DUKE ELLINGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
03/2 August-November 2003
FOUNDER: BENNY AASLAND
Voort 18b, Meerle, Belgium
Telephone: +32 3 315 75 83
A few years before he died on the 13th of June, Harold Ashby had written the notes for the CD he recorded to mark Duke Ellington's centenary. They included these words: 'I was very fortunate to have played with Duke and all the members of his band. Every day was a beautiful day, and not one day goes by that I don't think about Duke'. We too think of Harold as above all a former Ellingtonian, yet his stay with Ellington, though undoubtedly the peak of his career, lasted a mere six years out of more than fifty as a professional musician.
He was born on the 27th of March 1925 in Kansas City, where two of his older brothers were at school with Ben Webster. Although destined later to become very friendly with Ben, who was 16 years his senior, Harold didn't meet him until 1949. By then the young Ashby was a tenor saxophonist proficient enough to make his recording debut with Walter Brown and Jay McShann and on the following day Ben was due to replace him for a further session with the same two men. As Harold told Stanley Dance, 'Ben didn't have his horn . So he borrowed mine and that's when I first met him'.
Harold spent the first seven years of the fifties in Chicago involved with the numerous blues bands there and the ability to play convincing blues always remained an essential aspect of his music. He then moved to New York and was soon living in the same house as Ben Webster on Long Island. Ben encouraged him, introduced him to members of the Ellington fraternity and in the summer of 1958 suggested the two should record together. This session (available on "The Soul of Ben Webster", Verve 527 475-2) shows Harold's style close to Ben's but not a direct imitation. On the five tracks where both solo, Harold's lighter sound is always heard first and on Ash, a fast blues, his eight choruses full of agile invention are actually superior to the nine by his mentor.
So Harold Ashby had arrived and this date was soon followed by two for British Columbia. The second of these paired him with Paul Gonsalves for an intriguing album long unavailable and certainly overdue for reissue. Writers were becoming aware of the unique Ashby sound and Max Jones had an early try at describing it when he said the tone tended to 'crumble at the edges'.
A later and more poetic attempt by Frenchman Alexandre Rado translates as 'a sound endowed with a light, misty halo'. Fellow musicians didn't need such assistance in assessing Harold's talent and Mercer Ellington and Johnny Hodges showed their appreciation by inviting him to record with them. Duke Ellington himself inevitably heard and admired the singularity of Harold's playing and when he required an alternative band in 1963, for the musical "My People", Harold was called in and The Blues Ain't exemplified his outstanding solo contributions. In 1965 he turned up on Lawrence Brown's "Inspired Abandon" album and when Jimmy Hamilton left the Ellington band in 1968 Harold was invited to replace him. Having studied clarinet years before he could play it in the section when required though his solos would be almost exclusively on tenor.
European audiences were introduced to the new band member in 1969 when he was featured on BP Blues and the following year he recorded the more impressive Thanks for the Beautiful Land on the Delta as part of the "New Orleans Suite". After the death of Johnny Hodges, the deep feeling in Harold's interpretations of ballads was recognised as Duke asked him to play such pieces as All Too Soon and I Can 't Get Started. In 1973 by the time of Ellington's last concert in London, with Paul Gonsalves ailing and Cootie Williams absent, Harold was arguably the major soloist in the band. His first showcase, by then well established, was Chinoiserie from the "Afro-Eurasian Eclipse". (The slap tonguing towards the end of this had possibly engendered Ellington's description of Harold's playing as 'soul-saturated solo-popping de luxe'.) I Can 't Get Started was his first encore and Things Ain 't What They Used To Be was the second. The applause was long and full of enthusiasm.
But this new eminence was short-lived. Duke Ellington died six months later and Harold didn't stay long with the band after that. Another quarter of a century of playing lay before him and the audiences for his free-lance appearances would never match those that Ellington could draw. Yet his time with the Duke had firmly established awareness of his abilities in certain quarters and among European promoters in particular. Hence he toured and was recorded in France in 1978, in Switzerland in 1987, in Norway in 1988 and in Holland in 1992. The French tour was with a group of former Ellingtonians organised by Cat Anderson, with Norris Turney, Booty Wood and Sam Woodyard also included, and Harold is featured on two exceptional recordings made on that trip. (These are currently available on Black and Blue BB 932-2, under his own name, and on BB 914-2, with Booty Wood as nominal leader.)
In the nineties Harold was less and less in evidence but musicians didn't forget him and both Milt Hinton and Benny Golson called him for recording projects. Towards the end of 1998 he produced and recorded the CD mentioned in my first paragraph which was reviewed in Jazz Journal International in May 2001 [and DEMS Bulletins 01/2-28/7 and 02/2-7/2]. (Obtaining a copy wasn't easy which is why I ended up having a telephone conversation with him just over a year ago. He sounded in good spirits and chuckled when I reminded him of how much weight he'd lost between the British tours of 1969 and 1971.) Only six weeks after the Ellington tribute session Harold was back in a studio, recording for Mapleshade and producer Hamiet Bluiett what is probably his farewell recital (available via the internet from amazon.co.uk). [See DEMS 03/1-24/2] Accompanied by John Hicks, Keter Betts and Jimmy Cobb he mixes originals of his own with others from the Ellington repertoire in a programme which displays the commitment of his finest work. Fifty years after his first recording the depth of feeling and the unmistakable sound were still there. When Duke Ellington chose Harold Ashby for his band he unerringly, as so often before, picked a winner. Graham Colombé**
Graham wrote this obituary for Jazz Journal International and he was so kind to allow us to publish it in DEMS Bulletin.
The double CD "The Soul of Ben Webster" mentioned by Graham is reviewed in DEMS 99/1-15/6.
18Jun03. We lost the great Duke Ellington tenor titan Harold Ashby last Friday. Harold's great-nephew Gary White, of Kansas City, provided arrangements today.
A memorial service will be held on September 14th at St. Peter's Lutheran Church.
Part of the frustration of losing Harold Ashby now is that a truly unique and sophisticated recording of his music was in the process of being prepared for release. His friends Scott Sherratt and Michael Lukes insist that it will still be made available to honor Harold.
"Ash" was recorded in Manhattan over a year ago, exclusively with Harold's original compositions. Mr. Ashby played tenor throughout, with pianist Hilton Ruiz, bassist Andy McCloud and drummer Victor Jones. It is mastered to perfection, and Samantha Rapp (a fine fashion photographer) took spectacular photos. The only thing not yet completed is liner notes, which Harold had intended to write personally.
Harold's last performance was at the Folly Theater in Kansas City on 14Sep02; he appeared as a special guest soloist with Art Baron and the Duke's Men. He suffered a heart attack on 16Sep and recuperated for several months in a KC care facility before returning to NY in December. He never fully recovered.
Harold Ashby died: June 13, 2003, 6:05 a.m. at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, New York City, following complications of a heart attack during the end of May, 2003. Russ Dantzler
said the alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges of his acolyte in the Duke Ellington band. Ashby blushed and looked embarrassed. "He's a gambler," Hodges went on. "He plays the old Chinese game 'Chuck-a-Luck'. The more you put down the less you pick up. And he's been putting down a lot lately "
When he became a regular member of the Ellington band in Jul68, Ashby took the seat next to Hodges that had been occupied until Aug43 by Ben Webster, another tenor playing friend of the altoist. Webster had been Ashby's idol, and he first modelled his style on Webster's warm and lush sound.
But not for long, because Ashby soon developed a sound of his own, hard swinging, with long lines of ideas broken by swift flurries of notes. He originally joined the band as a replacement for Jimmy Hamilton, a man who played mostly clarinet. As a result, the Ellington band was over-endowed with tenor players, for the main soloist on the instrument, Paul Gonsalves, was still a potent force in the band and Norris Turney also played tenor sax amongst his other instruments. Gonsalves and Ellington died in May 1974 and Ashby became the main soloist in the band when it was taken over by Ellington's son Mercer.
Ashby began playing alto and clarinet as a teen-ager but gave up music while he was in the Navy from 1943 to 1945. Back in Kansas City in 1946 he was soon playing again and backed the singer Walter Brown, making his first recording with Brown in 1949. He spent most of the Fifties in Chicago playing in blues bands before moving to New York in 1957 to work in the bands of Milt Larkin and Mercer Ellington. He soon found the fringes of Duke Ellington's band and began deputising for some of the sax players. Accepted as a friend and colleague by Ellington's sidemen, he recorded with Ben Webster (1958), Johnny Hodges (1960), Paul Gonsalves (1961) and Lawrence Brown (1965). Once he joined the band permanently, he became a regular in all the small groups that came from the band to record. He was given more prominent roles as the band played across Europe and the Far East and won many fans across the world.
After Ellington's death he worked with Sy Oliver in 1976 and made brief tours with Benny Goodman in 1977 and 1982.
Ashby was always welcomed back to Europe where most of his fans were. He toured there with the Ellington Alumni in 1978 and returned the following year with the Kansas City pianist Jay McShann.
Another European tour paired Ashby with pianist Junior Mance, and he was also one of the stars of the 1985 Nice Festival. He recorded often under his own name in the late Eighties and early Nineties, but illness curtailed his activities and he confined his work to the New York area.
He made an exception for one of his last appearances at the 1990 Duke Ellington Conference in Ottawa when, with Andrew Homzy's big band, Ashby played one of Ellington's compositions written to feature him, Chinoiserie. Happily, he was able to regain his top form, but it was one of his last appearances before an audience of any size. Steve Voce
Harold Kenneth Ashby, tenor saxophone player: born Kansas City, Missouri, 27 March 1925; died New York City, June 13, 2003.
The obituary written by Steve Voce appeared in the Independent of 19Jun03.
For me, a great experience was having Ashby play - and probably for the last time - Chinoiserie from the "Afro-Eurasian Eclipse" with my band at the Ottawa Ellington conference [on 19May90]. Long live Harold Ashby. Andrew Homzy
Benny passed away on the morning of Sunday 13 July in a Los Angeles Hospital after a brief illness. Although physically weak, he remained lucid until the end and enjoyed speaking with many friends from all over the world during the past few weeks. News of upcoming public memorials will be posted on the Benny Carter website www.bennycarter.com. The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Morroe Berger - Benny Carter Jazz Research Fund, Institute of Jazz Studies, Dana Library, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ 07102. Andrew Homzy
"All-around" barely describes Benny Carter's qualities. He was a gentleman of rare charm and sophistication. As an instrumentalist, composer and arranger, Benny Carter had only one peer. He will stand forever with Duke Ellington as the most accomplished and complete musician the field has ever known. George Avakian
Benny told me, some months ago, that Ken Burns interviewed him for some hours, so the footage, I assume, still exists somewhere. Benny's explanation for his omission in the JAZZ series was something along the lines of 'I suppose I didn't say the sort of things that he was looking for'. Earl Okin
The contacts between Benny Carter and Duke Ellington were scarce. Benny is mentioned in MIMM only once (p222): "When Russell Procope heard Fletcher Henderson's band he was attracted to jazz. The urge grew stronger when his schoolmate Benny Carter got an alto saxophone." Benny was one year older than Russell.
Here is an fascinating witness report of the recording session of 2oct47 by William Strother:
"I was invited to the session by Benny Carter, along with a mutual friend, pianist Hal Schaefer. My memory says that Hal was there because of business relating either to the session or to some other matter for Duke, but this was a long time ago! As it turns out, there were two items recorded: Kitty, with Ray Nance, and Brown Penny, sung by Kay Davis. There were innumerable starts and stops in Kitty. Duke was most unhappy, in a grumbly sort of way. Sometime he played, sometime it was Strayhorn. And then, Hal also played. Duke conducted, listened to takes from the control room, etc. The band sounded listless, not moving. Finally, Duke spotted Sonny with a newspaper spread across his tom toms. He gently removed the paper, stomped off another take and presto! Done!
I remember nothing much of the rest of the session, but it was a 3-hour session and the two cuts were all that resulted. But I've always remembered that there were three pianists involved no, wait! I remember Benny played at one point also. So when researchers are so certain it was this guy, or that one, I'm not sure who the pianist was on the final, released cuts!"
Benny played in Duke's band for two weeks in 1926. No recordings have survived. He participated in the Mercer recording session of 21oct50 and he played as a guest soloist with the band at the Hollywood Bowl concert (1Jul67), which was recorded and released on the Pablo album "The Greatest Jazz Concert in the World". SH
I am saddened by the loss of a long time friend and fellow member of DEMS. I was only notified on April 19, by a neighbour of John Lawrence of 9 Elm Road, Wembley, London HA9 7JA, England, that he had passed away back on February 19. He said he had only just found John's address book and was trying to let all his friends know the sad news. His wife is not able to cope with anything at all; John was doing everything for her as she had had two bad strokes.
I have now lost two great friends in the DEMS group, John and Ole Nielsen. Both men knew each other well. I still keep in touch with Ole's wife Bente. Maurice Rolfe
My father, Joseph H. Harper of Calgary passed away on April 12, 2003 after a long illness due to Heart Failure. I know that he corresponded with you for some time and I wanted to let you know.
Will you please put a little note in your Bulletin, as there may be acquaintances of my father that do not know of his passing? One of my father's passions for the last 60 years was Ellington music. In fact, I took him to Ellington's Sacred Concert in Calgary just a month before his death, and he enjoyed this concert very much. Grant Harper
During four days in May the music of Duke Ellington will once again dominate Stockholm. May 13-15, 2004 a mini conference will take place in Stockholm on the musical phenomenon Duke Ellington his history, influences today, members of The Famous Duke Ellington Orchestras and other related topics.
Nine years ago, in 1994, a very big conference, "Serenade to Sweden", including a gala concert in the Stockholm Concert Hall, was arranged with participants from all over the world. We were also happy to welcome as participants several former members of the Ellington band through the years.
Our Swedish singer Alice Babs with her excellent Ellington qualifications took part that time and this time she will be one of the leading performers.
The old Jazz Music Hall, Nalen, will be the center for this year's Ellington arrangement and one of the evenings will be dedicated to our world famous singer Alice Babs.
After the success of the 1994 Conference many friends have been praying for a new meeting in Stockholm and this is our response. Real Duke connoisseurs from various parts of the world will join and share with us their knowledge of Duke Ellington and his music. These include the following confirmed lecturers: George Avakian, who worked for Columbia Records in the forties and fifties and was Duke's contact at that company; Brian Priestley, author and musician; and the Ellington Scholar John Hasse of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Participating from Sweden will be music scholars Jan Bruér and Lars Westin, with their perspectives on "Ellington in Sweden".
Preliminary positive messages are also received from Patricia Willard of Washington, George Conrad from Germany (expert in Rex Stewart), Bjarne Busk from Denmark (works with the Duke Ellington stockpile given to Denmark by Mercer Ellington) and Claude Bolling, composer/ bandleader/musician from Paris. We look thus forward to see them as speakers at the 2004 Stockholm Conference. We are also presently expecting additional answers from a few more experts.
More items from the preliminary program:
Alice Babs will tell about her experience of the Ellington orchestra, in particular maybe the Sacred Concerts.
Pianist and arranger Nils Lindberg will also tell about his collaboration with Duke Ellington.
The conference will, however, not only consist of speeches and lectures. From the Nalen Stage beautiful music will be heard in the evenings including singing of Alice Babs together with Nils Lindberg Orchestra including some of today's best Swedish saxophone players. Possibly there will also be a jazz cruise in the Stockholm archipelago on a typical old steamer.
Participants from the entire western world including the Scandinavian countries are registered for the conference. Arranger is Duke Ellington Society of Sweden on whose website www.ellingtonsweden.com can be found successively updated information on the conference.
The preliminary schedule runs as follows:
Get-Together-PartyWednesday May 12 18.00 o'clock at Hotel Scandic Sergel Plaza (belongs to the Hilton-Group plc.)
Day program with speakers Thursday May 13 09.00-17.00 at Nalen
Day program with speakers Friday May 14 09.00-17.00 at Nalen
Evening program: Surprise concert Friday May 14 19.30-22.00 at Nalen
Day program with speakers Saturday May 15 09.00-17.00 at Nalen
Evening program: Closing dinner Saturday May 15
At the closing dinner there will also be music played by Kustbandet, whom you enjoyed so much in 1994.
Prices for the Conference and Hotels during May 12-15, 2004
Depending on the exchange rate of the dollar, these are the preliminary prices:
Delegate fee $175
Hotel Scandic Sergel Plaza (incl. breakfast and tax)
Single room per day $199 Double room per day $223
The distance is 5-10 minutes walk on the same street as the Jazz Music Hall Nalen.
Address: Hotel Scandic Sergel Plaza, street: Brunkebergstorg 9
Mail: Box 16411, SE-103 27 Stockholm
telephone: 0046-8-517 263 00, fax: 0046-8-517 263 11
Hotel Kom AB (incl. breakfast and tax)
Single room per day $125 Double room per day $150
Payment 40 days in advance will give a discount of $12.
The distance is 5-8 minutes walk to the Jazz Music Hall Nalen.
Address: Hotel KOM AB, street: Döbelsgatan 17
Mail: Döbelsgatan 17, SE-111 40 Stockholm
telephone: 0046-8-412 23 00, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The code for booking for the conference at the Hotel is G.206242
PS there will be more information continuously later on about the daily program and the conference.
The International Association of Jazz Record Collectors (IAJRC) is planning a convention for 2005 in Copenhagen, Denmark and want to attract also Duke Ellington collectors if possible to this event which will take place during the Copenhagen Jazz Festival July 1 - 10, 2005.
In case you want to receive more information when the time comes, please send your name and address to
Karl Emil Knudsen
Dortheavej 39, DK-2400 Copenhagen NV, Denmark
Tel (45) 3819 8590 / Fax (45) 3819 0110
Please mention in your message that this is for the IAJRC convention 2005.
See DEMS 01/2-10
Here are remarks about and some corrections to be made in the liner-notes of the Quantum Leap Videos and DVDs.
Videos QL 0178 and QL 0194, 31Jan65, 1st and 2nd set. Mercer is not mentioned in the personnel list. It is a pity that we just missed the performance by Sathima Bea Benjamin and Abdullah Ibrahim when they performed Solitude.
DVD QLDVD 0246, 31Jan65, 1st and 2nd set. Since the time (112 min.) is equal to the total time of the two video's (58 plus 55 min.) we suspect that there are some selections missing in the list of titles: "Ad Lib on Nippon"; Take the "A" Train (just after intermission) and Take the "A" Train (as performed by Billy Strayhorn). We consider it a wrong decision to delete titles in order to solve problems with the lay-out.
Video QL 0179, trio, 23Jan67. One wonders why this part of the 23Jan67 recordings is claimed to be the 2nd set. We believe that Duke started with his solo, duo and trio performances before the other five instrumentalists made the group into an octet. Lotus Blossoms should read Lotus Blossom. (This error is corrected in the liner notes of the DVD QL DVD 0249.)
Video QL 0190, 2Nov69, 2nd set. Between Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue and Black Swann (sic) was another rendition of Satin Doll. Errors in both 2Nov69 sets (QL 0189 and 0190): The "unknown" trumpet player is not Ambrose Jackson, but Harold Johnson. Wild Bill Davis is not mentioned.
DVD QLDVD 0252 shows identical errors.
Video QL 0187, 7Nov71, 1st concert. In the Medley In a Sentimental Mood was not performed. Hello, Dolly! and One More Time were not performed. They should be replaced by Goof. Ben Webster is not mentioned.
We have not yet given you the titles of the 1st concert of 7Nov71: C-Jam Blues; Kinda Dukish & Rockin' in Rhythm; All too Soon; Cotton Tail; Take the "A" Train; Fife; Satin Doll; Chinoiserie; In Quadruplicate; Come Off the Veldt; Medley: Prelude to a Kiss, Do Nothin' till You Hear from Me, I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, Mood Indigo, I'm Beginning to See the Light, Solitude, Love You Madly, Sophisticated Lady, Caravan; Goof.
P.S. The closing selections, Addi and One More Time, are not included on the tape.
Video QL 0192, 7Nov71, 2nd concert. Between Satin Doll and The Quadrupedisticalissimist in Blue (sic) was performed Things Ain't What They Used to Be.
Errors in both 7Nov71 concerts: Taylor's given name is Malcolm, not Malcom. Duke Ellington and Harold Ashby are not mentioned in the list of personnel.
Error in 1969 and in 1971 liner notes both for Videos as for DVDs: Come of the Veldt should be written Come Off the Veldt.
DVD QLDVD 0253, 7Nov71, 1st and 2nd concert.
The superfluous title In a Sentimental Mood is dropped in the Medley. Another superfluous (and wrong) title is included: The Quadrupedisticalissimist in Blue. The track listing is a mix up of selections from both concerts. It's more or less true to say that a whole concert is missing. We gave you the correct titles of the 1st concert above. The correct list of titles of the 2nd concert can be found in DEMS 01/2-11 at the top of the left column.
The errors in the personnel listing are still there, with the exception of Ben Webster, no longer missing from the first concert, because the listing (including his name) is now given for both concerts at the same time. DEMS
by Steven Lasker
Those small stamped take numbers that appear in the "9:00 position" (as measured from the stamped catalog number that appears in the 6:00 position) on original pressings of Victor 78s are generally accurate at least until Victor 27856, released 10Apr42, whereupon their reliability becomes suspect; this and subsequent releases are discussed below.
While working on the RCA Centennial box, I took the opportunity to inspect the various master metal parts that still exist for Moon Mist: -1, -1A, -2 and -2A. -2A is stamped "27856A"; no other parrt bears this number. (Waxes suffixed -1 and -1A were cut simultaneously; they are recordings of the same take; the same remarks apply to -2 and -2A, etc.) Comparison of the master part of Moon Mist -2A to my copy of U.S. Victor 27856 established that the latter is master-pressed on this side; the take shown in the 9:00 position in the run-off area of both part and pressing is "2A." At the BMG archives in New York City is a "history card " for each side of every Victor 78 r.p.m. single, and that for the "A" side of Victor 27856 shows the following dispositions for Moon Mist: -1: Hi (OK); -1A: H30 (OK); -2 H30 (not fit); -2A M [for "master"] (OK). Take -2A was first released 10Apr42 on Victor 27856-A; -1 (or -1A) was first released in 1977 on FFrench RCA FXM1 7301.
My copies of U.S. Victor 27856-A and U.S. RCA Victor 27856-A (a later labelling) are master pressed and bear the take designation "2A" stamped at 9:00. My copies of Canadian RCA Victor 27856-A and HMV B.9292 are both pressed from dubbed stampers but there is nothing obvious, such as an "R" (for "Rerecorded") to indicate that these are dubbings.
As for the "B" side of 27856, waxes -1 and -1A were cut of The "C" Jam Blues; -1 was the first choice, while -1A was found "not fit." (Despite the rejection, a metal part of -1A survives in the vaults to this day.) Although both U.S. Victor 27856-B and Canadian RCA Victor 27856-B show the stamped digit "1" in the 9:00 position" but not so U.S. RCA Victor 27856-B, which is silent as to take all are dubbings, as is my copy of HMV B.9292. (The dub could have been made from a 16-inch, 33 r.p.m. reference acetate disc cut simultaneously alongside the two 78 r.p.m. wax masters, -1 and -1A; according to RCA's documentation for this session, "1 -16 in. Acetate [was] used.")
Perdido is master pressed from -1A on my copy of Victor 27880-A, which shows the take number "1A" stamped in the 9:00 position; it is dubbed on my copy of Canadian HMV Victor 27880-A. The reverse side,
Raincheck, is dubbed from take one on all issues I've inspected; American Victor 27880-B bears the stamped take "2R," the "R" indicating a rerecording (or dubbing). Canadian HMV Victor 27880-B is yet a different (and possibly third generation) dubbing of the same take one. The history card for Victor 27880-B notes that "grooves [of take one are] very deep at start; re-record." According to RCA's recording sheet, Raincheck was "rerecorded from acetate" on 26Dec41 (-1R) and again on 29Dec41 (-2R) in order "to improve appearance of record." Examination of the original master part of take one revealed that the volume at the start of the side was so loud and the groove modulations so deep as to make master pressings from it appear worn even before a single play.
Hayfoot, Strawfoot is master-pressed on copies of U.S. Victor 20-1505 and Canadian HMV Victor 20-1505 that show the take number "1" at the 9:00 position; Hayfoot, Strawfoot is dubbed on copies of Canadian HMV Victor 20-1505 without the "1" at the 9:00 position.
Sherman Shuffle is master-pressed on all copies of U.S. and Canadian HMV Victor 20-1505 I've inspected, and in each case bears the stamped digit "1" at 9:00.
Victor 20-1528 couples A Slip of the Lip (Can Sink a Ship) with Sentimental Lady; both sides are dubbed on U.S. Victor, Canadian HMV Victor, and Argentine Victor 20-1528. One of my two copies of A Slip of the Lip on U.S. Victor shows a "1" at the 9:00 position, but is dubbed nonetheless.
Passion Flower is master-pressed on Victor 20-1545-B. According to the history card for this scarce issue, it was released 18oct43 for "export only Int[ernational]." and "not to be sold in U.S.A. until record ban lifted." (The "A" side, Rodgers and Hammerstein's People Will Say We're in Love, from the 1943 musical "Oklahoma," is by Phil Brito and his Orchestra with vocal refrain, and was recorded during the AFofM recording ban by 14 or so instrumentalists who may or may not have been union members; whichever the case, had the side been released in the U.S. during the ban, it would have focused the wrath of Jimmy Petrillo onto RCA and NBC.) Passion Flower is dubbed on my copy of Bluebird 30-0817 (released 18Aug44), as is the other side, Going Out the Back Way. The latter is also dubbed on my copy of HMV B.9424.
Main Stem is dubbed on my copies of U.S. Victor 20-1556-A, Canadian RCA Victor 20-1556-A, and HMV B.9386;
Johnny Come Lately is dubbed on U.S. Victor 20-1556-B, Canadian RCA Victor 20-1556-B, and HMV B.9424.
My two copies of U.S. Victor 20-1584 (My Little Brown Book / Someone) are dubbed on both sides, as are my copies of U.S. and Canadian HMV Victor 20-1598 (I Don't Mind / What Am I Here For?). This last coupling is, however, master- pressed on both sides of all three of my copies of HMV B.9415. (Note: I found that optimal playback of master pressings from this session was achieved with a 1.9 mil stylus, an exceptionally small stylus for a commercial 78 r.p.m. record on any label in any period. I've often found this to be a useful stylus size for playing back professionally cut lacquers, however.)
Differentiating master pressings from dubbed pressings on 78 r.p.m. records is greatly facilitated by examination of the run-off groove configuration, particularly by: "measurement of the angle formed between a line drawn through [the] centre hole and the point at which the run-off groove starts to increase pitch away from the last music groove and another line drawn through [the] centre hole and the point at which the run-off groove closes upon itself; the angle being measured clockwise from the first line described to the second." (Quote from John R.T. Davies, who devised this method, from an article he wrote that appeared in STORYVILLE 54, Aug-Sep74.)
While I had access to the first-generation metal parts, I measured the various angles on some of Ellington's positive masters using a protractor and the method described above:
PBS-061347-1 Passion Flower (32°) PBS-061349-1 Going Out the Back Way (275°) BS-070683-1 The "C" Jam Blues (148°) BS-070683-1A The "C" Jam Blues (155° ) BS-071890-1 What Am I Here For? (329°) BS-071890-1A not processed BS-071891-2 I Don't Mind (238°) BS-071891-2A not processed BS-071892-1 Someone (0°) BS-071892-1A not processed PBS-072437-1 My Little Brown Book (290°) PBS-072438-1 Main Stem (100°) PBS-072439-1 Johnny Come Lately (236°) BS-074782-1 Sentimental Lady (28°) BS-074782-1A no metal part; never processed? BS-074783-1 A Slip of the Lip (Can Sink a Ship) (170°) BS-074783-1A A Slip of the Lip (Can Sink a Ship) (40°)
Collectors of Ellington's 78s may wish to compare their pressings against the above. If anyone has a commercial pressing from any country with angles that correspond to any of the above and thus may be an actual master pressing please report through DEMS.
I was astonished to find many different configurations of run-off grooves on different copies of the same performance.
I found that my original U.S. Victor and my Canadian RCA Victor 27856-B (both stamped "1" at 9:00) used the same dub of The "C" Jam Blues; my later U.S. RCA Victor 27856-B uses another dub, HMV B.9292 yet a third.
I've found copies of Someone on U.S. Victor 20-1584-B bearing two different run-off configurations; similarly, on My Little Brown Book, two different run- off configurations on different copies of U.S. Victor 20-1584-A.
My copies of Main Stem on U.S. Victor 20-1556-A, Canadian RCA Victor 20- 1556-A, and HMV B.9386 are all pressed from dubbed parts, each part with a different run-off configuration.
Copies of Johnny Come Lately on U.S. Victor 20-1556-B, Canadian RCA Victor 20-1556-B, and HMV B.9424 are all pressed from dubbed parts, each part with a different run-off configuration.
Sentimental Lady is pressed from different dubbed parts on my two copies of U.S. Victor 20-1526-B, my copy of Argentine Victor 20-1528-B, and on Canadian HMV Victor 20-1528-B.
A Slip of the Lip (Can Sink a Ship) is pressed from different dubbed parts on my two copies of U.S. Victor 20-1528-A, while my Argentine Victor and Canadian HMV Victor 20-1528-A are pressed from a descendent of the same dubbed part, one different from any of above-mentioned U.S. Victors.
As for What Am I Here For?, I've seen three different run-off groove configurations on different copies on U.S. Victor 20-1598-B, all dubbed, one of them identical to the configuration found on my copy of Canadian HMV Victor 20-1598-B.
I've found five different run-off configurations of I Don't Mind on copies of U.S. Victor 20-1598-A; Canadian HMV Victor 20-1598-A uses yet a sixth! All are dubbed on both sides. All copies of Victor 1598-A that I've examined (perhaps 40) contain take two. This last sentence is contrary to the New DESOR, Rust's Jazz Records, Aasland's Waxworks 1940-42 and most other discographies which show take one of I Don't Mind as being the originally released take, but is supported by reference to the parts, pressings and files. According to the files, 78 r.p.m. waxes -1, -2 and -2A were cut. The initial take dispositions were -1 "OK, master"; -2 "H" [hold] per the recording sheet, "H30 [hold 30 days]" per a ledger entry, or "not fit" per the history card; -2A "H [hold]." A later entry on the history card notes that -1 had an "error on pressing," so -2 was selected for issue instead, while -2A was "NP" [not processed]. A part of -1 survives in the vaults to this day; the performance was first released in 1999 on the Centennial box.
The technical practices at Victor/RCA The Victor Talking Machine Company was purchased by the Radio Corporation of America per an agreement reached 4Jan29 by the respective boards of directors changed considerably from the teens into the 1950s. Many of the changes are documented in a unique typewritten ledger book, organized by topic that is today found at the archives of BMG in New York City. The ledger was likely kept by Miss Elsie M. Garrison, whose tenure at Victor spanned most or all of the years mentioned, and to whom the book was to be returned if lost. One page describes:
ACETATES (glass-acetate) DUPLICATES
Reference acetates (16") made at time of live recording; later transferred to wax which is dated same as live recording. Wax sent down to Camden to be processed.
Master chosen by Mr. [Leonard] Joy at time of recording, marked on sheets to E.M.G. If selection is to be released that Master dubs two or more acetates which are sent to factory to be used to make stampers (duplicates) (3 days from date of Recording)
Jan. 13, 1944. Mr. W. T. Walker requested information from Miss G. re to statement made by Miss Carroll in New York office that an extra acetate is to be made for Popular Black Label and Bluebird Recordings then forwarded from New York to Canada to save the time of Camden plant in making metal parts for them.
Mr. H.C. Darnell says instructions were issued by him to Miss Snow (H. Spellman re billing) that when New York Office makes set of glass-acetates to be used in making stampers for Camden plant, an extra is also to be sent from New York to Canada. Miss Snow will receive copy of Invoice indicating which selections were sent. This refers to Popular Black Label and Bluebird only. Other selections will be ordered by Canada when required as usual.
Sadly, the original 16" acetate reference discs of Ellington's RCA recordings, which documented all false starts, breakdowns, and complete takes in optimal, first generation fidelity, no longer exist in BMG's vaults.
RCA's file sheets for Ellington's sessions of 1Dec44, 11Dec44, 12Dec44, 4Jan45, and 26Apr45 each note that time was allotted to an activity called "electr. transf." which I take to mean the creation of 78 r.p.m. dubs by electrical transfer from the first-generation 16" acetates. The sheet for 11Dec44 notes that 12-inch Victor 28-0400-B (also 28-0414-B), which derives from matrix number D4-VB-563-1/-1A, contains "Three Dances: a. West Indian Dance (3rd take); b. Emancipation Celebration (2nd take) and c. Sugar Hill Penthouse (Beige) (4th take)." In the pre-tape era, an edited assembly such as this could only be accomplished by means of dubbing.
Considering the evidence presented above, I don't assume that any of Ellington's 1944-46 Victor recordings were master-pressed on 78 r.p.m. singles anywhere in the world.
Metal was a strategic commodity during WWII, and was rationed in the U.S. for non-military use. Often during these years, the only available acetate recording discs were made not from an unbreakable metal core but from an extremely fragile glass one. A source who worked many years as RCA's vault- keeper, informed me in 1987, shortly before his retirement, that many of Victor's metal parts, including much race and ethnic material, were melted down during the war years contrary to the wishes and behind the back of David Sarnoff. In those years, RCA had to be miserly with metal, so much so that they didn't necessarily furnish their foreign affiliates with metal stampers but may have instead provided them with a pressing called a "transfer mould" which could be dubbed to produce a stamper. This possibility is suggested by the label, reproduced below, of a single-sided high-quality shellac disc I purchased in 2001 from an Argentine record auction that appeared in VJM #121:
The transfer mould has a different run-off groove configuration from that found on my copy of U.S. Victor 20-1718-A, and is of significantly superior sound quality and clarity, which suggests to me that it is a second generation dub while the commercially released 78 is a third-generation dub.
Comparison of different 78 r.p.m. copies of American Victors, foreign issues, and test pressings of Ellington's 1944-46 RCA recordings reveals numerous variations in run-off groove configurations and audible differences in sound quality on various pressings of the same title; these variations won't be detailed here, except as regards the two released takes of I'm Beginning to See the Light. I've found -1 both on U.S. Victor 20-1618-B and U.S. RCA Victor 20- 1618-B, in each case with the same run-off groove configuration (350 degrees); as for the more common -2, I've found three different run-off groove configurations on various copies of U.S. Victor 20-1618-B.
Stamped take numbers are absent from the 9:00 position on all 78 r.p.m. test pressings and commercial issues I've encountered of Ellington's recordings from his 1944-46 RCA period.
The big surprise in all this is that discographers and collectors have seemingly been unaware that many of Ellington's 78 r.p.m. Victor records from 1942 and 1944 to 1946 and by inference many of those by other Victor artists in these years as well were second and even third generation dubs, but then this would seem to have been a dirty little trade secret on RCA's part, unexposed until now; that the practice went undetected for so many decades is testament to the high quality of their dubs.
P.S. Georges Debroe, in his magnificent 1981 auction of Ellingtonia, offered for sale as lot 6036 a red-vinyl Victor test pressing of Esquire Swank matrix D6-VB-2132-1 which he noted was "used only for the French Swing label."
A question via DEMS for Georges: Would you happen to know if this particular pressing was the source used in making the stampers for Swing SW.230? If so, this would show that RCA was furnishing its foreign affiliates with pressings rather than metal parts even after the conclusion of WWII and the wartime rationing of metal. (Steven Lasker)
I received the Victor test of Esquire Swank from Jean-Paul Guiter, producer of the French RCA (nearly) complete "The works of Duke" series. I think, but I am not sure, that he acquired that one via Charles Delaunay. What I know for sure is the fact that Guiter utilized quite a lot of test pressings, which he had to buy from RCA USA. Georges Debroe**
Steven Lasker promises a bountiful harvest of "New Discoveries", and some factual surprises as well, in his Ellington 2004 presentation at Stockholm next May. His latest find dates from 18May32: Clouds in My Heart -A. While it follows the description given in the New DESOR for -B, it is refreshingly different. That previously unknown test pressings from Ellington's early years continue to sur-face, and with a frequency that has lately approached regularity, is astounding; this situation, which cannot last forever Ellington's recordings are ultimately finite runs coun-ter to one's expectation, based in logic and experience, that the laws of diminishing returns would be more conspicuously evidenced by now (not that we're complaining). DEMS
See DEMS 03/1-10/1
I have recently won in an auction two one-sided "master recordings" of Ebony Rhapsody part 1 and part 2 (PBS 79105-1 and PBS 79106-1) with the claim that 7Mar34 is the date of recording.
There are no vocal parts on these records, it is completely instrumental and there are no violins added as in the soundtrack of the film. The orchestra sounds magnificent with Wellman Braud and Sonny Greer playing an important role. Jordi Navas Ferrer
Those present at Ellington '99 in Washington heard in Steven Lasker's presentation four non-vocal sides of Ebony Rhapsody recorded by Ellington's orchestra for Paramount Pictures' "Murder at the Vanities", presumably on 26Feb34 with numbers PBS-79093-1; PBS 79094-1; PBS 79105-1 and PBS 79106-1.
The numbers PBS-79093-1 and PBS 79094-1 were assigned 27Feb34; we take this to be the date Victor dubbed Paramount's optical track onto the wax masters used to produce the 78 r.p.m. pressings.
At the start of PBS-79093-1, one hears: "Production 989, 'Murder at the Vanities', E take two, Ebony Rhapsody, part two."
PBS-79091 and PBS-79092 are untraced. These could together constitute the part "one" to which PBS-79093 and PBS-79094 together form the corresponding "part two."
"The Rape of the Rhapsody" sequence shown in the film is broken into three parts according to a printed program filmed at the beginning of the sequence.
The first part, "A," is "The Rhapsody," performed by Carl Brisson, Kitty Carlisle and the Paramount orchestra.
The second part, "B," is "The Rape," which contrasts the polite symphonic approach taken by the Paramount orchestra with the urgency and force of Ellington's.
The third part, "C," is "The Ravenge," and features the sound of machine gun firing blanks. (Note that Ellington's men are heard only in the second part, "B.")
At the start of PBS-79105-1, one hears: "Take 59. Temporary track." An 11- inch shellac test of PBS-79105-1 is reported to bear the following inscription near the rim, as written by Victor's engineer on or about 7Mar34: "Duke Ellington: Ebony Rhapsody Pt. 1." In this context, PBS-79106 is presumably "Pt. 2."
Paramount's exploitation disc for "Murder at the Vanities" was mastered onto 78 r.p.m. and assigned master numbers PCS-79193-1 and PCS-79194-1 in late April or early May 1934. (A "C" in the prefix designates a 12-inch master, a "B" a 10-inch one.)
Duke made his fourth consecutive annual European tour from 26Jan until 1Mar65. During a great part of this tour, a BBC camera crew directed by Miss Yvonne Littlewood accompanied the band. The result was a two part documentary titled "Ellington in Europe". Each part is almost an hour long. See Klaus Stratemann p550.
I have only seen the first part of this documentary in which the band was filmed while travelling through Europe and some visitors were interviewed after the concerts.
The music in part 1 was specially recorded during a session with an audience on the evening of 16Feb65 in the studio of BBC-2.
A great part of this recording session can be seen in the documentary. At around the same time the BBC also recorded a television interview by Michael Dean. Five segments of this interview were interspersed in part 1 of the documentary.
The complete interview, ending with Duke playing Sophisticated Lady and Satin Doll, was telecast on 26Mar65, the day before part 1 of the documentary went on the air.
Earlier on the day of the recording session (16Feb), the BBC personnel rehearsed together with the band for the final shooting. We have the good fortune that the late Peter Lowe was present and able to record almost two complete rehearsal sessions. Peter Lowe made an audio copy for his friend Roger Stubberfield and Roger made a copy for DEMS. I enjoyed this tape tremendously. It gave me a lot of back-ground information although one unsolved question remains .
The first rehearsal session took at least two hours and was finished at 16:30 with a half-hour break for supper.
Peter Lowe arrived a little late. He missed a few selections. When he started the recording of the first rehearsals, the band was in the beginning of Igoo, part 2 of "Ad Lib on Nippon", which was followed by The Opener. During a long interval I could distinguish a trumpet-player (probably Ray Nance1) playing 'Round About Midnight. Then the band continued with Chelsea Bridge, which is very welcome, because the same title in the final session was in the documentary ruined by the overdub with Duke's third statement (about his collaboration with Billy).
After Chelsea Bridge it took again a long time before the band continued to rehearse, this time Mood Indigo. I wonder how many takes Luciano Massagli and Giovanni Volonté, will accept. I counted 14 takes, but I must admit that there were 6 with not more than 4 bars or even less. I heard twice Cootie Williams talking between the takes. He was present.
After a false start, Cat Anderson played a complete The Prowling Cat. This was followed by The Truth, which was remarkable because this selection was not included in the final programme. It was included though in part 2 of the documentary.
After another (incomplete) rehearsal of The Prowling Cat, The Truth was again rehearsed. This time it seemed that Cootie was leaving the band. I heard some arguments, but could not figure out what the matter was. This was confirmed by Peter Lowe, who reported many years ago to Roger ,that one of Duke's main soloists walked out. Roger Stubberfield believes it was Cootie. I agree.
Now came Passion Flower, followed by two "takes" of Jump for Joy; the second probably to let the camera crew rehearse again the shooting of Ray Nance's dance. The third take of Jump for Joy was only played by the piano- player, who continued without interruption with Bird of Paradise. Roger correctly identified this selection, which is remarkable. There is only one single recording to compare it with, from 20May64, when Ellington played it during his recital at the Columbia University.
Bird of Paradise went into an extremely short Band Call, again perfectly identified by Roger, but undoubtedly too short for inclusion in the New DESOR.
After a complete version of Jump for Joy and only the intro to Mood Indigo, we heard a man's voice say "half hour break, back at 5 o'clock". The recording continued nevertheless with Duke practising Nagoya, part 3 of "Ad Lib on Nippon".
After the break, it took a lot of time before the band started with what seems to have been a final rundown of the programme. In this long interval I heard Lawrence Brown practising When You're Smiling, followed by Duke rehearsing another part of "Ad Lib on Nippon": part 1, Fugi.
Now the last rehearsal started: Take the "A" Train; Midriff; Afro Bossa; Fugi, Igoo, Nagoya, Tokyo; The Opener; Chelsea Bridge; Mood Indigo; The Prowling Cat; Passion Flower; Jump for Joy and Take the "A" Train.
The first attempt at the closing Take the "A" Train ended in a breakdown. We heard Duke say: "will you please play the solo in the 2° chorus, Raymond?" However, when it was again rehearsed, Ray did not take the solo responsibility. Duke filled it up with his piano playing. It was also clear that the many repeats of the coda of the final Take the "A" Train that evening were not conceived on the spur of the moment. It was seriously rehearsed that afternoon. At the end of the second rehearsal session, we heard "all back 10 past 7, dressed!" Peter left his recorder running and he picked up Duke's request to replace Sam from the third to the second level. Duke could not hear Sam, and John Lamb was in his way. In the documentary were a few shots of these rehearsal sessions and indeed, John is exactly between Duke and Sam. However, in the shots of the final recording session that evening with an audience, Sam is still on the third level, next to the trumpets, but John on the second level, had taken a step in the direction of the trombone section. There was hardly any difference in height between the levels, but the distance between Duke and Sam was indeed much longer than usual during concerts, due to the artistically arranged podium.
The sequence of the selections in the final recording session was slightly different from the second rehearsal because in the final version The Opener preceded "Ad Lib on Nippon".
I saw in the documentary that in the final version Cootie was present during the whole session, but he did not play a single note in the closing Take the "A" Train. Ray did not play the solo, but he joined the other three trumpets at the very end.
The audio recording of the final closing Take the "A" Train was used as opening music of the documentary (over travel-images). It struck me long ago that the solo was missing in this opening selection, but I believed that it was omitted deliberately in order not to interfere with Duke's fifth and final statement at the end of the documentary.
Part 2 of the documentary was also recorded with an audience in the BBC studio, two days later, on 18Feb65. Victor Schonfield reported to Luciano Massagli that he saw this recording in London and that he noticed that Cootie Williams was not present. Luciano listened again to the audio recording and believed that Victor was right, because Herbie Jones played Cootie's parts except in Satin Doll, when Ray Nance took over. This brings us to the remaining question: we know now when Cootie was present and when not, but why did he leave during the first rehearsal session and stay away during the second rehearsal session, and why was he not present at the recording session for the second part of the documentary?
The sound of all the recordings I have of both parts of the documentary is rather poor, but I am happy to say that the sound of Peter Lowe's recordings is just fine. This "new find" is a real treasure.
1. The trumpet-player, playing 'Round About Midnight is Cootie Williams. Roger Stubberfield**