| THE INTERNATIONAL|
DUKE ELLINGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
04/2 August-November 2004
FOUNDER: BENNY AASLAND
Voort 18b, 2328 Meerle, Belgium
Telephone: +32 3 315 75 83
Drummer Elvin Jones died on 18May04 in NYC at the age of 76 years. He became famous as the drummer of John Coltrane. That's why he recorded with Ellington on the Impulse album, recorded 26Sep62 where he played in four of the seven selections. He also appeared in concerts with Ellington in Frankfurt (28Jan66), Paris (29Jan66) and Milano (30Jan66). Klaus Stratemann described what happened on p533. Louie Bellson could not join the band for the tour to Europe. Duke hired Skeets Marsh but became unhappy with his choice and sent for Elvin Jones. When Elvin discovered that he had to share the drums with Skeets Marsh he left Ellington and worked in Europe for a short while before returning to the U.S.
Today [24May04] I got word that Rick Henderson died a couple of days ago. He was discovered dead in his home. A reporter from the Washington Post has asked me a lot of details about Rick. I will send you a copy of what they publish tomorrow. I called him about three weeks before his death and he seemed just fine then. We talked about the big changes we've seen in the music we like. I was shocked when I got the word on Rick. He was a fine guy to know.
From the Washington Post of 26May04 the first part of Rick's obituary:
"Rick Henderson, 76, an alto saxophonist who played in Duke Ellington's orchestra and led the house band of the Howard Theatre, a landmark on the black musical circuit, died 21May at his home in Washington. He had arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Mr Henderson, a D.C. native, was a superior musician who had the misfortune to rise on the big band scene as it was declining. After his work with Ellington in the early 1950s and an impressive but gruelling stint at the Howard Theatre that lasted until 1964, he spent many decades as a composer and arranger for school and military orchestras as well as bands led by Ellington, Count Basie, Illinois Jacquet and Billy Taylor.
Working as an arranger did not bring much public attention, which may have been fine for Mr Henderson, often described as a person who liked his privacy. As a quiet practitioner of his trade, he earned the respect of those who used his charts, including pianist and educator Taylor, who felt that Mr Henderson captured Ellington's sound 'brilliantly'."
When Jack Towers introduced me on 5Jun86 to Rick Henderson, I was surprised to see a man of my own age. I figured that he would have been much older as having been Duke's band-member in the 1950s. As many of us know, Rick occupied the Hodges chair during the Capitol years from 1Mar53 until mid Jun55 when Johnny returned to the band and Duke resumed his recording activities for Columbia (Jan56). Rick not only soloed in many concerts in his modern "bop" idiom; he also contributed to the band-book with many compositions and arrangements. Rick composed Frivolous Banner (better known as Frivolous Banta); Commercial Time and Carney. He arranged for Duke All the Things You Are; Teach Me Tonight; Look What I've Got for You and The Happy One.
He was back in the band during the recording sessions for "A Drum Is a Woman" in Sep and Oct56 and he appeared with Ellington in the Columbia studio on 9Sep57 to re-record his own composition Commercial Time. The same composition was performed at Mather Air Force Base on 5Mar58 and later released on the Private Collection Volume 6 as Californio Mello.
Rick made me a cassette with a great number of his own compositions. Some of these were also performed by the Ellington band during the stockpile session of 5May71: Public Address (on the tape box titled Dreaming by the Fire), Pat Your Feet (on the tape box Rick's Blues) and Pretty Girl (which has nothing to do with Star-Crossed Lovers). By the way, I believe that the subtitle of Star-Crossed Lovers is Pretty Little Girl. Listen to the recording of 8Sep55 by the Johnny Hodges group on Verve 2304.446.
Listening to Rick's tape makes me agree with Taylor that Rick "brilliantly" captured Ellington's sound. Maybe this is not Billy Taylor but the critic J.R.Taylor who reviewed an Ellington concert by Rick Henderson's band in the Washington Star of 19Aug80 saying: "Henderson seems to interpret Ellington - understandably enough - from the angle of the 1950s, his own period with the band and the period in which Ellington rose to meet the challenge of Count Basie's reconstructed orchestral powerhouse. Thus the Henderson orchestra's ensembles are relaxed but polished, powerful but restrained, and often somewhat in the vigorous Basie manner."
I am most grateful to Jack Towers for introducing me to Rick Henderson and I will treasure his cassettes and his letters as well as my video recordings from his basement-studio. I was fortunate enough to meet him several times when I was in the Washington area. He was a great friend and a marvellous musician!
John R. T. Davies
1927 - 2004
25May04. I'm sure you'll be saddened to know that the great remastering engineer, John R.T. Davies, died this morning. Though not particularly known for being a Duke follower, he contributed to many reissues - not only the ones where he was in charge of remastering, but by loaning 78rpm takes of which he often had mint copies.
I think that John R.T. Davies was to his field what Mark Tucker was to ours. When people like that go, no one can take their place. I just hope that John R.T. knew how many people were indebted to him for the way he made the music jump right out of those grooves into their ears. He was a great artist.
John R. T. Davies had two successful careers, first as an outstanding musician with the top traditional bands in England and, secondly, as one of the foremost restoration specialists with old and rare recordings.
He was called upon to play and arrange for The Temperance Seven in the late 1950’s. His musical career in traditional jazz was actually launched when he played with the Crane River Jazz Band.
Among his many close musician friends were such well known British musicians as Chris Barber, Steve Lane, Acker Bilk, Sandy Brown, Ken Colyer and Mick Mulligan.
As a skilled trombonist, saxophonist and piano player he travelled world wide showcasing his talent throughout Europe and then trips to Australia, the United States, and Canada, playing at his own granddaughter’s wedding a few weeks before his death.
His great record collection of vintage material from the 1920s and beyond became a clear factor in his desire to restore and master the material. The horse stables at his home in Surrey had been converted into a storage facility for his fabulous collection as well as the rooms where he would utilize his outstanding equipment for his restoration and mastering wizardry. And while he pursued his career in this work he never abandoned his playing. He had his own private labels in the early 1960’s and then he became the chief restoration expert for such labels as Hep, Storyville, Fountain, Retrieval and Jazz Greats. In the United States DRG and Columbia/Legacy were the beneficiaries of his efforts. His work on a specific LP or CD would guarantee the best possible transfer available anywhere.
A FEW FAREWELLS FROM CLOSE FRIENDS
Jack Towers :
John R. T. Davies had the best command of the English language of anybody I’ve ever met. While his education had been limited to completing High School he spent the rest of his life, self-taught, and becoming a master of electronics, physics, and, of course, music. His greatest accomplishment was getting the most from old 78rpm records. When the discs were transferred to reel-to-reel tape with many clicks and pops, John utilized a device he invented where you could pull the recorded tape over a playback tape head and then isolate the click and etch it off the oxide of the tape itself. John showed me how. I then made a copy of the unit and it was a great help to me in preparing the masters of the LP’s and CD’s I prepared from disc sources.
He tackled many of the toughest problems in getting the most from old discs. His results are amazing. Record collectors the world over can appreciate that they are getting the best when they see the name John R. T. Davies as the engineer. I will truly miss my good friend.
Barbara Valburn :
When I was asked to say a few words about our very dear friend John R. T. Davies I said "that’s got to be the simplest of tasks" because indeed he left so many beautiful memories. Sharing time with John was always a great treat. How he managed to amass such vast and complete knowledge in every imaginable subject area never ceased to amaze us. And, his delivery when he shared information, told an anecdote, or threw a one liner always tickled and delighted us. To say that he was brilliant, witty, kind, caring, and truly a joy to be with is an understatement. So, as we bid good-bye to our dear friend it is with only one regret – that geography kept us from spending more time together.
Jerry Valburn – Some Memories
Our paths first crossed in the 1950’s when John made me acetates of Ellington items I didn’t have at that time. In the 1960’s on one of his many visits here we finally met and over the years he stayed with us.
In 1973, while in London, Dick Sudhalter picked me up for a trip to "Ristic’s" home. Barbara and I later stayed with him. It was not unusual to see Robert Parker, with his digital equipment, transferring from John’s mint 78’s on John’s dining room table.
John was very proud of his Saab racing car and he drove us to the Ellington conference at Oldham in 1988 . On our trips to Jack he greatly admired the countryside of Maryland and expressed a strong desire to settle on a farm there someday.
If I have one regret it was in 1996. I didn’t know that John had been playing a gig in Toronto. He remained at the hotel holding the Ellington conference until the last possible moment before his plane trip back to the UK. We had had a very leisurely lunch with Willie Timner and his wife, and we arrived at the hotel after John’s departure. I missed him then and I miss him now. There are tears in my eyes as I write this. Farewell dear friend.
Seated in front are Ted Shell, John R.T. Davies, and Jerry Valburn. That's Jack Towers standing at the top.
Ray Charles, who became a famous musician in a somewhat other style than Ellington, died on 10Jun04. He did not only play on 23Feb70 with the Ellington band on a "Salute to Ellington" programme at Madison Square Garden, where he and Louis Armstrong were among the performing guests; but he also played on the video taped show "Duke Ellington, We Love You Madly" on 10 or 11Jan73 at the New Schubert Theatre in Los Angeles. This made him almost an Ellingtonian.
This message was published this morning (30Mar04) in De Volkskrant, a Dutch daily newspaper. A quick translation: "Musicologist and artistic leader of the Dutch Jazz Orchestra, Walter van de Leur, received the Irving Lowens Book Award from the Society for American Music. He was awarded the prize for his book Something To Live For: The music of Billy Strayhorn. Strayhorn was, amongst other things, composer/arranger for Duke Ellington. It is the first time the Irving Lowens Book Award has been given to a non-American. Before this, Van de Leur’s book won another prize, awarded by the American Association of Recorded Sound Collections."
Jack Towers was chosen by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections [ARSC] for its new Award for Distinguished Service to Historic Recordings. Criteria for this single honor includes "contributions of outstanding significance to the field of historic works or discographical research". Source "Ellingtonia" Newsletter of The Duke Ellington Society, Washington Chapter.
Congratulations and thank you Jack, from South Africa.
Norbert is our favourite supplier of Jazz literature, videos and DVDs. He sends out every few months an impressive catalogue and he has sent us recently the following announcement:
"My web-site has finally moved to a new home at <http://www.jazz-book.com>
It is online in an updated and newly designed version."
We hope that many of you will enjoy paying him a visit.
In DEMS 03/2-3/2 Maurice Rolfe reported the death of his long time friend and fellow DEMS member John Lawrence. We received through e-mail the following message from John's heir, his niece Helen Rowe.
My Uncle, John Lawrence, was a huge fan and collector of Duke Ellington's music. I have inherited from him a large collection of jazz recordings and would appreciate some advice on who I could contact re their value/libraries/museums which would be interested.
I have so far logged the LP records (see attached file with 374 Duke Ellington records and 840 other records, Duke Ellington's are listed on the first sheet) but also have a vast number of CDs which are yet to be logged.
The collection is currently in London. Any advice you could give would be very appreciated.
If anybody is interested in this almost complete Ellington collection or has a suggestion what to do with it, please let us know. We have seen the listing, it includes among other things all the original vinyl releases of the Treasury series. Include in the heading of your e-mail message any indication that this is an Ellington matter. If we do not know your name, we might throw your message away together with the enormous amount of spam we receive daily now that our e-mail address is on the depanorama web-site. That's why we do not publish Helen's e-mail address here.
An old member of the Duke Ellington Society of Sweden wants to sell a great number of books about Jazz. If you are interested, we can forward to you a list.
Ellington Conference 2004 in Stockholm 12-16May
The unofficial opening of the conference took place on Wednesday the 12th with a Get-together party at the old Swedish Jazz Palace NALEN. Our initial reservations about not staying at the same place for lodging, meals and presentations quickly evaporated when we saw the marvellous main hall in which we were going to enjoy the presentations and concerts during the following days.
Ulf Söderholm gave a lecture about the story of this remarkable building. It has been totally restored after a long history of being used for several strange purposes, like bicycling and boxing. But most of the time it has been used for dancing and listening to Swedish and foreign jazz musicians.
During the party Åke Johansson played the piano while we were treated with a luxurious buffet. In situations like this, the piano-player does not get the attention he deserves. I listened to the recordings of his recital later and it was indeed impressive. He did play several unusual numbers like Star-Crossed Lovers and Blood Count..
The official opening took place the next morning, when Charles Stewart, president of the Southern California Chapter passed on the Eddie Lambert gavel to Göran Wallén, chairman of the Duke Ellington Society of Sweden and also chairman of the organising committee.
The daytime programs were hosted by Professor Åke Edfelt, chairman of the Swedish Jazz History Group and well known to those of us who were present in 1994, and by Jens Lindgren, curator of the Swedish Jazz Archive, which contains the private collections of Benny Aasland and Alice Babs. Jens showed himself to be a very accomplished trombone-player when he played with his "Kustbandet" orchestra during the dinner-party on Saturday evening, which concluded the conference. But let's get back to the first day:
The first speaker was Jan Bruér, who is working on a re-issue project of Swedish jazz recordings. He played for us several of the recordings, which were selected for this project. There were two recordings with Alice Babs, who was (happily, and for the entire conference) among the participants in the audience; from 1951 I'm Checking Out–Goom Bye and from 1959 with the Arne Domnérus big band I Got It Bad. Another noteworthy recording from the 50s was Sophisticated Lady by a group with Rolf Ericson, Åke Person and Arne Domnérus and from the mid-60s Satin Doll by a group of three male and three female singers, called "Gals and Pals".
The next presentation was highly interesting for record collectors. The presenter was Frank Büchmann Møller. He works at the library of the University of Odense. After Arnvid Meyer, the founder of the Danish Jazz Center, retired in 1997, the private collections of Timme Rosenkrantz and Ben Webster (among other things) were moved from Copenhagen to Odense. Frank has finished cataloguing the Webster collection. He found 2 acetates from 1941, privately made by Ben in California with Ray Nance and probably Fred Guy and Sonny Greer. There are seven selections, of which three are undoubtedly with Jimmie Blanton. Ben played piano, clarinet and tenor. There is a five minute version of Body and Soul with a vocal part, probably by Sonny. Frank played for us the three selections with Jimmie: I Never Knew; The Sheik of Araby (with Ben on clarinet) and I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me. Frank doesn't know why Jimmie is not heard on the other four selections. Maybe he was already too ill. This could mean that the three recordings are among the last which Jimmie ever made. Next year all seven selections will be issued by Anthony Barnet [I hope I have the name right] in England as part of a series dedicated to Jazz Violinists.
Claire Gordon presented in her talk her latest book "My Unforgettable Jazz Friends" (see 04/2-19). She told us how Steven Lasker pushed her to finish Rex Stewart's biography and how we owe a debt of gratitude to David Hajdu for encouraging her to write and publish her own memoirs.
Her book has two main threads, both starting with a D. They are, Dancing and Discrimination. When she was a young girl, there were many dance halls in the Los Angeles area and all over the country. They provided work for thousands of musicians. The black musicians among them had a hard time however. She told the story of Duke's Pullman car although she never saw it. She wondered how Ellington bought his clothes since she shared the experience with Maxine Sullivan of being refused service in a Fifth Avenue department store when she was trying on a new dress. Duke had his costumes and shoes specially made and she was happy that he found by doing this a way to overcome similar embarrassment.
When Ellington was sailing home after his 1939 visit to Europe, he met her parents on the Ile de France and her mother told Duke how much Claire enjoyed his music and how determined she collected his records. Ellington told her mother that Claire and her brother would be welcome to visit him at his recording sessions in Los Angeles. When she worked a couple of years later in New York and lost her job (because she made a mistake in returning change money) she met Duke who knew her well by now and gave her a job as his secretary to handle his fan-mail. Duke arranged that Juan Tizol accompanied her occasionally because it could happen that a US Army southerner in New York might get the idea that he had to defend a white woman if she was spoken to by a black man.
This year each presenter received from the committee an original silhouette drawing, portraying Ellington. After Åke Edfeldt gave Claire her present, he asked Helena Ashby to step forward. She received a drawing of Rex Stewart by the same artist. Helena introduced herself as the oldest daughter of Rex and she expressed her joy at being in our midst. Now everybody knew her and she had to pose patiently in order to have her picture taken together with many of the participants during the remaining days of the conference.
Bjarne Busk started his presentations with a few words dedicated to the late Karl Emil Knudsen.who founded the company Storyville in 1952 and who died on 5Sep03. (See DEMS 03/3-2). He also mentioned the book by Klaus Stratemann which was published by Karl Emil's publishing company Jazz Media. The book will not be reprinted and only a few copies are left. The book was on sale at the booth of Storyville where we met the charming Mona Granager, the driving force behind Storyville, and its production manager, Anders Stefansen, who both were committed to continuing the activities of Storyville. Storyville has already released quite a bit of the material from the Danish Radio and the rate at which further new releases will appear depends on us, the market. The more we buy, the more will be made available. There is still an awful lot of unreleased material. When Ted O'Reilly, the famous Toronto jazz expert who was in the audience, once asked Duke if he had many unissued compositions, Duke explained that he had indeed too much for the market to absorb. Bjarne played this segment of this 17Mar70 interview. Ted spoke during question-time about his problem with his clip-on microphone on that occasion, since Duke, who had just taken a shower, was wearing nothing apart from a towel on his lap
Bjarne played some of the selections on the latest Storyville release "The Jaywalker" (see DEMS 04/2—39). He also played for us the Ellington composition PEKE and the Rick Henderson composition Rick's Blues (a.k.a. Pat Your Feet), both recorded in 1971, as examples of what is still to come on the Storyville label. Bjarne conveyed his thoughts about releasing material from Duke's Stockpile. There were several angles to take into account. The ethical question: would Ellington have agreed with the release? The viewpoint of collectors and researchers, who like to see everything made available; and the commercial angle: a certain amount of sold records is required.
Bjarne ended his talk with a segment of his interview with Juan Amalbert, the percussionist who played in the show "My People". Juan explained in that interview that his scores were completely written by Ellington. Duke appreciated his musicianship highly and once he inspired Duke to dance in front of the band. By the way, there are also plans to release some of the alternate studio recordings for the album "My People". Bjarne said that in all there is at least enough material for 10 high quality CDs.
Annie Kuebler gave an interesting talk about the relationship between Ellington and James P. Johnson. The Institute of Jazz Studies recently received a James P. collection. [There must also be a JPJ collection at Fisk University.] Annie played several piano pieces like a part of New World A-Comin' (by Ellington at Wollman Auditorium at Columbia University on 20May64); Carolina Shout by James P. (from his piano-roll from 1921); Soda Fountain Rag (by Ellington from 8May37 under the title Swing Session) and Carolina Shout (by Ellington as part of the first concert of 30Jan65 in Paris). She also played a part of the Harlem Symphony composed by James P. and performed by a large orchestra. She mentioned the similarities between Ellington and James P.: they both had pride in their race, both wanted to be considered serious musicians, they both ended up in Harlem and they shared Will Marion Cook as their teacher. Some of her statements were illustrated by segments from Ellington interviews with Carter Harman and probably Stanley Dance. Annie mentioned a great number of names of people who influenced Ellington or were influenced by Ellington. One of James P.'s later works was the opera "Dreamy Kid" based on a libretto by Eugene O'Neill. Annie concluded her talk with a complimentary word for the technicians who took care of the sound system and the overhead projector. They did indeed a splendid job. She will hang her present, the silhouette of Ellington, in the Institute of Jazz Studies.
Scott Schwartz told us that he has "deserted" Ellington and gone from one great to another. He now takes care of the John Philip Sousa collection at the University of Illinois. If we think that the Smithsonian Collection only contains documents of music, we are wrong. It also contains documents of money. In the early years Ellington's business transactions were done with cash. Al Celley, who became band-manager in 1943 after Jack Boyd, had to carry a gun and even Duke, who also carried a lot of money in his pocket, had a small weapon. In later years Ellington's business affairs went corporate and he had to keep accounts of his finances for the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Scott has studied the financial records in the Smithsonian Collection, specifically those of the years 1961, 62 and 63 and he found that Ellington had quite some problems with his personal and corporate tax returns in 1964. Scott gave us many details, some of them hilarious. When the band stayed in a hotel, the band manager had to take care of the bills of the musicians who forgot to pay themselves. That's why Paul Gonsalves was constantly in debt to Ellington and why it happened that when other band members were spending money in the hotel, they charged their expenditure to Paul's bill.
That evening we visited the Engelbrektskyrkan for a concert, titled "Ring Dem Bells" by the Kirk Quintet directed by Erik Dahberg in collaboration with the Sofia Church Choir. It was very interesting to hear The Mooche performed by a choir. The courageous and young Johanna Grüssner performed very successfully some songs from the Ellington/Alice Babs songbook.
The second group on this concert was "Freedom The Vision", a trio: Håkan Lewin (as), Johannes Landgren (pipe organ) and Robert Ekström (Hammond organ). Håkan and Johannes have made a nice CD, dedicated to the music of Ellington, titled "In My Solitude" for which Patricia Willard wrote the liner-notes. It was issued by Argument Förlag AB in 1999.
Sometimes the acoustics in the church were somewhat overpowered by two organs and a saxophone. The CD sounds actually much better.
One of my greatest personal surprises was meeting again Birgit Åslund after many years. She complimented me on the DEMS Bulletins. I have had the pleasure of receiving many compliments, in writing and more specifically in person from several DEMS members I met at the conference. To be honest, none of these compliments made me more proud than those from dear Birgit Åslund.
The second day started with Brian Priestley who spoke about Charles Mingus as a member of the "Ellington School". Brian was happy to be invited to speak about two of his favourite musicians. When Duke was asked at a press conference in Argentina what he made of Charles Mingus' statement that he [Charles] belonged to the "Ellington School", his answer was: "That's what he says." [Stanley Dance, The World of Duke Ellington p267]. Duke's answer was not only the title of Brian's talk, but also the title of one of the tracks on his latest CD "Who Knows?" (see DEMS 04/2-46).
Mingus was born on 22Apr22 and grew up in the Watts area of Los Angeles. Mingus was befriended by several of the Ellingtonians, especially Britt Woodman, who took him to an Ellington concert in the thirties and who had to save him from falling from the balcony when he became so excited about Ellington's music. Britt said once that Mingus after having listened to his Ellington records, could play the piano intro's by Duke by ear. He had no formal training on the piano.
Around the age of 16 Mingus started to take informal lessons from Red Callender who soon realised what potential Charles had. He sent him to his own teacher, a classical bass player [Herman Reinschagen, who had played with the New York Symphony Orchestra].
Charles also met Jimmie Blanton. He once saw Jimmie playing with Slam Stewart, swapping licks [probably with Claire Gordon in the audience, who describes this happening in her book on page 17].
In an interview, Mingus said that he was very impressed to notice that Jimmie Blanton could play with the bow classical pieces which he knew by heart.
Brian played for us the first part of the 13Nov59 recording by Mingus of Mood Indigo. We heard John Handy (as), Jimmy Knepper (tb) and Roland Hanna (p).
Mingus was very much influenced by European classical music and by Ellington and Strayhorn. Like Ellington, he used to write for the individual musicians. He also like Ellington wrote many tributes to other musicians, many of them to Ellington: Duke's Choice (Oct57); Open Letter to Duke (12May59) and after Duke died Alive and Well in Duke-land and Duke Ellington's Sound of Love for which Mingus also wrote lyrics, expressing his admiration for Ellington.
To illustrate Duke's and Billy's influence Brian played for us several recordings like the 6May46 ballad Baby, Take a Chance with Me, with vocal by Claude Trenier and Britt Woodman at the end of the coda playing the same note as in Sonnet to Hank Cinq. He played the 1964 Amsterdam recording of Meditations on Integration with the very recognisable Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet and with the Ellingtonian Johnny Coles in the band; and the 4Feb59 very original Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.
Brian mentioned the unsuccessful stay of Mingus in the Ellington band in Feb53 and the very successful Feb62 album "Money Jungle" a title which seems to be attributable to Mingus. Brian read Duke's statement about their collaboration on Fleurette Africaine (MIMM p243), where Duke stated that there was only one take made. [This is contradicted by Michael Cuscuna in DEMS 02/3-16/4].
Brian concluded his presentation with an excerpt from The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady from 1963 in which Jaki Byard played the role of Ellington and Charlie Mariano personified Johnny Hodges. In the same band were Rolf Ericson and Quentin Jackson.
John Edward Hasse started his talk with a plug for the Jazz Appreciation Month organised by the Smithsonian Institution. It is held each year in April, because then, the schools have not yet closed for the holiday season. This year's poster carried the image of Artie Shaw, who at age 93 when asked for the difference between himself and Benny Goodman, answered: "I'm alive."
John, who earlier [in Chicago on 9May98] spoke of "The Ellington Canon", seems still to be interested in Ellington statistics because he now choose to speak of "Ellington, Strayhorn and the Standard Repertory of Jazz."
Selections can be made based on six different criteria:
1. Is it a masterpiece, which means it has great excellence? Like Ko-Ko.
2. Is it a historical milestone, significant in the course of musical history? Like Black, Brown and Beige.
3. Is it a biographical milestone, significant in a musicians career? Like Choo Choo.
4. What pieces are the most typical of their type or genre?
5. Is it a hit? That means most often bought or heard at a specific time. Like Satin Doll.
6. Is it a standard? That means most often known and performed by professional musicians over a longer period of time. Like St. Louis Blues, Stardust, Autumn Leaves, Summertime, Round Midnight, which are generally regarded as jazz-standards.
On this point we were asked to write down 5 or 10 compositions by Ellington or Strayhorn or members of the band, written during their stay in the band, which we considered standards and to indicate which one in the list was number one.
After the sheets were collected, John continued his talk with the seven approaches to determine what the standards are.
1. What tunes earned the most money for their copyright holders? Answer: Take the "A" Train; It Don't Mean a Thing; In a Sentimental Mood. Or which one brought the most money for printed music sales? Answer: Satin Doll.
2. Which one is mentioned most in lists compiled by experts: Satin Doll.
3. Which tunes appear most often in songbooks? They are merely aimed at amateurs and they do not necessarily reflect what the professionals are playing. After all the professionals define the community of jazz standards.
4. Which recording has been most often transcribed? Andrew Homzy did a survey in 1992 and he found: I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart; Solitude; Take the "A" Train. If you ask why people transcribed the same piece, the answer is: they didn't know that another one had done it. [This was Don Miller's major concern and the subject of the first Ellington Conferences in the days prior to the arrival of Duke's manuscripts at the Smithsonian Institution.]
5. Which tunes appear most in professional musicians fakebooks? A fakebook contains only the melody line. After music publishers found out that there were many illegal fakebooks, they started in the 60s to publish legal fakebooks. There is a fakebook index on the web. Most of these fakebooks mention mostly I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart and Satin Doll.
6. What tunes are most frequently recorded or released. It is not always the musician who makes the choice, but often the record company. This means that this is not an exact way to establish whether we have a standard. One can find what tunes are most widely available on discs today: Prelude to a Kiss is available (in the US) on 588 CDs, recorded by Ellington and others and not necessarily all different. The same recording can be released on several CDs. Satin Doll on this list is only number 9. Number 1 is Caravan, which appears on more than 1000 CDs. Number 2 is Take the "A" Train.
7. What tunes have been most widely recorded throughout the history of jazz? John used Tom Lord's discography, not because it is the most reliable, but because it is the only one on CD-ROM. John showed us the list he compiled of the 50 most recorded pieces from which I only quote the top eleven: Take the "A" Train (1071); Caravan (929); Sophisticated Lady (775); Mood Indigo (773); Satin Doll (732); Perdido (669); In a Sentimental Mood (626); Don't Get Around Much Anymore (563); I Got It Bad (554); It Don't Mean a Thing (533); Solitude (515). In the case of Take the "A" Train 46% of recorded versions were by Ellington and 54% by others. For the 50 most recorded tunes, the peak years of composition were from '38 to '46. The peak year of all was 1941 with 9 tunes composed that year in the top 50. 1949 had only 5 and there were none at all after 1957.
During question-time, Art Zimmermann asked if John in using Tom Lord's discography had filtered out the unissued recordings. John answered that he did not include alternate takes in the same session and that he did not include unissued recordings, but he did not sound very convincing when he said: "I think this is the number of issued recordings."
Brian Priestley argued that presumably a lot of the versions of Take the "A" Train are brief theme performances at the start of a concert or a broadcast. He suggested that if you would compare the roughly 50% division of recordings of Take the "A" Train by Ellington and by others, with the situation with Caravan, you would find a much higher percentage by others in the case of Caravan.
Ken Steiner asked why there was so much emphasis here on the standards, while there was a so much larger body of works to be explored. John replied that his study did not take away any of the importance of other works, but that since nobody had done it before, he thought it would be interesting to do a research for standards.
Bjarne Busk remarked that by using Jazz discographies, one would not come across the many recordings of Ellington tunes outside the field of jazz.
Jan Bruér asked whether there were figures of Ellington's best selling records on 78's and LPs? John asked for help from Steven Lasker and George Avakian. Steven said that there are no accurate figures about 78's and George said that there was no doubt that "Ellington at Newport" was the best selling LP, with sales of over a million copies. He also explained that the sales-figures from Columbia were much bigger than the public or the industry knew, because Billboard and other publications had no access to the figures of sold records in the record clubs. They only surveyed sales through record stores. In the case of the best selling records many more copies were sold through record clubs than in the stores during the first few months after release.
The next presenter was Eric Sahlein. He replaced Andrew Homzy, who was unable to come to the conference to talk about the "Togo Brava Suite". Eric was presented to Ellington around 1971 by Karen Read, the daughter of Walter and June Read. Duke was Karen's godfather. June Read promoted many young artistes from Philadelphia, among others Tony Watkins and Devonne Gardner. (See MIMM p289). Eric was asked to do some arranging for the group of singers around Roscoe Gill for stage performances of songs like Caravan, Prelude to a Kiss and Jump for Joy. In the conference programme notes it was claimed that he arranged secular music for the Sacred Concerts. However he did not mention any of the titles from any of the Sacred Concerts and of the three titles he mentioned, no recordings are known to me with Devonne Gardner.
Eric carries now the surname of his own father, but in those years his name was Kuhn, the name of the family who adopted him. He mentioned that the original title of In a Sentimental Mood was In the Middle of a Kiss. Steven Lasker who told us that there is a subtitle, Paradise, asked where Eric found his subtitle. Eric answered that Mrs Read had told him. There is no trace of Eric under either of his surnames in the literature or in my files, which doesn't mean that he didn't tell us the truth. He said that he never promoted himself and that he had not previously produced a CD. There was however no doubt about his piano-playing. He played for us In a Sentimental Mood and it was gorgeous. He promised me to keep me informed if he would have made a CD with Ellington tunes.
Lars Weston, editor of "Orkester Journalen", the oldest jazz magazine (1933) in the world, was the next speaker. His topic was Rolf Ericson. Lars decided to speak English with a Swedish accent, to make it more authentic.
The first video shown was the one from 20Feb64 with Perdido. Lars mentioned that shortly after Rolf joined the Ellington band (in May63) there was a tour through Sweden which lasted for one month. They played in Stockholm at Grona Lund and the tour ended in Mjølby (¤300 kilometers South of Stockholm). [This is not strictly correct. The Swedish tour ended two days later on 25Jun63 in Ljusdal.]
Rolf was influenced by Louis Armstrong. He was eleven years old when his uncle took him to one of Louis' concerts in Stockholm [at the end of Oct33]. This made such an impression that Rolf decided that he wanted to become a trumpet player. He played in his school orchestra with Arne Domnérus, who was two years younger and who carried Rolf's bags. [Rolf also played in the amateur band of Benny Aasland.]
Together with Arne, he was selected for a new band, founded in 1943. Lars played a recording of this band. After the war, these young musicians dreamed of going to America, but the problem was the language. People hardly spoke any English. Not until 1950 was English taught at elementary schools. Rolf played in 1946 and 1947 in another band which performed in NALEN from 1935 until 1948. Lars played a short clip of this band. Rolf's language problem was "solved" by the visit to Sweden in 1947 of the piano player Bob Laine, a fellow-countryman who had emigrated to the USA in 1928 and who had played there with many American musicians. He played in NALEN in the small room, which became known as "Harlem" in 1947.
After Bob's visit, Rolf accompanied him and Bob's wife to California in 1947. Rolf started as a dishwasher in Palm Springs but when he had earned enough money he went to Los Angeles and started to play with many American bands. He revisited Sweden in Sep50. He was treated as a star at NALEN. There was a new band formed with Arne and Rolf. Lars showed us a clip from Dec51.
Rolf returned to the US in 1952 and stayed there for almost 15 years. He played with many bands. He was featured as a soloist in the Stan Kenton orchestra in 1959/60. When he returned to Sweden he played with many younger musicians. We saw a 1962 clip with Rolf and Nils Lindberg. When he started his own band in Sweden, he was not very successful, because he was not much of a businessman. But Rolf was loved by everybody who knew him. He also worked in Berlin and Köln. He played in 1981 in the "Sophisticated Ladies" Show on Broadway.
The last clip we saw was from 1993 or 1994 when he was going to play for an early morning television show. There was nobody to accompany him, and he had to play alone. He performed Harry Edison's Centerpiece, which was shown by Lars. It was very moving.
The only person who has attended all the Ellington conferences, Patricia Willard, spoke about "Louie Bellson, Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington - Their reciprocal impact." She is working on Louie's biography and she can be considered the greatest expert about Louie Bellson. It has not been established whether Duke had heard Louie Bellson other than on records when he met him for the first time. When Juan Tizol suggested to Duke that he should bring Louie with him when he and Willie Smith were leaving Harry James' orchestra for the Ellington band, Duke was delighted. He knew of Louie's capabilities and his double bass drum. The James orchestra were not playing much more than once a week at the time and when they told Harry that they were going to leave him, he said: "Take me with you!"
Louie was not only a drummer but also a composer and arranger, eager to hear his music performed. Billy became Louie's roommate on the road and Louie asked him about the way Billy and Duke wrote their music. He was especially intrigued by the voicings of Caravan. Billy said: "Sorry, that's something we don't tell.
Duke told Louie: "Don't try to be Sonny Greer. Play like Louie Bellson." Louie showed Duke and Billy his compositions, The Hawk Talks, a piece written for but never played by Harry James (Harry's nickname was Hawk) and Skin Deep, written by Louie when he was in the Army Band. After several months on the road, between sets Duke played Caravan on the piano for Louie and explained him the way he wrote it. Billy must have told Duke of Louie's interest.
Patricia played for us the recording of The Hawk Talks from 14Mar52. By this time Louie had earned the privilege of studying Strayhorn's sketches and Ellington-Strayhorn collaborations. Louie recalled: "Even though I was in the same room with them when they worked on a project, listening later I couldn't tell for instance where Duke started and Billy picked up."
On 19Nov52, Louie married Pearl Bailey in London and the new Mrs. Bellson soon won the battle for Louie. She didn't want to be separated from her new husband by Duke's demanding itinerary and she wanted Louie to be her musical director. [Louie left the band on 26Feb53.] Louie came back to Ellington frequently when Duke asked him for special projects. An example of this is the first Concert of Sacred Music on 16Sep65 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The almost 10 minutes drum solo by Louie on David Danced Before the Lord had to be edited for the one hour television documentary by Ralph Gleason, but the Wally Heider recording is complete on the British CD-release Status DSTS 1015. Patricia played for us Light from "Black, Brown and Beige" from this 16Sep65 concert.
She also showed us two selections from the video recording made at Basin Street West on 25Aug65, titled Blue Bird of Delhi and The Opener. The greatest surprise of her presentation however came at the end of her talk. It was the showing of the video recording made by Norman Granz of the Big Four, Duke Ellington, Joe Pass, Ray Brown and Louie Bellson, on 8Jan73. They played Cotton Tail twice, which means that we have an alternate take (the second take is the one which was released). It seems to me that the music runs too fast on the CD. [The take released on Pablo was also used for a Norman Granz (video) documentary in 1996. I heard (and saw) in Stockholm the alternate take for the first time. In his documentary Norman explained that he intended to make video tapes of all the Pablo sessions, but it was too complicated and he only made this one with Duke. Aren't we lucky?]
Patricia told us many more stories based on her enormous knowledge of her subject. I am reluctant to give you more quotes from her talk. Everything will certainly be included in her book, which we are eagerly waiting for. I agree with Jens Lindgren who said: "Thank you Patricia. That was delicious!"
The last presentation on the second day was a conversation between Alice Babs and Nils Lindberg. At the last moment Ken Steiner was asked to chair this small panel. He announced that he was going to use his American accent.
Alice reminisced about the first time she saw Duke in 1939 in Stockholm and about her being in the group that went to Duke to congratulate him on his 40th birthday. She remembered much more clearly her experiences in 1963 when she was invited to do a TV programme with Ellington [7Feb63].
Nils remembered how overwhelmed he was by seeing Ellington and the band for the first time. He could not have dreamed that Ellington would ever play his music or that he would ever play the piano in the band. Alice said that she did dream about it. In 1941 in an interview when she was asked for her biggest wish she said: "To sing with Duke Ellington." Alice spoke of the Newport Jazz Festival at Lincoln Center when she brought Nils Lindberg's arrangement of the Swedish folksong Far Away Star to Ellington who used most of it for the recording session of the album with the same name [3Jul73]. When Alice was in Ottawa to sing at the concert of the Ellington Conference [18May90], Andrew Homzy showed her an arrangement by Billy Strayhorn which was a bit different from what she knew. This was Billy's original, not yet edited by Duke. Duke also edited a bit Nils' arrangement of Far Away Star.
Alice spoke of the way Duke conducted her from behind the piano when she made the album "Serenade to Sweden" in Paris [28Feb/1Mar63]. Arrangements were made for the four French horns, but there was no music for her. "You sing whatever you feel like." She felt so relaxed that she reached the high-E, which she had never done before.
Nils replaced occasionally Ellington on the piano on the 1973 tour. Duke did not give him any instruction.
Duke made once [2Jul73 at Ruth's apartment] a portable recording on which Duke also sang and he gave it to Alice and her husband, Nils Sjöblom, who were present. Alice gave it to Nils Lindberg, who made an arrangement. It was called There's Something About Me. Alice promised to sing it the same evening for us during her concert at NALEN [14May04], but in Malmö [25oct73], she brought with her Nils Lindberg and they played together Nils' arrangement for Duke as a surprise during his concert [CD Caprice Records 21599]. Nils had scored it for the rhythm section only.
Alice also told us of the lack of rehearsals for the Second Sacred Concert and her great admiration for Duke for writing for her Heaven and T.G.T.T.
Nils said that he had heard of Duke's poor health in 1973. One couldn't hear it in his playing, but as Alice said, you could see it at Westminster Abbey [24oct73] where Duke left the stage for 10 minutes. Alice had together with Harry Carney arranged the scores in the correct order but Duke started with something completely different. She had to look for the words of My Love. You can hear it on the recording.
Three weeks after the Westminster concert, Alice was asked to come to Barcelona immediately. The people there thought that Duke was going to play his Third Sacred Concert but there was no choir. [11Nov73.] So the performance would be a selection from all three Sacred Concerts and it was supposed to be rehearsed at 21:30. The concert was timed to start at 23:00. When they arrived at the cathedral in Barcelona, the audience had already started to enter. The cathedral became completely filled. Alice felt sorry for the cameramen who were going to make the TV recording. They had no idea what was going to happen. Alice has a video tape of the concert and it turned out to be marvellous. Duke came up with the idea that Alice should not sing Heaven. When Duke announced the number, she made herself ready but Duke called for Tony Watkins, who was unprepared. [This made Duke play a very long version of Hallelujah while people were looking for Tony.] Ken Steiner mentioned to Alice that Anita Moore had died [28Apr01]. Alice didn't know this. In New York Anita had to teach Alice to sing Somebody Cares. There was no music. She had to improvise when it came up in Barcelona when Alice joined Anita and Tony.
Ken asked Alice if her classical training helped or hindered her in her involvement with Ellington's music. She said: "With Ellington it doesn't hinder me at all. It hindered me with some of the critics, because they think that I am too well educated in singing [to be involved in Ellington music]. It is like saying that a flute cannot play jazz."
Alice answered a question by Ray Carman about Billy Strayhorn. She said that Billy should have been mentioned earlier in her account, which was mostly concerned with what happened in the later years. She mentioned Billy's great support during the rehearsals and recordings in Paris in 1963. He played a lot on the piano on that album "Serenade to Sweden".
The evening concert was the climax of the conference. Alice Babs gave us a sterling performance. She combines the highest possible musical taste with an unbelievable technique, not in the least diminished by the passing years (not according to her, but according to our ears). Her improvisations are marvellous and her appearance charming and graceful. For this alone it was more than worthwhile to make the trip to Stockholm. Nils Lindberg played a great role with his very original complete reed and rhythm section without any brass. It was good to see the admiration of many of the members of the Holiday in Harlem band. They started the evening's programme but stayed in the audience to enjoy Alice and to admire the craftsmanship of Nils and his Third Saxes Galore.
Alice has given her name to the "Alice Babs Jazz Award". The winner of 2004, Karin Hammar is a lovely long legged Swedish trombone player who gave an amazing solo performance, showing her total control of this difficult instrument. She took full advantage of her long arms.
The evening ended with a performance of the great Arne Domnérus. He looked old and fragile, but his music was gorgeous as ever.
The third and last day of the conference started with a talk by Dan Knight who replaced Janna Steed. Janna could not come to Stockholm because of a mastectomy on Monday, 10May. Dan passed on to us her greetings. Janna left the hospital the previous day [the 14th] and she hopes to be recovered very soon. She mentioned in a message to Duke-LYM that she is preparing a lecture for 30May.
Dan told us of his great good fortune to have an uncle who played, when he was baby sitting for Dan and his brother, music from his record collection (Ellington and others) as loud as they liked. When Dan saw Ellington on television in the Today Show with Dave Garroway, he was totally enthralled. When he told his piano-teacher, she became furious and said: "This is not good music!". He noticed on television that most jazz musicians were black and he was excited when his grandmother warned him that when he took a sip of coffee it would turn his skin black. So at the age of 6 years, he tried to consume as much coffee as he could and became very agitated as a result. He was diagnosed as being high on caffeine.
When Dan discussed with Janna the title of the talk, "Taking the Duke to Church" he said to Janna: "You cannot take Duke to church. He is already there. Let's talk of taking his music to church".
It is an interesting question what makes music popular or sacred. It depends on how you phrase the question. If you ask if it is popular, the answer may be: Yes. But if you ask if it is sacred, the answer also could be: Yes. It depends on yourself. You should ask the music itself. Dan played for us In a Sentimental Mood as an example. It was different from what Eric Sahlein played the day before but this rendition was also beautiful. How could it be anything else if played by a sensitive and well trained piano-player? Dan is an accomplished piano-player and a protégé of Dr. Billy Taylor.
Here is a question: What Am I Here For? Is this piece spiritual or not? Dan quoted Duke Ellington from MIMM p260 about "Seeing God". On Christmas Eve 1973 a few month before he passed away, Duke played at the Rainbow Grill. Some friends came in and told him that they were not going to Christmas Mass but that they had come here instead. Duke replied: "You are in church when you're here."
Dan concluded his presentation with a nice performance of Le Sucrier Velours. Most of the remarks and questions after the presentation were about the relationship between believing in God and Duke's music. If I may speak on behalf of those who are non-believers, I would like to say that some of us also enjoy Ellington's music immensely.
George Avakian, who had both Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington under contract in 1955, figured that if he could produce an album with Louis being guest soloist with Ellington's orchestra it could become the greatest jazz album of all time. Already in 1938/39, when George selected the opening bars of part 2 of Reminiscing in Tempo as the signature tune of his radio programme, he thought how great it would be if Louis were to play the solo instead of Art Whetsel. George played it for us as a reminder.
In 1955 George heard the opening theme of a Louis Armstrong series for Columbia television, titled "Satchmo the Great", which he also played for us. He found that it was based on the opening of Clarinet Lament. He wondered how this came about after 19 years. So he asked around and Louis, Barney and Duke all gave more or less the same answer: It was something that was in the air, like the blues.
George continued thinking about a combined album of Louis and Duke. Imagine Louis' powerhouse ending of West End Blues, but with the Ellington band behind him. George played the segment from the original 1928 OKeh record.
Additional ideas started to come into George's mind. He thought of how the second theme of Clarinet Lament is nothing other than Spencer Williams' Basin Street Blues, from Louis' hometown. George played the Ellington recording of Clarinet Lament. A week after he made Basin Street, Louis made an even more dramatic recording, not very well known because the composition was never recorded again. It was the tremendous finish with Don Redman added so that there were three horns behind Louis. George thought that he just had to do this with the Ellington orchestra, and we listened now to Tight Like This.
The vocal quality of Louis' trumpet sound made George think of how Duke shaped the voice of Adelaide Hall to do Creole Love Call; he played us the closing section. Another remarkable recording with Adelaide is The Blues I Love To Sing. George did not like very much the second theme and told Duke he should rewrite it, to make it stronger. Much later, Duke said he did it: the beginning of Such Sweet Thunder. George was not convinced but did not argue with Duke. Now he played take -2 of The Blues I Love To Sing where Adelaide sings "Blues I love to hear". This made him think of The Mooche and even more of Hot and Bothered from the same session. George suggested to Louis that he should play the trumpet part and also do the scat singing on the same recording. Louis said: "OK".
George played for us the Ellington record and indicated with his left and right hands what was played by Bubber Miley and what was sung by Baby Cox. By this time George had started to discuss the matter with Duke and when he mentioned Hot and Bothered, Duke said: "I will write you a much better piece." This is what Duke always said, but you know, he also did it.
Both Duke (after Newport) and Louis were very busy at the time, and in order not to harm each other's box office takings, they never played in a festival on the same night. Unfortunately therefore, Duke, Louis and George never did actually get together in person. They discussed the matter over the telephone and George even selected the pieces to put at the beginning and end of each side of the LP. The fact that Louis' contract with Columbia expired in 1956 and that his agent, Joe Glaser demanded too much money, made it even more difficult to realise this great project that, as we all know, never came to fruition. The later Roulette session fell very far short of what George had envisaged. George had much more to say. He is a remarkable raconteur, and it was a pleasure to have him at the microphone.
Steven Lasker's presentation was especially interesting for people like myself who are fanatic Ellington collectors. He started however with some very interesting results of his research into publications. He showed many pictures of the early days of the band and explained the origin of strange names for the band like Six Jolly Jesters. It is simply too much to give you all the details and it is a pity that we cannot show you the pictures themselves. Wouldn't it be a great idea to see these findings published in the same way as the booklet "A Cotton Club Miscellany", which we enjoyed so much two years ago?
How about listening to the first recording? It is Tishomingo Blues, recorded 25Jun28 and issued on a Canadian Brunswick. This is from the first recording session with Johnny Hodges, and probably all the Canadian Brunswicks issued have the same alternate take, but it was discovered for the first time only a couple of years ago in the Ron Anger collection by John Wilby from Toronto [I hope the name is right]. It would have been included in the RCA 24 CD box, but Steven didn't know at the time that it existed.
Steven developed an interesting theory that a part of the music copyrighted by Jo Trent was actually written by Ellington. An article about this theory is still a work in progress. I hope to have the privilege of publishing it in DEMS Bulletin when it's finished.
The second selection we were able to listen to was the actual version of Three Little Words as performed in the 1930 picture "Check and Double Check". [Steven reported about this great find in DEMS Bulletin 98/1-17. This contribution was reprinted and followed by a report of the latest find in Feb04 in DEMS Bulletin 04/1-4.] There is a question as to who the soloist was. Steven is about 70% sure that it was Freddy Jenkins and 30% that it was Arthur Whetsel. Luciano Massagli figured that it was Cootie Williams. [In the meantime (after the conference) Luciano changed his mind. He believes now that it was Jenkins. See DEMS 04/2-32.] Steven suggested that we should have a poll after listening to the recording. We should show our preference out of these three trumpet players by raising our hands. After the hand count Steven announced: "I think Jenkins won."
The next recording was Clouds in My Heart. from 18May32. Take -A, taken from a test pressing (DEMS 03/2-77/1).
The next topic was Harry Carney and the flute. Have we ever heard a recording of Harry on this instrument? It appears that many of us have had one in our collections for 25 years because it came out on Jerry Valburn's Blu-Disc T-1001. It is with Adelaide Hall in I Must Have That Man take -A and take -B from 21Dec32. Barney Bigard was ill that day, so Harry played the clarinet in his place, but Steven believes it is a flute that we hear! Not everybody in the audience accepted his suggestion after he played the recording.
The next thing we were invited to listen to was a one of a kind shellac test pressing of Black Butterfly take —2 from 21Dec36. (DEMS 00/3-22/p29)
Steven made a shameless plug for the New DESOR, the most complete discography of Duke Ellington. He asked Luciano Massagli to stand up, and Luciano was given a warm applause. "It's marvellous. There are still a few copies left. If you talk to him and give your name and address he will send you a copy."
The next recording was an alternate take -1 (the preferred take) of You'll Never Go to Heaven if You Break My Heart. (20May37). The vocalist was Buddy Clark. That much is certain. He is mentioned in the ledgers. There has been some controversy on the point. [It was discussed in length by Frank Dutton on 30May in Oldham at Ellington '88.] Take —1 is a true Ellington performance unlike take —2 on which Ellington does not play. He must have been in the control-room. On take —1 you hear him play the piano behind the vocal.
Next came two selections from the session of 20Sep37. Both are alternate takes, in each case takes —1 of Harmony in Harlem and Dusk on the Desert. (DEMS 03/1-3; 03/2-14/1 and 03/3-9). Take —1 was chronologically not the first recording. It was the "first choice" take on that day and this decision was later reversed. In the case of Harmony in Harlem, take —1 was rejected because the background was too loud for Johnny Hodges' soprano solo. However the solos of take —1 were preferred, Steven thinks. In Dusk on the Desert, Arthur Whetsel played his last recorded solo.
You may ask when these recordings will be made available. That is difficult to say, but Steven told us about the terrific broadcast with Ellington and Jimmie Blanton from Jun41, which he played at the conference of 1997 in Leeds and the terrific broadcast from the Casa Mañana of 20Feb41, which he played in 1999 in Washington also with the great Blanton. Both broadcasts will be coming out in the coming months on BMG as part of a package of one DVD and one CD. Steven volunteered his broadcasts for the CD. He selected 13 of the very best tracks. The DVD will have "Symphony in Black", the five "Soundies", the 1943 RKO short and as a bonus the eleven minute radio interview for Radio Newsreel of 28Jan41. This will be a tool to get young people interested in Ellington.
Next Steven turned his attention to the train-whistle we hear on Choo-Choo; Wanna Go Back Again Blues; Daybreak Express (not the movie but the Victor recording) and the Five O'Clock Whistle. Steven didn't know if all these train—whistles are the same one, but Sonny Greer did possess a train—whistle. He gave it to someone who now lives in Kansas City. He had it in storage in New Jersey. Steven hopes at some point to acquire it, or borrow it to find out what it is. But it does exist and it is not a part of the Fred Guy kit as you read in the [Storyville] Fargo notes. Steven thinks it was Sonny's.
The next selection was a set of three takes (two breakdowns followed by a complete take) of the Capitol Transcription of 9:20 Special of 16Jul46. This set survived on an acetate, which found its way to Steven through a dealer. It is especially interesting because of Jimmy Hamilton's tenor solo. Later we heard Taft Jordan and Al Sears. (DEMS 03/3-8/1)
Steven is trying to lay his hands on the studio recordings for the film "Assault on a Queen". He hopes to be able to present it at the next conference. "Hopefully soon", as Steven said.
The last selection was a short medley with Duke at the piano with an unknown studio orchestra, on an unknown date and at an unknown location. Solitude, Don't Get Around Much Anymore and I Let a Song Go Out Of My Heart, Sophisticated Lady. Steven believes it is probably from 1947. [Luciano Massagli believes that it is from around 1943. Sophisticated Lady is very similar to the recordings of 1943 and different in comparison to the solos of the following years.]
This was another of Steven's marvellous presentations. He shares his finds with his friends with the same dedication as he shows in his collecting and research activities.
In 1983 at the first conference (in Washington), Joe Igo told us about his work on Duke's Itinerary. After Joe died, Gordon Ewing took it over and worked on it for many years together with Art Pilkington and Klaus Stratemann. None of these pioneers are still with us, but from a younger generation Ken Steiner has picked up the task and he presented the results of his research of the Jimmie Blanton - Ben Webster era. He brought as a special gift for all the attendees, a nice 12 page booklet titled "On the Road and on the Air with Duke Ellington. October 1939 to December 1940." [He has sent us the text through e-mail and we are happy to be able to publish it in this Bulletin, DEMS 04/2-22.]
Two very formative experiences helped Ken in becoming an Ellington aficionado. First, on 10Feb74 and just a few months before Duke passed away, Ken had the pleasure of being on stage as a member of the stage group for a concert at Georgetown University. The next great experience was on 29Apr86, a date you will recognise. Ken produced an all day broadcast in Washington as a tribute to Duke Ellington, and as a result of this production, Ken met Jack Towers. Ken called up Jack, who he had never met before, and told him his plans. He was invited to come over and he went there with another radio announcer. Jack wore them out. He kept playing one Ellington record after another. At that moment Ken realised how deep and vast Ellington's legacy is. Ken also spoke with Jack before this conference and Jack asked Ken to convey his best wishes to everybody.
Klaus Stratemann wrote in his book "Day by Day and Film by Film": "The inadequacies of this book will spur others into further research, it is hoped." "And here I am," said Ken, "doing that further research."
Ken has taken the existing Itinerary and started to check every entry by writing to local papers. He is doing what the earlier researchers would have done if they had had more time. Ken aims to give more details of the gigs, apart from simply the date and the venue.
Ken told us of the many frustrations in doing this research. In many cases there are only advertisements and if you are lucky you may find after two pages about football two lines about Ellington's performance of the other day. Microfilm sources are not complete and also many editions of newspapers are missing although there were far more newspapers back then than there are now. The researchers who compiled the Igo Itinerary and Klaus Stratemann's book were only able to review a few of the great Afro—American newspapers that existed at the time, the Pittsburgh Courier, the New York Amsterdam News, the Baltimore Afro-American, the Chicago Defender and the California Eagle. Most cities with a considerable Afro—American population had their own paper. And these papers were excellent. They gave far more coverage than most of the white daily papers did to Ellington. Ken found many interesting facts in these local newspapers.
Ken is not a discographer but some of his findings have led or may lead to revisions in the standard discographies. A friend of Ken's looked at the NBC radio-logs in the Library of Congress. Many of Ellington's broadcasts were over NBC and from many of these broadcasts recordings exist. We know now which numbers were played on which nights and this helps to identify some of the previously unidentified tunes [or to establish the correct dates].
1939 was world-wide a terrible year. In the United Sates people hoped somehow to stay out of the war. Conversely though, war preparations led to an economic boom. There was a nagging sense that things would not last. At the same time, and you won't find it in the white daily papers, there was a growing civil-rights movement. Some believe that the civil-rights movement started in the fifties, but it was well underway by 1940. Ken echoed Claire Gordon's remarks from her wonderful presentation two days earlier. In doing a study on Duke Ellington you find yourself doing a study on discrimination. Ellington and the other black band leaders were not getting the opportunities that the white bands were. They were not getting the best locations, which were the hotels in which, in addition to a well paid job where you could stay in the same place for more than one night, they were also offered broadcast opportunities. Broadcasts were very important for the exposure of the bands and their music. And this is where Ellington was really a pioneer.
The first location-gig [at a hotel] after Ellington returned from Sweden was in Jul39 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Boston. They had an open-air rooftop situation where the band could broadcast. One of the first things Ken uncovered about this gig, was the fact that it extended over eleven days [7-17JulAug39, see DEMS 03/2-10]. Earlier researchers have missed that. It is good to go back and take a fresh look. Ken is bound to have missed a lot of stuff too and he hopes that others will join him in this research.
One evening on the roof of the Ritz-Carlton it was a bit cold and Duke felt a draft. He asked Billy to take over at the piano. In 1962 Billy Strayhorn told the Duke Ellington Society in New York that many of the members of the band heard him play the piano for the first time on that occasion. It was also the gig when Billy's first arrangement for Ivie Anderson was played, the popular Cab Calloway tune (Hip, Hep) The Jumpin' Jive. This tune became a feature for the orchestra throughout the remainder of 1939, but it was not recorded by Ellington. However, Ken played a part of the Cab Calloway recording [of 17Jul39]. He also found another event, 28Sep39, a victory party for Joe Louis in Detroit, when Joe Louis went onto the band stand and sang this tune. (DEMS 02/3-4) This event is reported in the Michigan Chronicle of 7oct39, another great Afro-American paper that has not been tapped by Ellington researchers until now.
Waiting to be published in a future Bulletin is a letter. which DEMS received from Darryl Scott Alsbrook, the son of the bass-player Adolphus Alsbrook, mentioned by Ken Steiner (and commented on by others) on Duke-LYM. These comments have been published in DEMS 03/1-8/1. Ken Steiner reported of his meeting with the son. Darryl lives about 100 miles from Ken. He plays the guitar. He did not get to know his father until he (Darryl) was a grown man. In the documentation about his father he only found: Duke Ellington 1939. Adolphus told his son that he left Ellington because he could make more money arranging. He arranged for over a hundred big bands. The best estimate Ken could make is that Adolphus worked for Ellington between mid September and mid October 1939. He knows that it was a month and since Adolphus was from Kansas City Ken suspects that he left the band around 8 or 9oct39 when the band played there.
Ken also reminded us of how Ellington found Jimmie Blanton, his particularly favourite Ellingtonian. [This was earlier described in DEMS Bulletin 02/3-4 and 5, and it is also mentioned in the nice booklet which Ken presented to the audience and which is "reprinted" in this Bulletin 04/2-22.]
He also mentioned the Salt Lake City discussion as described in DEMS 03/1-6/1, playing the very poor recording of St. Louis Blues, which is in DESOR 4007f and which should be dated 2-8Feb40 instead of Mar40. The recording is so poor that there has been a debate as to who the singer was, Ivie Anderson, Ray Nance (which would be an argument for yet another, later, date in 1941) or Cootie Williams. Ben Webster and Jimmie Blanton were very much present though.
Ken continued with the gig at the Hotel Sherman from 8Sep40 and he played the opening Sepia Panorama and the following Rumpus in Richmond.
Between the locations were heroic travels and many of the gigs Ken found were black dances. It seems that Duke's involvement with black audiences is not fully appreciated in the itineraries. Many dances that Ken found were for blacks only. For some they sold tickets for whites, seating for whites, at a lower price than the blacks were charged.
He mentioned a number of gigs from 1941 not included in his booklet, but which we hope will be published in a later DEMS Bulletin. The booklet had after all as subtitle The Blanton/Webster Era, part one. We are looking forward to part two.
Ken concluded his presentation by playing for us Black Beauty from the Hotel Sherman, probably from 17Sep40, because Duke told the Chicago Defender: "Tune in on Tuesday night. I have something special for you." It was found in the NBC logs that on Tuesday night September 17th Duke Ellington did offer something special for his fans: the solo version of Black Beauty.
The last presentation was given by a mini panel of Patricia Willard, George Avakian and Lars Westin, chair (Lars gave Friday's talk about Rolf Ericson).
Lars introduced his guests as one who had been active on the West Coast (Patricia) and one who was active on the East Coast (George) with as common denominator Duke Ellington.
Patricia: When I first started handling public relations for Duke at the West Coast, I was provided with the William Morris agency's press manual. One of the things Duke immediately told me was that I was in charge of putting out the texts for advertising. I should mention nobody's name but Duke's "because you never know who might leave the band and upset the public by not being there when the event happens." But in the actual releases, Patricia usually mentioned the names of the stars like Johnny Hodges, Al Hibbler and Kay Davis.
George: The publicity for the record company was handled by one person only at all times. During the time Duke was working with me it was Deborah Ishlam [I hope the name is correct]. Before her time it was Christine (George had forgotten her last name). Christine was not very interested in Jazz. George didn't remember her doing very much with Duke, but Deborah Ishlam was genuinely a jazz-fan. She did a very fine job in the follow up to the events of the 1956 Festival at Newport and she was responsible for getting Duke on the cover of Time Magazine. [This is contradicted by Charles Waters in his essay in the Annual Review of Jazz Studies #6 of 1993 titled "Anatomy of a Cover." On page 6 we read: "Late in 1955, Joe Morgen proposed the idea of an Ellington cover story to Carter Harman, music director of Time." See also MIMM p435. Charles explains in his study that suggestions that the initiative for the cover resulted from the Newport success are incorrect. Preparations for the cover were made previously.] George continued by saying that the fact that Deborah was able to do this also strengthened her in other attempts to publicise Columbia artists. She was successful with Dave Brubeck for example. [However Dave Brubeck appeared on the cover of Time Magazine on 8Nov54, before Duke did on 20Aug56.]
George: Duke was not interested in record covers. He trusted the company and George to take care of those things. Duke was very good at making himself available when that was required for publicity purposes. He promised to be there and he usually was. Patricia: But was he on time? George: Good question. I cannot remember him being not on time.
There was some discussion about Duke's longer works and help was sought from Ted Hudson who has studied BOOLA. George: Duke had indeed very strong feelings about his longer works. He was very appreciative about being free in his choice for recording longer works for Columbia. George made "Controversial Suite" and others, which of course were not going to be commercial successful. That was at the beginning of the 12" LPs which sold much better than the 10" LPs. George believes that a lot of his customers for his 12" LPs were actually customers for classical 12" LPs who had respect for Duke. They got into the hands of people who were buying contemporary classical music. Duke appreciated that deeply. The record clubs sold more records than the shops. Serious record buyers preferred to buy through the record clubs.
When writing about Ellington, Down Beat was in the habit of mentioning every time his age. Duke disliked that, and so asked Patricia to make it stop. The Los Angeles-based editor of Down Beat was a good friend of Patricia's and gave her the age of the editor-in-chief Don de Michael She wrote a letter to Don in which she addressed him with "Dear 30 year old Don de Michael", and continued to mention other musicians' names with their age, closing the letter with her signature and her own age. The message got through. Down Beat stopped referring to Duke's age every time they mentioned his name.
Lars asked: What would Duke say at the age of 105 when looking down at this conference from his castle in heaven. Patricia answered: "He would wonder why on earth you needed to use that number." George: "Very good!".
George talked about the concert at the NYC Town Hall as the first part in a series of four concerts called "Music for Moderns" [28Apr57]. Before the intermission Dimitri Metropolis was conducting the New York Philharmonic doing a very little known concerto by Kurt Weill in which George's wife was going to play the solo part. When Duke was invited to play after the intermission he suggested to use the new suite "Such Sweet Thunder". George called Louis Applebaum to ask permission, because the work had been commissioned by the Stratford Shakespearean Festival. Louis was happy with the publicity and he accepted the invitation to say a few words to introduce the new composition at its premiere performance. Duke introduced the pieces and when he came at the last piece, Circle of Fourths, he admitted that it was not yet ready. He replaced it with Cop-Out. 'Cop-out' means having an excuse which is usually not a very good one for something that you didn't do that you should have done. George could not prevent himself from laughing a long loud laugh which luckily was not picked up by the microphones because he was sitting well back in the hall. George was not prepared to say that Duke did normally not finish his commissioned work on time, but he was prepared to say that, no matter what happened, Duke always came up with a solution.
There was a splendid dinner-party the same evening with music by Jens Lindgren and his "Kunstbandet" Orchestra. Someone told me that these were amateurs but I cannot believe it.
At the end of the dinner, George Avakian spoke on behalf of all of us to thank our Swedish friends. He promised to arrange that at the next conference the language would be Swedish.
It is a good custom in a report of an Ellington Conference to remain silent about the small imperfections. This is after all a labour of love by a group of our best friends who devote much of their time over more than a year to organising such an event. But if I have no minor criticisms this time, it is not out of mere courtesy. There was absolutely nothing to complain about. It was one of the most splendid conferences we have ever had.
I have so far not mentioned the music which was played in the intervals of the afternoon presentations in the small room designated "Harlem". On Thursday Per Larsson played the piano. On Friday the Bernt Rosengren quartet performed and on Saturday there was a trio, Bent Persson, Frans Sjöström and Jacob Ullberger. I did not attend these performances, as I was constantly occupied in conversations with my friends (mostly at the bar). One has to make a choice. The people who went to "Harlem" were very pleased with the performances.
In addition to thanking the committee and especially the chairman Göran Wallén, I should also mention the impeccable sound engineers and the very gentle and friendly young people who served us in the cloakroom, at lunchtime and at the bars. This conference will long be remembered with gratitude and admiration.
This report could not have been written without the help of Sven Eriksson, who audio-taped the conference for DEMS.
There are strong rumours about a conference in 2006 in New York!