[JPL] Ellington and The Road of the Phoebe Snow

John Simna jsimna at wclv.com
Wed Apr 27 08:19:14 EDT 2011

Regarding the name Phoebe Snow:  The name was attached to the Delaware,
Lackawanna and Western Railroad.  She was a character created to emphasize
the fact that the railroad used clean-burning anthracite coal - less soot
from the locomotives pulling the passenger trains, cleaner clothes - hence,
as white as snow.  As I recall offhand, the railroad even named its top
passenger train after her, and described the Railraod itself as "The Route
of the Phoebe Snow."
It would seem a workable assumption that that led to the ballet...

John Simna
jsimna at wclv.com

>From Tom Reney:
I was always intrigued by the origin of her name, and attributed it to a 
Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn piece entitled "The Road of the Phoebe 
Snow," which is listed in the appendix of Duke's memoir,/ Music Is My 
Mistress/.  Its publication year is 1971, a posthumous copyright in the 
case of Strayhorn, who died in 1967. On the one or two occasions when I 
thought to look for it, I couldn't find any recordings of the piece.

But yesterday, in reply to a query I made to David Berger, Mark Harvey, 
and other Ellington specialists, I learned that "The Road of the Phoebe 
Snow" was actually a dance piece by Alvin Ailey comprised of different 
parts of Ellington works like /Such Sweet Thunder/, /A Drum Is A Woman,/ 
and /Anatomy Of A Murder/.  Mark Harvey recalls that the late Bostonian 
Herb Pomeroy, an expert in Ellingtonia who occasionally spelled Cootie 
Williams in the band, scored a performance of "The Road of the Phoebe 
Snow" for a production by the Boston Ballet.

Speaking of Ellington and Ailey, in 1970 they collaborated on/ The 
River/, which was choreographed and composed for the American Ballet 
Theatre.  It was Ellington's first symphonic score written specifically 
for dance.  A recorded version is available on DUKE ELLINGTON: THE 

Tom Reney
"Jazz à la Mode"
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