going to the original session tapes, this reissue misses the heavy layer of echo added to the original LP, bringing the detail and presence of the original band performances much closer.