African Flower

African Flower or Little African Flower (Petite Fleur Africaine) is a composition by jazz pianist and composer Duke Ellington. He first recorded it for his 1962 LP “Money Jungle".[1] Ellington originally named it "La Plus Belle Africaine" when he composed it for the Negro Arts Festival in Dakar. He can be heard playing it at The English Concert in 1970.[2] He recorded it with Max Roach and Charles Mingus as "La Fleurette Africaine". Writer Peter Lavezzoli calls it "a masterpiece of simplicity and grandeur.[2] Norah Jones recorded it for her 2016 album Day Breaks.


According to Janna Tull Steed, the composition was the result of Ellington's "imaginary vision of a beautiful flower blooming "only for God" in the heart".[3] "African Flower" is composed in the key of E-flat minor, and consists of cascading sequences, with an E-flat minor 7, A-flat minor 7, G-flat minor 7, E-flat-minor 7, B-flat minor 7 flat 5 progression. It is the first entry in Volume One of the Real Book, the original fakebook which appeared in the 1970s but has been brought up to date and made legal.[4] Scott Saul says of the recording with Mingus and Roach: "Mingus spirals down the bass clef to create a stirring contrapuntal line that evenly balances the stateliness of Ellington's theme".[5]


  1. Weinstein, Norman C. (1 May 1992). A Night in Tunisia: Imaginings of Africa in Jazz. Scarecrow Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-8108-2525-3.
  2. Lavezzoli, Peter (1 April 2001). The King of All, Sir Duke: Ellington and the Artistic Revolution. A&C Black. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-8264-1328-4.
  3. Steed, Janna Tull (1999). Duke Ellington: A Spiritual Biography. Crossroad Publishing Company. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-8245-2351-0.
  4. The real book. Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation. 1 September 2004. p. 10.
  5. Saul, Scott (30 June 2009). Freedom Is, Freedom Ain't: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties. Harvard University Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-674-04310-7.
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