| THE INTERNATIONAL|
DUKE ELLINGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
01/2 August - November 2001
FOUNDER: BENNY AASLAND
Voort 18b, 2328 Meerle, Belgium
Telephone: +32 3 315 75 83
Helen Oakley Dance
February 15, 1913 – May 27, 2001
It is with much sadness that we of the Ellington community make yet another goodbye; this time to an especially treasured member, Helen Dance.
My wife and I first met Helen and Stanley in the early 1960's and over the years our friendship grew. We always found Helen to be warm, caring, exceptionally bright and knowledgeable in not only the area of music but in other areas as well. Although we lived on Long Island and the Dance's in Rowayton, Connecticut we made periodic visits to each other's homes. In 1978 they moved to Vista, California. On our visits to California we always included a day trip to Vista for a brief but joyful reunion with Helen and Stanley at their lovely home on the ridge of a mountain with a spectacular view. These visits were few and far between. The last time I saw both of them was at the 1996 Toronto conference. They both appeared weary but were invigorated to be surrounded by so many good friends.
Helen was a remarkable woman and I would like to share with fellow DEMS members some of the many highlights of her life, some which are new to me through the obituary by her son Francis. She was born into an affluent family on February 15th, 1913 in Toronto. Following an excellent education, her musical involvement began with the 1933 Ellington concert in London. Later, with her family's approval, she moved to the United States to pursue a career as a jazz singer and she met Ellington again when he appeared at the Fox theatre in Detroit. In 1934 she moved to Chicago where she was greatly involved with many jazz activities such as founding the Chicago Rhythm Club; contributing to Down Beat magazine (1934-1941); and organizing Monday night concerts. Her first produced recording session was with the Paul Mares band in 1934. Sunday jazz concerts followed at the Congress Hotel. While there she brought together the Benny Goodman Trio, pioneering interracial collaborations with Teddy Wilson on piano. By 1937 she joined forces with Irving Mills offices in New York and subsequently was involved with the historic Master/Variety recording sessions. The Ellington small group recordings were left completely in her own hands.
There is a famous picture of the jam session in 1937 where Duke performed with Artie Shaw and Chick Webb. A photograph of the attending crowd shows a tall thin man in the background, namely one Stanley Dance, who was on his first visit to the United States. Through 1942 she worked in public relations organizing many performances by many famous groups including Chick Webb and Ella Fitzgerald; Red Norvo & Mildred Bailey; and the Bob Crosby band. She worked closely with John Hammond in the production of the Spirituals To Swing Concert and Benny Goodman's famous 1938 concert as well. Her early efforts at this time included her contributions to Jazz Hot, Tempo, and Swing magazines. In the early 1940s she had many occasions to attend Ellington's frequent recording sessions.
After a distinguished career in the United States Army (WAC) where she was assigned to the OSS, she re-established herself in New York. While there, her future husband, Stanley Dance, made the trip to see her and to propose marriage. The marriage took place on January 30th, 1947 in England where the couple settled down. They were blessed with four children. Many happy times and events took place in those very wonderful years with outstanding contributions to various magazines and concerts in both London and Paris. England was left behind when they moved to the States in 1959. Some of the highlights of these years included Ellington's 70th birthday at the White House; Stanley's taking over as Earl Hines manager; and Helen handling the Hodges/Hines music publishing company called HICUE. Helen continued her career as both a dutiful wife and mother as well as helping Stanley in his writing; and conducting interviews for both Smithsonian and Rutgers University.
After meeting with blues artist T-Bone Walker in 1971 she completed her book Stormy Monday, The T-Bone Walker Story. This literary effort saw her induction into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 2001. She and Stanley were guest speakers on Jazz cruises. Stanley continued on as a contributor to Jazz Times, and Helen wrote liner notes for Sony (Columbia) and Mosaic Records. After Stanley's death on February 23rd, 1999, Helen relocated to Silverado Senior Center in Escondido, California so she could be close to her daughter Maria. On May 27th, 2001, Helen Oakley Dance past on in the presence of her four children. She was 88 years old. Helen is buried next to her husband at Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California.
The few recordings of her with Duke barely give a glimpse of her immense talent. She has one issued tune on The Eastbourne Concert (1Dec73, RCA) and several on the Malmö Concert (25oct73, Caprice) and she is heard on the unissued American première performance of the third Sacred Concert.
I had the pleasure of meeting her after a concert at Georgetown University in January 1974. I had the delight of renewing the acquaintance around 1981 when she came to D.C. with the Broadway musical "Sophisticated Ladies". Anita was the understudy to Phyllis Hyman in the lead role.
The local jazz club "The One Step Down" engaged her for a weekend gig that I will never forget. The cast of the show including Gregory Hines came over for the last set. Mercer Ellington sat next to me at the bar. Anita filled the room with her fabulous voice and vibrant personality. A beautiful woman, Anita had a deep, rich voice and could scat in a low register. She had the audience in the palm of her hand.
It seems like after her work in "Sophisticated Ladies" she became pretty obscure. It turns out that Anita traded the limelight for the chance to be close to family in Houston, and took care of her ailing mother.
Anita Moore has left us too soon.
Anita Gwendolyn Moore, born August 9, 1949, died April 28, 2001 of congestive heart failure, said her sister, Franchon Moore, her only survivor, who lives in Houston. Anita had been in a coma since November 28.
Although he would expect to be thought of first as a trumpet player, Ken Rattenbury will probably be best regarded for his extraordinary book "Duke Ellington - Jazz Composer" (Yale University Press 1990). This was a uniquely detailed examination of the early years of Ellington's music and it included analyses of transcriptions that Rattenbury had made from Ellington's original recordings. The work had been done originally as a thesis for the Master of Arts degree that he acquired in 1984. Ellington would not have favoured such analysis, likening a piece of music to a beautiful flower. "If you dissect the petals, the stamen, the leaves and so on, you may learn more about the parts. But you don't have the beautiful flower any more." Through his deeply felt admiration and by his meticulous research Rattenbury had produced an imposing Ellingtonian compost heap.
Rattenbury had been an island of good taste and musicianship in the midst of the crude Trad boom of the Fifties. On trumpet, he led a skilful small group playing what was later to become known as Mainstream jazz on BBC radio from Birmingham. His band didn't have the sophistication of Kenny Baker's Dozen, which was then beginning a long and successful series from London, but it was unique in holding its head above water in the provinces.
Few people had as long a career in the music as Rattenbury. "I joined my first jazz band on piano in the wilds of South Lincolnshire in 1933," he wrote in a letter. "We featured all of the Bessie Smith records, almost verbatim copies, as I recall. I wonder though, just how it sounded. It was the start of a lifelong affair with jazz." He learned to play the trumpet in the late Thirties and consolidated his technique in the Army Big Band when he began his six years of service in 1940. Posted overseas, he formed his own quintet and when he was demobbed metamorphosed easily onto the Midlands jazz scene. His quartet was the resident band at the Midlands Jazz Club from 1949 on, and he led his own sextet, making early appearances on television in 1952. He arranged for many local bands and wrote lengthy works for a variety of jazz groups. He was forced to concentrate on this side of his career in 1978 when dental problems made him give up the trumpet for eight years. He began playing again in 1986 and continued late into the Nineties when ill health forced him to give up once more. His biography "Jazz Journey 1925-94" was published in 1995. He wrote articles and reviewed albums for jazz magazines. His generous nature made it impossible for him to be critical of other musicians and it was thus impossible to deduce the quality of any recordings from his reviews.
His wife Elsie died in 1993.
Ken Rattenbury, trumpeter, pianist, bandleader, composer: born Spilsby, Lincolnshire 10 September 1920, died Walsall, 9 April 2001. This obituary was first published in the Independent.
Over the years, Duke Ellington hired more than 30 vocalists to sing with his bands. Al Hibbler, a rich-toned baritone whose over-stated style was full of idiosyncrasies, was undoubtedly the best of the men. Blind from birth, he formed a special relationship with Ellington during his eight years with the band. "He has ears that see," said Ellington.
"He'd guide me out to the mike from the wings by talking. I'd walk straight to his voice. I'm the straightest walker you'd ever see, and I never used a cane," said Hibbler. "When it was time for me to come off, Duke would talk from the wings, and I'd follow his voice again. When we walked in the street, he'd put his shoulder to mine every so often, and I'd follow again. That way a lot of people never knew that I was blind." Ellington was not always able to protect his protégé, however. On one occasion whilst the band was playing onstage at the San Francisco Opera House, Hibbler stepped outside the stage door for some air. The band heard his screams and when the musicians rushed out found that someone had sneaked up to him, squashed out a cigarette in his face, and run off.
It's not quite clear whether it was pianist Mary Lou Williams or trumpeter Ray Nance who first brought Hibbler to Ellington's attention. At the time, in 1943, Ellington already had four girl vocalists and certainly didn't need another. "A smart business mind would never have considered it," said Ellington. "But the first time I heard him I told him 'You're working for me.' He learned song after song, and soon he was our major asset."
"I liked Hibbler with Duke," said Quincy Jones. "He had the same sound as Harry Carney's baritone sax in the band - that coarseness, the deep-rooted earthiness and warmth."
"I learned a lot from Hibbler," said Ellington. "I learned about senses neither he nor I ever thought we had. He had so many sounds that even without words he could tell of fantasy beyond fantasy. Frank Sinatra calls Hibbler and Ray Charles his two ace pilots."
When Sinatra established his Reprise record company in 1961 Hibbler was one of the first solo artists he recorded.
Hibbler had perfect pitch and demonstrated it to me once as we walked along Liverpool's Lime Street when he called out the notes in the cries of circling seagulls. He was proud of his unsighted abilities, and when someone asked him if he would ever want to see, answered "No, I want to see the world as I see it in my mind and not see it like it actually is."
In 1972, Hibbler made an album with another fiercely independent blind musician, the multi-instrumentalist Rahasaan Roland Kirk. Kirk used to insist on choosing his own postcards and then dictating the message to his wife. I have a card from Tokyo congratulating me on being a big girl now that I am three and another from Paris showing the Duke of Wellington examining the corpse of Napoleon. Playing three reed instruments simultaneously to accompany Hibbler, Kirk sounded like the entire Ellington band.
Hibbler studied voice at the Conservatory for the Blind in Little Rock. After working with local bands he was granted an audition with the Ellington band in 1935 but turned up drunk and didn't get the job. He returned to working with local bands until he joined the one led by Jay McShann in 1942.
"It was a gas to have Hibbler on the stand," remembers McShann. "He was outgoing and he loved people."
In May 1943, eight years after the disastrous audition, he finally joined Ellington. Never a jazz singer, he recorded a string of hits with Ellington that included Don't You Know I Care?, I'm Just A Lucky So And So, and I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues. In 1947 he sang the opening part of Ellington's "Liberian Suite", I Like The Sunrise which turned out to be one of his best recordings. That same year he recorded two instrumentals that Ellington had written in 1940 now with added lyrics and retitled Don't Get Around Much Any More and Do Nothin' till You Hear from Me.
"Duke's tenor player taught me a lot about singing," Hibbler said. "I would sit beside him and he'd take that horn and blow low notes right in my ear. 'Get down there, way down,' he'd say."
Whilst with Ellington Hibbler won the Esquire New Star Award and the Downbeat Award for Best Band Vocalist.
In 1950 when Mercer Ellington, Duke's much less talented son, formed his own band. Duke gave him Hibbler to be his singer and that year Hibbler had a hit when he recorded White Christmas with Mercer. Frightened that Mercer was doing too well, Duke snatched the singer back. But the long association ended unhappily in September 1951 with a squabble over whether Hibbler, who had taken a job as a solo at the Hurricane Club in Boston where Duke had first heard him, was allowed to freelance. Ellington was furious. "How dare you sing without me? Who d'you think you are? Billy Eckstine? Frank Sinatra?" Hibbler's reply was imaginatively obscene.
He took off on a successful solo career which included recordings with Count Basie, Johnny Hodges, Gerald Wilson and his records under his own name figured highly in the charts. The million-seller Unchained Melody (1955) went to fifth in the Hit Parade and four other songs of him won places in the US Top 30. In all he made 18 albums under his own name between 1952 and 1982.
Albert Hibbler, singer: born Little Rock, Arkansas 16 August 1915; married; died Chicago, 24 April 2001. This obituary was first published in the Independent.
The following remarks are taken from Al Hibbler's biographical
notes, about 20 pages.
Al was not blind from birth. The wrong eye medication was used when he was an infant.
It was Ray Nance who first brought Hibbler to Ellington's attention. Al joined Ellington on 15Apr43.
In 1943, Al married Laura Lovely. She left him in 1947. About the time that Unchained Melody hit the charts (1955), he wasmarried to Jeanette? at which time they purchased a home in Teaneck, NY.
I met Al in 1971. Jeanette had left him. Al still lived in Teaneck
with a teacher named Cetire. One Christmas, while Al was visiting his
mother in Chicago, his house burned down. Cetire and the dog died in
the fire. The house was re-built, sold and Al moved in with his
sister in Chicago.
According to interviews Phil Schaap had with Al Hibbler on WKCR,
Duke saw Al sing when Al was in the school he attended in Little
Rock. This was in the late 1930's, even before Herb Jeffries was
Mark Tucker Memorial Fund at CBMR
Carol Ola, the wife of recently deceased Mark Tucker, has established a memorial fund in his name at the Center for Black Music Research to benefit the CBMR Library and Archives. The funds will be used to purchase materials in subject areas in which Mark had particular interest.
Mark's professional colleagues and friends will sorely miss him; but through his writings we will all continue to benefit from his insights into and understanding of jazz.
Contributions to honor Mark may be sent to the
Mark Tucker Memorial Fund,
Center for Black Music Research,
600 S. Michigan Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60605-1996
(Taken from CBMR Digest Spring 2001.)
Lance Travis would like to find a tape collector who is willing to copy some unissued Ellington audio recordings for him. He will certainly pay for all the costs incurred.
P.O. Box 60,
Tel and Fax: +27-18-3815581.
The Benny Aasland Collection
On April 27th, it was exactly five years since Benny left us and his Ellington Collection. As you may understand, I have been very uncertain about what to do with these things to which Benny devoted all his life. It has to be preserved.
I now have decided to donate the whole Collection to Svenska Visarkivets Jazzavdelning in Stockholm. (The Jazz department of the Swedish Song Archives).
The head of this institution is the Senior Archivist Mr Jens Lindgren, who will catalogue the items in order to improve ease of access.
I am convinced that my decision is right. I just had to get this carried out in my lifetime.
The post address of the archive is:
Svenska Visarkivet, Jazzavdelningen
Box 163 26
SE-103 26, Stockholm
The Irving Jacobs Collection
See DEMS 00/1-2 (or 00/1-26/2)
The sale was quite a success, and pleased a number of Ellington collectors who continue to collect Long Players. There is however a residue of several hundred albums.
I never provided any listing of the collection, but merely invited collectors to submit their "wants." The remaining albums are being handled by Mr. Ken Swerilas <KSMOVIES@HOME.COM> If you care to mention this in the Bulletin, I'd surely appreciate it.
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