The River is a suite for ballet, a collaboration between Alvin Ailey and Ellington. The original concept was a depiction of the Mississippi, but Ellington’s plan evolved to a more spiritual level, a theme of birth and rebirth.
The project had a rocky evolution. Different methods of working and busy schedules made working together difficult. Read more about Duke Ellington’s suite The River in this article on the Southern California chapter of the Duke Ellington Society. Stanley Stome has written a detailed account of the project’s history.