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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 panel below for more references.

- Jeremy Wilson

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