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In a Sentimental Mood (1935)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Hearing Coltrane seize ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ is thanks enough.”

- Marc Greilsamer

Rank 19
Music Duke Ellington
Lyrics Irving Mills
Manny Kurtz

On April 30, 1935, Duke Ellington and His Orchestra introduced “In a Sentimental Mood.” Recorded on the Brunswick label and featuring Otto “Toby” Hardwick on alto saxophone, the composition went onto the pop charts on July 13, rising to number fourteen.

“In a Sentimental Mood” enjoyed a wave of popularity in the 1930’s. Other recordings to make the pop charts that decade included Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, 1936, which rose to number thirteen, and Mills Blues Rhythm Band, also in 1936, which rose to number nineteen. In an age of radio, “In a Sentimental Mood” was the theme song for no less than nine radio shows.


Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

Although Ellington is credited for the music of “In a Sentimental Mood,” Toby Hardwick should be recognized beyond his introductory performance. In his biography, Duke Ellington, James Lincoln Collier comments, “...the central melodic ideas of virtually all of Ellington’s best-known songs originated in somebody else’s head.” Among many others examples, Collier points out that “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “Prelude to a Kiss” were adaptations of Hardwick melodies.


More on Otto Hardwick at JazzBiographies.com

More on Duke Ellington at JazzBiographies.com

The combination of Ellington’s music and the Kurtz/Mills lyrics has elicited high praise from music critics. Accolades have included “Simply the most beautiful song ever written” and “The perfect soundtrack for falling in love.”


More on Irving Mills at JazzBiographies.com

More on Manny Kurtz at JazzBiographies.com

More information on this tune...

James Lincoln Collier
Duke Ellington
Oxford University Press, USA
Hardcover: 352 pages

(Ellington biographer Collier devotes two paragraphs to anecdotes and a musical analysis of the song.)
See the Reading and Research links on this page for additional references.

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Duke Ellington
The Duke: The Columbia Years 1927-1962
2004 Sony 92684
Original recording 1935
With all the great recordings of this tune, it would be easy to forget about Ellington’s haunting original version. It is well worth seeking out and provides a fascinating contrast with the more frequently cited quartet version with John Coltrane from 1962.
Sonny Rollins/Modern Jazz Quartet
Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet
Original Jazz Classics 11
Original recording 1953
Rollins’ brilliantly lyrical approach to ballads is in full bloom on this elegant collaboration with the recently-formed Modern Jazz Quartet.
Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
Duke Ellington and John Coltrane

This Coltrane performance of “In a Sentimental Mood” can be found on a handful of compilations. It very well could be the definitive rendition of the song as the saxophonist is joined by Duke Ellington, himself, at the piano.
Nancy Wilson
But Beautiful
Blue Note Records
Original recording 1969
Wilson sings this tune hauntingly, backed by a quartet featuring the piano of Hank Jones.
Lucky Thompson
Lucky Strikes
1991 Original Jazz Classics 194
Original recording 1964
This is a lovely performance that displays tenor giant Thompson’s underrated skill at applying the bebop language to the soprano saxophone.
Earl Hines
Plays Duke Ellington, Vol. 2
1997 New World 80532
Original recording 1972
Hines approaches the tune with a swinging bounce while applying the harmonic richness typical of his latter-day Ellington interpretations.
Clark Terry
Duke With a Difference
Riverside/OJC 229
Original recording 1957
Terry was an important Ellington collaborator in the 1950s, and this joyful performance features him flanked by some of his cohorts from the Ellington orchestra.
World Saxophone Quartet
Plays Duke Ellington
Original recording 1986
This performance is modern and harmonically edgy, but it sings nonetheless, expressing the lyricism implicit in the song.

- Noah Baerman

Leon Parker
1996, Sony 67457

You won’t hear another rendition like this. Parker employs only conga drum and hand claps, bolstered by flute, alto sax, trombone, bass, steel pan, marimba, and berimbau!

- Sandra Burlingame

Sarah Vaughan
2002 Blue Note 37561

This compilation of recordings from the early sixties presents Vaughan at her most mature as a vocalist. Her elegance and innate sense of romance are perfectly suited for the song.
Mark Whitfield
The Marksman
1990, Warner Bros 26321

In his debut as a leader, guitarist Whitfield displayed all-around talent. His gentle reading of “In a Sentimental Mood” speaks to his respect and understanding for the “classics.”

- Ben Maycock

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