DUKE ELLINGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
07/1 April 2007 - July 2007
FOUNDER: BENNY AASLAND
Voort 18b, Meerle, Belgium
Telephone: +32 3 315 75 83
- ADDITIONS - CORRECTIONS
Credits for Cotton Club Stomp
Original pressings of Cotton Club Stomp have different composers compared to what Benny Aasland reported in his WAX WORKS which gives "Ellington, Mills".
The name "Rodgers", which also appears on the label of HMV B.4872, could be a misprint for Hodges.
I regret that I don't have Aasland's discography. Is he talking about the 1929/1939 composition, or the 1930 one of the same name, but different music?
The New DESOR page 811 gives composer credits to Ellington, Hodges and Carney for Cotton Club Stomp, the version recorded 3 times in 1929 and once in 1939. Your Victor label is the same as the one on page 33 of Eddie Lambert 's Listener's Guide (except yours shows the engraved number in the wax near the label). This is the 3May29 recording. Interesting that it shows the composer credits as Rodgers, Ellington and Carney. I wondered at first if "Rodgers" might be a misprint of "Hodges," but it appears this was Richard Rodgers, of Rodgers and Hart fame, and later, Rodgers and Hammerstein.
The 1929 sessions were for Victor, but the 1930 and 1939 recordings were made for Brunswick. The 1930 so called Cotton Club Stomp was also made for Brunswick. The New DESOR gives no composer credits for this 1930 version, but notes that the first 8 bars of the AABA chorus are the same as the first 8 bars of Willie "the Lion" Smith's Keep Your Temper. Lambert (page 38) disagrees, saying the two songs are similar melodically but different harmonically. He does say the1930 version (Brunswick) is not the same composition as the Victor sessions, and listening to them just now, I agree.
Is it possible that the Aasland reference is to the 1930 recording?
How can we reconcile the label Rodgers, Ellington, Carney to The New DESOR's credits of Ellington, Hodges, Carney? Might Massagli and Volonté have a typographical error?
Am I correct to assume that Aasland's book is seminal but now superseded by the later discographies? I imagine Massagli and Volonté didn't accept Mills for either version, otherwise I'm sure they would have listed his name.
Benny Aasland refers to the 3May29 recording, not to the 22Apr30 recording.
The name Rodgers on the label is indeed due to a typing error. On the Victor recording-sheet of 3May29 at the Liederkranz Hall in NYC is the following.
Comp:- Hodgers-Carney & Duke Ellington
Pub & Copyr:- Gotham Music Co. 1929
Note:- Above inf Verbal by D.Ellington
This confirms Bo Sherman's suggestion that this is a combination of two typing errors for Hodges. Not a misprint! (I am a retired printer and rather sensitive about this.)
Sjef was involved in the misconception about Keep Your Temper.
In DEMS Bulletin 83/3-3: A COTTON CLUB MYSTERY SOLVED. Our member J. Hoefsmit reports a discovery by one of his collector friends, Jacques Lubin [Le Point du Jazz # 18, Nov 1982], as he listened to a Willie "The Lion" Smith LP, "The Lion & The Tiger" (Jazz Odyssey 006). He found a striking resemblance between one of the tracks, Keep Your Temper and the 22Apr30 Duke recording for Brunswick, named Cotton Club Stomp. This Cotton Club Stomp has long been suspected not to bear its correct title (it is certainly not the same composition as the 6Jun39 Brunswick recording with the same title) but so far no one has been able to detect the true title. Now it seems this mystery is solved, though it might well be that Duke at that time "adopted" this Keep Your Temper composition and named it the Cotton Club Stomp.
In DEMS Bulletin 83/4-1: COTTON CLUB STOMP as KEEP YOUR TEMPER (see Bull83/3,p.3)
There are a few errors. I have listened to four different recordings: Blue Rhythm Orch (c29oct25) (Clarence Williams(!), VJM VLP-5); Gulf Coast 7, 5Nov25 (Sound of Harlem, Col. C3L-33); Gulf Coast 7 / Original Jazz Hounds (VJM VLP-45); Willie "The Lion" Smith-Jo Jones (Jazz Odyssey 006) and Ralph Sutton (Chaz Jazz CJ-107). It is not the same composition as the Brunswick version Cotton Club Stomp (22Apr30). Both are based on the same short melodic figure ("riff") in variations, but the melodic structure is different. The Cotton Club Stomp version includes 32 bars and "stick" release), in contrast to Keep Your Temper which has 32 bars without a bridge. There are also other differences. The Brunswick 6Jun39 Cotton Club Stomp version is the same composition as the Victor 12Apr29 ("A Nite at the Cotton Club") and 3May29 versions. You maycompare the Freddie Jenkins chorus in the Victor versions against the melody presentation in the later 1939 Brunswick version.
In DEMS Bulletin 84/3-8: Re COTTON CLUB STOMP (recorded 22Apr30): I agree with Bo Sherman (see Bull83/4-1) where he points out that Cotton Club Stomp is a AABA 32 bars type, whereas Keep Your Temper is a ABAB 32 bars type tune. Keep Your Temper is definitely a different tune.
I am wondering on what Victor-HMV edition of Cotton Club Stomp the composer credits actually reads "Ellington-Mills" = the very label that Benny was looking at when he prepared his entry for Wax Works.
It could be that Benny did not look at the label for the credits (or that he intentionally did not accept the credits as mentioned on the label as being suspect) but that he looked in the ASCAP listing where the composition is (correctly) copyrighted in 1943 as by Duke Ellington, Johnny Hodges & Harry Carney. He may have mistakenly looked one line lower where it reads Duke Ellington & I. Mills. These credits belong to the next title in the list, Shout 'Em, Aunt Tillie.
AFRS Music America Loves Best # 77
The session 4594 in the New Desor is on Redmond Nostalgia CD 2515, which I didn’t find until now, but that is perhaps known before to everyone else. See redmondnostalgia.com – they have also some more Ellingtonia.
It was not known to us. Thanks!
This was in the AFRS broadcast:
Duke on piano: Take the "A" Train; Dancers in Love.
Duke with the Jay Blackton Orchestra: Sophisticated Lady; Solitude; Caravan; Mood Indigo; It Don't Mean a Thing.
From an E-mail from Ed Polic to Jerry Valburn 19oct00:
1. It is a composite program. Two completely different orchestras are on it (one announced as Jay Blackton and the other as Lou Bring -- and the sound is quite different between the two "house" orchestras). The Ellington segments appear to be from yet a third recording session. The only common denominator between each of the segments on the program is Tommy Dorsey. Johnny Desmond and Ellington are not at the same recording sessions for this material.
2. The Desmond portions were done after 23Nov45 (i.e., after his discharge date).
The John Steiner Collection
The collection of the late John Steiner, who died on3Jun2000 (see Bulletin 00/2-2), has been moved to the University of Chicago and more specifically to the Chicago Jazz Archive of the University of Chicago Library. It took four moving van loads to bring the collection to CJA. The latest estimates indicate that there are upwards of 35,000 recordings in various formats, as well as over 200 linear feet of paper materials, including photos, stock arrangements, song sheets, articles, clippings, research notes, books, periodicals, and posters. Until the collection finding aid is available, please direct questions about the contents of the collection to the Curator (email@example.com).
Trivialities in the literature
There's a reference on http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=23969 to an LP of a Today Show anniversary episode with Satin Doll on it. I was trying to track it down when I came across these anomalies.
November 21, 1961
Stratemann page 568 says the first appearance on the Today show was in 1964, but on page 445, he shows an appearance on Nov 21, 1961.
New DESOR pages 306/307 and Timner page 205 confirm a pre-recording for WNEW's Music Spex that day, but show nothing for the Today show.
January 13, 1968
Stratemann shows Ellington playing the Today Show on January 13, 1968.
Timner page 322 shows this session on that date, too, with the playlist.
New DESOR page 490 has no entry for that date.
January 14, 1968
Timner page 322 shows only Acht O'Clock Rock on January 14, 1968.
NewDESOR page 490 adds a medley for that session.
December 15, 1969
1969-12-15 Satin Doll, full band, but in LA and for the Red Skelton Show? 6974a - I wondered how the band could be filming on opposite coasts on the same day. Perhaps they did the NBC taping in California, but if they did, why in a CBS studio?
Stratemann page 612 refers at the end of 1970 to a six-minute recording on CBS Today Show, recording date uncertain. I wonder if he meant NBC?
I haven't checked DEMS Bulletin for any of this, as I'm in the middle of another project. Thought I'd pass this on while it's fresh in my mind. If these differences have been noted already, I apologise. If it's news, though, maybe it's something for the corrections page of the Bulletin?
Satin Doll on the Today Show LP is taken from the picture "The Good Years of Jazz". It was recorded on 5 and/or 9Jan62. Duke was not present at this Today Show anniversary.
I believe that Stratemann meant to say that in 1964 Duke appeared for the first time with his orchestra. I believe that Duke only was interviewed alone on the 21Nov61 Today Show and that no music was played (by him). No recording of this interview has popped up and it is consequently not included in the New DESOR. The reference, given by Klaus Stratemann, is Duke Ellington's Scrap Book.
The taping on 21Nov61 of a programme for the radio station WNEW (for broadcast on 8Dec61) had nothing to do with the appearance of Ellington on the Today-Show on the same day (21Nov61).
On 26May64 a NBC tele-recording was made of the whole band for a Today Show titled "Salute to Duke Ellington". It was telecast on 5Nov64 from 7:00 until 9:00 am. On 9Jan64 a NBC tele-recording was made of a small group session (Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, Ernie Shepard and Sam Woodyard). which was also used for the 5Nov64 telecast. It was also used on individual NBC stations on other dates. I cannot confirm that the whole recording from 9Jan64 was included in the telecast of 5Nov64. It could be that only Passion Flower was "borrowed", but I believe that there was more. What I have on tape is not enough to fill two hours.
The titles as mentioned by Willie Timner on this date have been taken from a correction to the first edition of DESOR (volume 15) from the hand of Benny Aasland in DEMS Bulletin 83/1-2. He suggested to add to the 13Jun68 session the same titles as mentioned by Willie Timner on 13Jan68. Until today these recordings have never showed up. Consequently they have not been mentioned in the New DESOR.
The Medley as mentioned by Willie Timner on 28Feb68 is the same as the Medley mentioned by the New DESOR on 14Jan68. You are free to choose your source, but I guarantee that there is only one Medley on tape.
Taping was done three days in LA for the Red Skelton Show. But on 15Dec69 there was a Today Show for which Ellington made a forty minutes programme. Nobody tells us where and when that Today Show was taped. The telecast was on 15Dec69. That's all. Several recordings were used in different Today Shows.
Stratemann page 612 refers at the end of 1970 to a six-minute CBS Today Show.
I believe that this is the same Today Show as mentioned on page 683 as a NBC Today Show. Klaus made a mistake. We know that this must have been a NBC product. In "TV's Biggest Hits" by Jon Burlingame (1996) on page 230: "NBC president Sylvester "Pat" Weaver was credited with several innovative television concepts including the creation of the "Today" and "Tonight" shows."
Duke Ellington on Compact Disc
The book, Duke Ellington On Compact Disc (MARLOR PRODUCTIONS) is still in limbo. Most importantly the Index Section has still to be completed and in these days finding a willing publisher is very difficult. At least, over this winter 2007, I will hope to complete the index and also enter the few CD issues that have appeared most recently.
Duke's narration during Mood Indigo (19Aug51)
See DEMS 06/3-33, "pages 117 and 1026"
We do not agree with Lance Travis about the D.E. narration during Mood Indigo (Desor 5124g): in our opinion this narration is comparable with the speech that D.E. used to introduce Harlem and many other titles, more or less lengthy, which we didn't include in our discography. Monologue, on the other hand, is a real composition that consists of a narration, against a background of clarinets, copyrighted by D.E.
I agree with Luciano: Monologue is certainly a real composition. I know it is credited to Duke, but am I right in thinking that the delightful clarinets writing was by Jimmy Hamilton? I treasure a version recorded at Tanglewood on 15Jul56 which appeared years ago on Queen Disc 49. It’s useless for the narration as Duke was way off mike. But for that very reason it’s good for listening to the clarinets.
Salute to Duke Ellington
Timner in his Ellingtonia,4th Edition on page 116 claims that on 6Mar50 in Universal Studios, Stage 10, in Hollywood in the trumpet section five musicians were sitting: Harold Baker, Nelson Williams, Dave Burns, Al Killian and Ray Nance.
But in the picture, during the whole movie only four of them are playing. I can recognise Al Killian and Ray Nance. Who are those two remaining in the pictures then? I'm not able to recognise them.
Almost the same question was asked in DEMS Bulletin 79/3-4:
"K. Stratemann is working on a Duke Filmography. He has an identification problem concerning the film "Salute to Duke Ellington". In 1950 Duke had 5 trumpeters. In the film only four are seen and heard. The following three are identified: Al Killian, Ray Nance and Nelson Williams. But who is the fourth? Can anyone be of some help? If so please write DEMS. Your suggestion(s) will be forwarded."
Since 1979 a lot has happened. In DEMS 92/1-5 the publication of Klaus Stratemann's book was announced. On page 311 of his book Klaus mentioned the musicians as they were recording the music on 6Mar50: Al Killian, Nelson Williams, Harold Baker, Dave Burns, Ray Nance. They were filmed on 8Mar50 without Harold Baker. On page 317 is a picture of the band with only four trumpeters. Harold Baker is missing. His four colleagues were photographed in a different seating order than on the film. On the picture from left to right: Al Killian, Dave Burns, Nelson Williams and Ray Nance, but in the film Dave Burns and Nelson Williams changed places.
My Ellington course and New England Conservatory is going great guns and I'm always running into gaps. Right now I'm really trying to find info on The Monkey. If you look at Spike Hughes' notes on the 1933 London concert you find a really interesting description of this piece. In the 1936 DownBeat interview article that Ellington Web recently linked the piece is once again described. So I guess it was in the repertoire for at least 3 years. And I know from my recent trip to the archives that so many pieces were recorded under titles radically different from the original title. Maybe this search is hopeless - but I'm not quite ready to give up! Could I perhaps put something about it into the next issue of DEMS?
Proper Box 25 (4 CD set) Duke Ellington - Masterpieces
See DEMS 06/2-41
It’s worth pointing out that the alternate take of The Clothed Woman (Co38671-e) heard on track 22 of CD4 of this set is the longer (almost four minutes) take which Columbia recorded on 30Dec47. Structurally it is identical to the piece as it had been played at Carnegie Hall a few days earlier, leaving aside the fanfares and the fuller horns scoring of the concert version. On page 147 of DE – A Listener’s Guide Eddie Lambert writes, ‘the standard Columbia issue remains the definitive one’. I disagree, though in fact Columbia had no choice as to which take to issue; at almost four minutes Co38671-e was too long for a 10-inch 78 side.
Whatever the intrinsic merits of the various Columbia takes may be, it seems to me indisputable that the longer one on the Proper Box CD, together with the Carnegie Hall performance, represent The Clothed Woman as Duke intended it. Why would he bother to record it at all if this were not so? He must have known it was too long for a 78. I also find the longer one structurally more satisfactory than the familiar issued take, which I think was a truncated version for 78 issue.
I checked your theory and I fully agree with you. There are a few remarks to be made. From the first take, which was originally 3:50, an incomplete dub was released on LP, FDC 1023. The coda was omitted and the result was a version of 2:52. Probably an attempt was already made to shorten the recording in order to make it suitable for a 78 rpm and this attempt was discovered by FDC. After the long first take, Duke recorded three other takes , two of which have been described in the New DESOR (page 1204, take f and take g). In take f, 16 bars are omitted from the 32 of the 3° chorus, the following 24 bars passage are missing and from the 4° chorus the last 8 bars are omitted. The result was approximately 3:00. Take g is the one that was released in the first place. It has a full (32 bars) 3° chorus, followed by an 8 bar passage (instead of the 24 bars on take e). From the 4° chorus only 8 bars remained (from the original 32) and the Band is no longer heard in that chorus. The coda is complete. In spite of the fact that take g is 8 bars longer than take f, the time is also approximately 3:00. It seems obvious to me that Duke tried to shorten the piece more than once and selected take f for release. Take f being 40 bars and almost a minute shorter than take e.
See DEMS 06/3-23
It is indeed a shame that John Crisp's father is no longer around to give us more details. The Kabul date is well known as part of the US State Department sponsored tour of the Middle East. He was there 16-18 September (Stratemann, p476, where Kabul is erroneously located in Pakistan), but I know of only one reference to it from someone who was actually there.
This occurs in Bruce Chatwin’s elegiac Introduction to the 1981 reissue of Robert Byron’s 1937 classic of central Asian travel, The Road To Oxiana. Chatwin writes:
‘…in Kabul, the unlikely was always predictable: the sight of Prince Daud at a party, the old ‘Mussolini’ blackshirt, with his muddy smile and polished head and boots, talking to – who? – Duke Ellington, who else? The Duke, in a white-and-blue spotted tie and a blue-and-white spotted shirt: he was on his last big tour. And we know what happened to Daud – shot, with his family, in the palace he usurped.’
For anyone who ever travelled there, this Introduction, written soon after the start of that wonderful and tragic country’s descent into its long and continuing nightmare, is a most moving lament for the lost Afghanistan.
John, I wonder if it might be possible to contact any colleagues of your father's who were there at the time? Is there for example some ex-Pats’ Old Boy Network of which he was a member?
I have got a CD, Laserlight 17097, "Things ain’t what they used to be", and I can’t find recording data for it. I do not have the Bulletin for 1996, I joined first in 2001. The Swedish DESS Bulletin 1/1999 says that La Plus Belle Africaine, Smada, Satin Doll and Azure are from the same date as the Verve 8 CD-Box at Côte d’Azur, but how about the rest?
Unknown DEMS Bulletin reader
The easiest answer is to re-print the articles in DEMS 97/3-13 and 97/1-3. It is possible that there are more DEMS Bulletin readers having problems with this Laserlight CD.
DEMS Bulletin 97/3-13:
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Laserlight Digital 17 097 CD
"Things Ain’t What They Used To Be — DE"
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Those who have not been able to find the CD with the same album title "Things Ain’t What They Used To Be," issued by LRC as a single CD under the number CDC 9061 and as the second CD of a double CD set under the number CDC 9066, have another chance to find a copy. It came out on the label Laserlight Digital, which also belongs to the Sonny Lester Recording Catalogue, LRC Ltd. For details see DEMS 97/1-3.
DEMS Bulletin 97/1-3:
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LRC(US) CDC 9061 (CD)
"THINGS AIN'T WHAT THEY USED TO BE"
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See DEMS 94/1-4 left column, middle and DEMS 94/2-1 left bottom. See also Valburn's "DE on CD" page 64.
"Recorded 1966 & 1969". This very concise information on the cover is correct and also the more detailed suspicions of Bo Haufman in DEMS are to the point.
Here are the facts. The selections 1-6 are from Juan-les-Pins, 26Jul66. The selections 7-10 are from Paris, Alcazar, 20Nov69. The last selection (The Unknown) is known as B.P.Blues.
Everything has been issued before. This CD could however be a welcome addition to your collection, since the earlier issues are difficult to find.
In the DEMS archives is a portable recorded tape, covering the complete 26Jul66 concert and also the Spanish (mono) CD, mentioned in DEMS 91/2-7, graciously donated by Jordi Navas Ferrer, one of our members in Barcelona.
We will give you the usual overview from the 26Jul66 concert in which you will also see that three selections are issued on an Italian CD, donated to DEMS by our member Giovanni Volonté from Milano. This (mono) CD has been covered extensively under the heading "New Releases" in the 96/2 Bulletin. This overview has been updated in Jan07.
Juan-les-Pins, Square Frank Jay Gould, 26Jul66.
"Festival International du Jazz d'Antibes-Juan-les-Pins"
Smada S L
Take the "A" Train S
Black and Tan Fantasy S
Creole Love Call S
The Mooche S
Soul Call S
West Indian Pancake S
El Viti S
The Opener S
La Plus Belle Africaine S L
Azure S L
Take the "A" Train S
Satin Doll S L
Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue S L V J 8
Take the "A" Train ni
Caravan S L 8
Rose of the Rio Grande V 8
Tootie for Cootie 8
Skin Deep 8 (not complete)
Passion Flower 8 M
Things Ain't What They Used To Be 8 M
Wings and Things 8 M
Star-Crossed Lovers 8
Such Sweet Thunder 8
Madness in Great Ones 8
Kinda Dukish & Rockin' in Rhythm 8
Things Ain't What They Used To Be 8
Sources: see DEMS:
S = Sarpe Top Jazz SJ-1018 CD 91/2-7;91/3
L = LRC CDC 9061 94/1-4
V = Verve V-4072-2 double LP
J = Verve 516.338-2 CD DE Jazz Masters #4 93/4-2;93/4-4
8 = Verve 8 CD set (CD # 1) 97/4-6;98/4-12
ni= not issued
M = Moon Records MCD 074-2 96/2-11
We also give you an overview of the "birthday-party" in Paris on 20Nov69.
Paris, Alcazar, 20Nov69
"Les 70 Ans De Duke Ellington"
Kinda Dukish & Rockin' in Rhythm S V bc
Take the "A" Train S V bc
A Day in the Life of a Fool S
Things Ain't What They Used To Be S V bc L
Summer Samba S
Satin Doll S V bc
El Gato S
Sophisticated Lady S V bc L
Satin Doll (into intermission) V bc
Happy Birthday V bc nE
Fife V bc
In a Sentimental Mood S V bc L
B.P.Blues S V bc L
In Triplicate S V bc
Satin Doll S V bc
S = Sarpe Top Jazz SJ-1024 CD 91/3-1;92/2-6
V = Video recording/Laser disc 92/2-6
bc = broadcast or telecast
L = LRC CDC 9061 94/1-4
nE = not with Ellington 96/2-3
Jordi Navas Ferrer did send us the Spanish Sarpe CD, mentioned by him in DEMS 91/3-1.
We agree with his findings: Drum Samba is Summer Samba; Wild Bill's Blues is R.T.M. (a.k.a. Rhythmal Roof) and The Unknown is B.P.Blues.
The closing Satin Doll is on this CD, but not mentioned.
Kinda Dukish is only complete on the Sarpe CD. In broadcast and on Laserdisc both the start and the end of Kinda Dukish are missing.
We have a tape of the radio-broadcast (or probably telecast?) and a copy of a video recording, which is also available on a Japanese Laser-disc and we have tried to establish the correct sequence. Our findings seem slightly different from the French Radio files as mentioned by François Moulé in DEMS 92/2-6. But if the correct titles were used, we believe that we have an agreement with the French files.
On screen it looks very much as if Sophisticated Lady came immediately after Things Ain’t What They Used To Be, but that is not so. The splice is very well made, but Duke could never have turned 90 degrees that quick in order to be filmed side face.
Jordi Navas Ferrer draw our attention to the presence of Åke Persson as third trombone-player. Although very difficult to see on screen, his presence is confirmed by his solo in R.T.M.
When we tried to distinguish Åke Persson on screen, we noticed that there were not more than four trumpet-players. Nelson Williams was missing. Video-recordings do help from time to time our discographers, who all have two trombones and five trumpets at the Alcazar.
As Jerry Valburn points out in his "DE on CD" page 64, this same CD, LRC(US)CDC 9061 is available as the second CD in a double CD set under the number LRC(US)CDC 9066. In that double CD set, the first CD is the same as the LRC(US)CDC 7680 or LRC(J)33 C38-7680 (better known as the S.R.O. CD), See DEMS 86/4-2 and 87/1-4.
Vocalist Ray Mitchell made only one recording with Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra, on 22Sep32, of Stars. Recent itinerary research reveals a much longer association. Ray Mitchell toured with the orchestra from June 1932 until at least December of 1932. A review of the 6Aug32 dance date indicated that Duke has discovered Mitchell, a staff singer at 500,000 watt radio station WLW in Cincinnati, evidently during Duke’s 4-9Jun32 engagement at the RKO Albee in that city: "Ray Mitchell, whom Ellington picked up at WLW only two months ago, is a singer to bank on and play for a rising market." ("Ellington Offers Dancers Pure Delight," The Columbus Dispatch, 8Aug32) Mitchell also gets brief mentions in reviews of dates in Michigan City, IN, on 1Aug32 and in Des Moines, IO, 31Aug32. The last reference I’ve located of Ray Mitchell with the Orchestra was in December: "[T]he Duke brought with him Ray Mitchell, who crooned in a delightful manner Trees and Say It Isn’t So." ("Duke Ellington Makes Farewell Bow at Howard," Washington Tribune, 9Dec32, p14) We don’t hear of him again until the spring of 1933 with this reference in the "Indianapolis News" social column in the 29Apr33 Chicago Defender (national edition, p5), "Raymond Mitche[ll] [sic], tenor of Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and former radio artist over WLW, was in the city Monday on business and to visit friends."
Duke Ellington's Hot Shoppes Themes # 1-7
See DEMS 02/2-13/1
"Duke Ellington's Hot Shoppes Themes # 1-7" is the text on the LP, described by Jordi Navas Ferrer. Jordi gave as sequence of selections on his LP: 6708 a, new piece, 6708b, 6708d, new piece, 6786e, 6786c. We doubt if that is correct. Although not important, we think it is advisable to give the correct sequence on the LP as follows (after the two new pieces have been given letters on the New DESOR Correction-sheet 1042). There are a total of 12 selections on the LP, but five are repeats. This is the sequence: a, b, c, d, e, a, f, b, d, g, e, c. If you ever find a copy of the LP, you can check.
See DEMS 06/3-18
Together with Bjorn Andresen, I have on behalf of the Duke Ellington Music Society sent our donation to Sturgis and this is the message we received on 16Jan07:
"Hi, we went to the bank this afternoon and your wire transfers is in our account.
We received $1,250. from you to put toward the Duke Ellington memorial plaque.
Thank you so much for the generous donation and we will keep you updated on the Duke Ellington memorial project."
This message was signed by Linda, President of the Sturgis Historical Society
Great Mosaic plans for 2008
I sent an email to Scott Wenzel at Mosaic suggesting a possibility for a Singles release (Bobby Hackett's wonderful "Creole Cookin'" on Verve) and added at the end of that message that I hoped we'd see an Ellington 30s big band set to go with the recent Small Groups box. He answered, "As for the Ellington, we're hoping to do the big band stuff in '08." When I asked his permission to post that news here, he wrote the following: "As long as you mention that NOTHING has been cleared yet by Sony/BMG. We have our projects already mapped out for '07 and will be sending in a track listing to be approved sometime later this year."
This message from a friend was put on the Duke-LYM list by Agustin Perez Gasco
Mosaic Records MD7-235
Duke Ellington: The Complete 1936-1940 Variety
Vocalion and OKeh small group session.
See DEMS 06/2-39
Thanks to our friends at Mosaic Records and thanks to our friend Steven Lasker, DEMS was able to give you as early as August last year the complete contents of this release. Now we know the catalogue number and the number of CDs involved. And we also know that this is an amazing achievement of sound restoration. We had all the selections in our collection on original 78 rpms, LPs and/or CDs, but these small group sessions sound completely "fresh". Steven Lasker has done a lot of splendid restoration work in the past but this tops everything.
His liner-notes are as voluminous as they are impressive. If you read slowly you can play the CDs and follow Steven's notes in the same time. A real pleasure. The discographical details have not given any cause for discussion with one exception. The bass clarinet of Harry Carney has been a topic on the Duke-LYM list and although we assume that most of our readers also receive the messages from the Duke-LYM list, we decided to group them together and to save them for the future by publishing them in DEMS Bulletin.
I'm not a big audiophile, but I think the sound on the Mosaic box has a very natural feel - one can really hear the tone of each musician, we hear the snare on Sonny's drums or the vibrato on Carney's baritone, for instance, with a clarity I've never heard before.
I just received my copy of the new Mosaic CD box set of the 1936-40 small group sessions. The sound quality is by far the best of any I've owned from that period so far - absolutely beautiful. Definitely worth every penny.
I have been guilty in the past of skipping over the small groups to get to the material by the entire orchestra. It is amazing how much great music came out of these sessions. I had also not realised how much of Hodges' exquisite soprano we hear, and Carney's bass clarinet, too.
On 29 December Ken Steiner's email referred to hearing Harry Carney on bass clarinet on the Mosaic 7CD set. The personnel listing for CD5 claims that Harry plays bass clarinet on Blue Light (and no other title) on the 7 CDs.
Harry himself said he took up bass clarinet around 1944. Duke, in a Feb47 interview, corrected the interviewer, who mentioned Harry's bass clarinet solo on Saddest Tale. He queries: 'bass clarinet?..' then goes on to say, after some hesitation, 'I think that was (-pause-) a mezzo'. What Duke meant by 'mezzo' clarinet is a mystery I have yet to see unravelled, but Duke is quietly adamant that the instrument on which Harry solos on Saddest Tale wasn't a bass clarinet.
The obvious answer is that the instrument Duke called a 'mezzo' (which was on loan) was an alto clarinet of some sort. In an interview in the Swedish Jazz Times (December 1958), Harry said it was an alto clarinet in F (this is not the usual pitch; alto clarinets are normally in Eb.)
In the past I've seen references to the clarinet on Blue Light as 'low register', and also as 'low pitch'. But I've never seen the bass clarinet associated with this piece.
To my ear there is low register clarinet on Blue Light, and low register alto clarinet on Saddest Tale. This is consistent with Duke's reaction to his 1947 interviewer, and with Harry's statements that he took up the bass clarinet around 1944 and that he played his Saddest Tale solo on an alto clarinet.
Does anyone know of anything which supports the assertion that a bass clarinet is heard on Blue Light?
The alto clarinet is a wind instrument of the clarinet family. It is a transposing instrument usually pitched in the key of Eb, though instruments in F (and in the 19th century, E) have been made. It is sometimes known as a tenor clarinet; this name especially is applied to the instrument in F. In size it lies between the soprano clarinet and the bass clarinet, to which it bears a greater resemblance in that it typically has a straight body (made of Grenadilla wood, or since the 1950s sometimes black plastic), but a curved neck and bell made of metal. In appearance it strongly resembles the basset horn, but usually differs in three respects: it is pitched in Eb, it lacks an extended lower range, and it has a wider bore than most basset horns.
The keys of the alto clarinet are similar to the keys on smaller clarinets, and are played with virtually identical fingerings. The alto clarinet, however, usually has one key not found on most soprano clarinets, which allows it to reach a low (written) Eb. The range of the alto clarinet is from the Gb in the second octave below middle C (i.e. bottom line of the bass staff) to the middle of the second octave above middle C.
As you can see, some altos have been pitched in F, so Harry was probably right. At least, he should know it.
I am quite sure that Barney is the solo clarinettist on Blue Light. Nor do I detect bass clarinet sounds in the ensemble. Arne, your info re the alto clarinet confirms what I know about the instrument, which I played for several years in the Leeds Concert Band. I don't see any reason to doubt Harry's recollection, or Duke's.
The issue was discussed in DEMS Bulletin 01/3-6/2 and 02/1-7/1 following the news of Harry's 1958 Swedish interview with Lennart Östberg to which I referred.
Just for the record: Lambert has Bigard as clarinettist, Gammond has Carney (low pitch).
First, to get the "documentation" out of the way, New DESOR shows two recordings, both at the same session, 22Dec 38. According to New DESOR, the full band was there - it says the same personnel as 11April, where it shows 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 reeds, 4 rhythm, and vocalist.
New DESOR also credits the reed solo to Bigard. To me, that makes sense, because I hear a normal Bb (soprano) clarinet playing at the low end of its range due to the hard, vibration-free tone (although that may be related to the speakers I'm using). What I hear is a tone I can achieve easily, if I want to, at the same range when I play Bb clarinet. The fluidity of the notes when the soloist starts running up and down also makes me think soprano clarinet, because both alto and bass clarinet have bigger tone holes, requiring fingerpads rather than open tone holes.
I have also tried an alto clarinet a couple of times in the dim past, and for a while, we had an alto clarinet in our band. Its tone seems different than what I hear at this part of the recording.
At 48 seconds (the ensemble section before the trombone solo) I am pretty sure one of the low clarinets is used. I don't recognise it as an alto clarinet (which I expect to be a little harder sound) but it's clearly what I could produce on my bass clarinet. But if Harry didn't start playing the bass clarinet until later, we have to accept it isn't a bass clarinet, or at least not a bass clarinet played by him. Did any of the other reeds play bass clarinet? I don't think I've read anything to suggest it. So perhaps it was Harry on the F alto clarinet, which I've never seen or heard.
David in Palmquist
Slowly I have come to appreciate the need for objective documentation. So, long live DESOR and other "Tools".
I was interested in David Palmquist's comments about him recognising the normal Bb (soprano) clarinet. Roger's subject has to do with whether a bass clarinet was used, or not. So your comment is pertinent as it relates to the question of the instrument. But, it seems to me that the personal style and individual tonality of Bigard is readily apparent in the solo. So why isn't this probability (?) a good starting point to answer the question about the solo?
The Mood Indigo voicing of the second chorus is more difficult to decipher but I don't hear the distinctively different sound of a bass clarinet sound there either.
Another concern of mine is this: No matter what some respected bit of documentation says about the full band being the same as 11Apr, on the 22Dec38 recordings of Blue Light, I can hear only a very small band (octet?). As a matter of fact, I can hear only seven instruments : Piano, bass, drums, guitar, trumpet, trombone and one clarinet. I don't hear Carney on this record and I don't see why he would be necessary The Mood Indigo voicing from 1930 to 1974 was just three voices.
But the documentation in the Mosaic booklet says that Carney played bass clarinet on Blue Light. Who are you going to believe, me or Lasker? :-)
My point, again, is that while respecting and appreciating the tools of documentation, we should also listen attentively.
I'm the one who got this started with my comments about the box set and the bass clarinet. There are some clarinet tones on Blue Light that are very low (underneath the trumpet solo) - I assumed this was a bass clarinet, not realising I was stepping into a long-standing controversy. It is interesting to find that the "references" differ on this.
On page 407 of Mark Tucker's "The Duke Ellington Reader" there is an interesting analysis of Blue Light. It is part of chapter 10 from Martin Williams' book about Ellington's music "The Jazz Tradition". The chapter is titled "Form Beyond Form". Very interesting. He describes the ensemble passage after Bigard's solo like this: "The twelve-measure passage which follows uses the Mood Indigo alliance of muted trumpet and trombone and lower register clarinet in a simple succession of half and whole notes, beautifully voiced for the three horns, compellingly effective, but without strong melodic content ".
This is an ensemble passage . Not a trumpet solo with lower register clarinet tones "underneath the trumpet"
There is some background to Lawrence Brown's solo but I do not
hear the unique tonalities of a bass clarinet there either. Maybe
some of you do.
The full band may have been there on 22Dec38, but that's no reason why Blue Light shouldn't have been an octet, while the others were having a gin and tonic, or whatever, for Christmas.
I played alto clarinet in a concert band for several years, and currently own and play regular soprano and bass clarinets. I think the question of what Harry plays on Blue Light is most intriguing. I doubt if it was an alto clarinet (whether in F, as he says of the instrument on which he played his 1934 Saddest Tale solo, or in Eb). Duke said that the 1934 instrument was 'on loan'. Harry said he took up the bass clarinet 'around 1944.' I know there must always be reservations about oral testimony, but I'm not inclined to doubt either of them. On Blue Light I hear Barney on his regular clarinet (Bb soprano, Albert system which he always played), in the low register.
I hear no evidence of Harry playing at all. I shall listen again because I've never really needed to listen to it from that point of view. Some of the commentators on Duke-LYM seem to think this way too.
It is perfectly possible that Harry was present at the time but didn't play; i.e. that the octet was effectively a septet.
I think it is most unlikely that the alto clarinet of 1934 remained on loan for four years when the band was on the road, without there being any evidence of its use. Why would he do that? Even with a Pullman baggage car?
I do not know if you have seen the notes Steven Lasker wrote for the latest Mosaic 7 CD set, The Complete 1936-1940 Variety, Vocalion and OKeh group sessions. On page 25 he gives the personnel and the soloists for tracks 18 and 19 of CD 5. He has treated the recordings of Blue Light as small group recordings, although very likely the whole band was in the studio. But in similar situations, you have mentioned in the New DESOR also that some selections were played by some musicians mentioned by name (initials).
Maybe you want to make a kind of correction for the Blue Light session. But before you do, you should make up your mind. Steven Lasker claims two things which seem odd. He says that Harry Carney played bass clarinet and that Tricky Sam was not taking part. He only has Wallace Jones, Lawrence Brown, Barney Bigard, Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, Fred Guy, Billy Taylor and Sonny Greer.
I would love to have your opinion before I write about it in the next Bulletin. I have listened and I believe that Tricky Sam is on trombone in the Mood Indigo like part of Blue Light and that Barney played the clarinet as Roger says. I also believe that you should give in the New DESOR a more specific mention of the musicians like you did for instance in session 5908.
It is very interesting what Lasker says, but I have my doubts about the number of musicians that recorded Blue Light. For this reason, in the New Desor, we have not specified their names.
In my opinion Tricky Sam is certainly present: the 2° chorus is performed by the trio Wallace Jones, Barney Bigard and Joe Nanton, the same trio that plays on Dusk.
Like Roger Boyes, I also have no evidence of Carney playing at all but, during the 3° chorus, the background to Lawrence Brown, is played by some reeds (2 or 3).
I first listened carefully to Blue Light in early 1990, as it had a bearing on something else I had become interested in, Harry Carney’s solo chorus on Saddest Tale. At the time I didn’t even have Blue Light in my collection, and a friend copied it onto cassette for me. After listening, I concluded that here was no evidence of a bass clarinet on Blue Light. (This is from notes – unpublished – which I made at the time and which I have in front of me as I write).
I also concluded, and I remain convinced, that there is no reason to quarrel with what Harry told Stanley Dance in 1961: ‘I didn’t take up bass clarinet until many years later, around 1944’ (World of Duke Ellington, Macmillan 1971, p68). It’s neither here nor there that the earliest recordings I know on which he plays bass clarinet are from 1943. The memory plays tricks, and oral recollection never has the authority of on-the-spot written testimony, but 1943/44 is what I will continue to believe, until I have evidence which makes me change my mind.
Back to Blue Light. The first chorus features Barney Bigard on his regular soprano clarinet; and the second is a ‘Mood Indigo’ trio of trombone, trumpet, clarinet. This is where Luciano hears Tricky, and I’d certainly like to hear more about that. Chorus 3 is Lawrence’s trombone solo with clarinet(s). Then Duke takes over at the piano.
Is Blue Light an octet? I feel that seven, eight or nine players could be involved at one point or another. In 1990 I heard a guitar in the first chorus, though not in the fourth. No-one suggests there is more than one trumpet, though two of the trombones have been mentioned, and in 1990 I noted that I detected two or three clarinets behind Lawrence.
I’m much more interested in whether there is, after all, a bass clarinet in the accompaniment to Lawrence’s solo. Early in 1994 I bought a 2LP set ’Duke Ellington – The Immortal 1938 Year’. It is a 1988 production by Bob Thiele, and the label reads ‘Portrait Masters.’ As it offered both takes of Blue Light I brought my 1990 note up to date, finding minor differences between the two, but again no hint of a bass clarinet (which of course I wasn’t looking out for anyway).
There the matter ended, as far as I was concerned, until late last autumn when I acquired in quick succession, Blue Light on the ASV 2CD set ‘Creole Rhapsody’ (master take) and on the Mosaic 7CD ‘Small Groups' set (both takes). On the Mosaic (but not on the ASV) I’d say there’s a distinct hint of the sound of a lower clarinet (alto or bass) behind Lawrence’s solo. This is only on casual hearing and I shall be listening to the three with care in the coming weeks.
For the moment, two points. First, I think it most improbable that we hear Harry Carney on the alto clarinet he played on Saddest Tale in 1934. In 1946 or 1947 Duke said that instrument was on loan, and it seems very unlikely that it would have stayed with the band, apparently unused, for four years, be brought out for this recording, and then put away again until it was returned to its owner.
Second, if it turns out there is a bass clarinet on Blue Light, that wouldn’t negate what Harry said about taking it up in about 1944. Harry was a skilled clarinettist. When taking up the bass clarinet, a player has to adjust to the sheer size of the thing, and to the slacker embouchure required. As Harry played the baritone sax every day of his life, these adjustments would cause him no problems at all. If Duke wanted that sound for Blue Light, and so arranged for there to be an alto or bass clarinet at the recording studio on 22Dec38, Harry would find his way around what was required on either instrument in minutes and play it. End of story, until he took up the bass clarinet some years later. The sound in question comes early in the third chorus, on both takes of the Mosaic issue.
Because Roger Boyes thought that he heard some difference between the ASV and the Mosaic re-releases of Blue Light, I compared them. What struck me was the fact that the Mosaic version was far better than the ASV version (of the same take). Somewhere else in this Bulletin (07/1-47) I praised the Dreyfus CDs and gave second prise to ASV, but in this case I think I should give first price to Mosaic. For what's worth, I hear each time Barney Bigard. I am less convinced of the instrument but I have no second thoughts about the player.
This is the not very original title of a documentary, made by Robert Levi, about Billy Strayhorn's life and more specifically about his relationship with Ellington. After I saw the documentary I was less upset than after having read the reviews in some of the newspapers in the US. In particular the one by an anonymous journalist in the Chicago Tribune was very poor. The reviewer even forgot to mention the name of the director of the documentary. Robert Levi made in 1991 a documentary about Duke Ellington, titled "Reminiscing in Tempo" (see DEMS 92/4-6) which was better. For Billy Strayhorn's documentary he engaged apparently not very moderate-minded people like the concert pianist Don Shirley, who was very negative about Ellington. Don Shirley is not a man who is afraid to exaggerate. In the 1983 BBC documentary of Russell Davies, where his closing statement (about the same Ellington) was "Let's put it this way: he was not God, but he certainly came very close to it."
The problems between Ellington and Strayhorn (and how could they not have had any problems) are rather over-emphasized in this Strayhorn documentary. I would have welcomed a few audio or video clips, showing Ellington praising Strayhorn. There is selective clipping. We saw the statement hDuke made in the documentary "On the Road with Duke Ellington" about Billy being his severest critic. But Duke's statement that Billy was "seldom seen but always heard", taken from the BBC programme Jazz 625 of 20Feb64, was deleted from the clip it belonged to at the end of the documentary where we see Billy being applauded by the audience around him.
As a fanatic tape collector, I have heard Ellington praise Strayhorn many times. His words were mostly deleted when the music was released. I transcribed the words he spoke at the Whitney Museum. I did so to illustrate that Duke never played Lush Life, but at the same time it was very intriguing to hear Duke's opinion of Strayhorn. This is what I mailed to Duke-LYM:
"The Impulse CD of the Whitney Museum recital does not contain Lush Life. The recital was given on 10Apr72 on the occasion of the presentation of the Ellington stamp of the Republic of Togo to Ellington by the ambassador of Togo. Duke started the programme with two movements from the Suite: Amour, Amour and Soul Soothing Beach. After that Duke said that he wanted not to forget to play Billy Strayhorn's Lotus Blossom. It was followed by Take the "A" Train. Duke acknowledged the presence of Edmund Anderson and he played Flamingo. After the applause Duke said:
'I couldn't resist that because it reminded me that it was with Flamingo that Billy Strayhorn did the ... well he brought about the renaissance of vocal orchestration. It was the first time any imagination was really put behind a vocal and it has been going on and on ever since. Billy Strayhorn, a great wonderful man. If I think of Billy Strayhorn I cannot think of anything to play.'
Some people in the audience were requesting Bird of Paradise and Lush Life. Duke's response:
'I would rather play Lush Life but I can't stand it. [Audience laughter] I can't. I can't even stand when anybody else plays it. It is the most beautiful thing ever written.' "
I think that a very pertinent video clip has been overlooked by Robert Levi: This is Duke Ellington's statement in his Second Sacred Concert during the performance of Freedom. I do not have to transcribe it. Duke published his words in MIMM page 275. It says all there is to say about his relationship with Billy Strayhorn.
My friend Bill Bales, who has a general appreciation of good music, made a copy for me of his recording of the Strayhorn documentary and he wrote: "As I told you I really enjoyed it and know that you will too." I am not fearful that "the general public" will get a wrong impression of Duke's relationship with Billy. It is only we who know better who are to greater or lesser degree irritated by this biased documentary. On the other hand we have now some "fresh" material, like fragments of the video recording of Dig not the Distortion, taken from the BBC telecast "Ellington in Europe", recorded 18Feb65.
For inquiries about future DVD availability of the Billy Strayhorn documentary "Lush Life", contact firstname.lastname@example.org
"Billy Strayhorn, Lush Life",
Documentary made for PBS by Robert Levi and Robert Seidman.
When I saw the documentary for the first time, I wondered where many familiar music and video clips came from. For those who have the same curiosity, I give the results of my research. I would be grateful if anybody could fill in the missing data in my report.
What you see is not always what you get!
0:00 - Put the counter on your video player on 0:00 when you hear: "Thank you."
When the film starts you hear a piano accompaniment which has nothing to do with Strayhorn or Ellington.
0:20 - You see Billy walking on the tarmac of a wet unidentified airport. This is taken from the documentary "Ellington in Europe" from BBC 2 in the series "Jazz 54". This documentary was produced by Yvonne Littlewood who followed the band on the four weeks tour (from 26Jan until 28Feb65).
0:42 - You see Duke and Billy on stage on 31Jan65 in Copenhagen.
0:52 - You see Billy sitting behind the piano on 31Jan65 in Copenhagen.
0:59 - You hear Cashmere Cutie, recorded 6-8Jan95 for Challenge Records in Hilversum by the Dutch Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Jerry van Rooyen.
1:09 - You see Billy on screen on 18Feb65.
2:26 - You see Duke and Billy on screen 18Feb65.
2:35 - You see Billy on screen on 18Feb65.
3:11 - You see Billy on screen on 21/22Jan63.
3:25 - You see Duke on screen on 21/22Jan63.
4:06 - You see Billy on screen on 21/22Jan63.
4:33 - You see Billy walking again on the tarmac.
5:06 - You hear Lament for Javanette, recorded 11Nov40 for RCA in Studio "A" in Chicago.
8:04 - Harlem Rhythm (Merry Go Round), recorded and filmed Oct34 for Paramount Pictures at the Eastern Service Studios in Astoria, Long Island for the picture "Symphony in Black".
10:32 - An unidentified Duke Ellington Interview.
11:19 - You see segments of the private Harry Carney films.
14:27 - You see Billy behind the piano on stage in the Middle East between 20oct and 22Nov63.
15:28 - You hear Day Dream, recorded 2Nov40 for RCA in Studio "A" in Chicago.
16:57 - Flamingo, recorded and filmed Nov/Dec41 as one of the "Soundies" for R.C.M.Productions in Hollywood, possibly at the Fine Arts Studios.
18:05 - You see segments of the private Harry Carney films.
18:16 - You hear Love Came, recorded on 14Aug65 at an unknown studio at an unknown location. This recording was later released on Red Baron CD AK 52760 "Billy Strayhorn - Lush Life" as track 19.
19:29 - You see segments of the private Aaron Bridgers films.
19:48 - Caravan, recorded and filmed 14Mar52 at a California studio as one of the "Snader Transcriptions". On screen is Juan Tizol and later Ellington.
19:52 - You see segments of the private Harry Carney films.
21:25 - Something To Live For. Gunther Schuller has no idea why Ellington's name was used. Could it have been to increase sales?
22:20 - You hear Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin' on piano, which has nothing to do with Billy or Duke.
22:38 - You see a clip from the picture "Paramount Pictorial No 889" as "Record Making with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra" filmed late Jun37 when Ivie was singing Oh, Babe! Maybe Someday.
23:09 - You see three segments of the Harry Carney films.
24:40 - Chelsea Bridge, recorded and filmed on 31Jan65 at the Falkoner Teatret in Copenhagen and later released on video Quantum Leap QL 0178 and on DVD Quantum Leap QLDVD 0246. See DEMS 03/2-4/2.
27:04 - Take the "A" Train, recorded and filmed on 8oct42 for Columbia Pictures Corp. at the Columbia Studios in Hollywood for the film "Reveille with Beverly".
27:20 - Take the "A" Train, recorded and filmed on 31Jan65 at the Falkoner Teatret in Copenhagen and later released on video Quantum Leap QL 0194 and on DVD Quantum Leap QLDVD 0246.
28:24 - Schuller suggested that there is some Ellington in Take the "A' Train. See also DEMS 02/1-5/1 and 02/2-10/2.
29:02 - You see a silent picture of the band as it was from Feb until Aug50. Probably filmed for the occasion of the European trip.
29:15 - I cannot believe that Billy has never received any royalties for Take the "A" Train.
30:30 - Bli-Blip, recorded and filmed Nov/Dec41 as one of the "Soundies" for R.C.M.Productions in Hollywood, possibly at the Fine Arts Studios.
31:08 - You see segments of the Carney films.
31:23 - Rocks in My Bed was written by Ellington, see Walter van de Leur p.62.
31:28 - My Little Brown Book is not from 'Jump for Joy" but was written for Billy Strayhorn's show "Fantastic Rhythm".
32:09 - You see segments of the Carney films.
35:04 - Daybreak Express, rehearsal fragment, recorded and filmed late Jun37 at the Master Records Studios in NYC for Paramount Pictures to be part of "Paramount Pictorial No 889" as "Record Making with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra".
35:28 - When the programmes for the 23Jan43 concert were already printed before Ellington asked Billy Strayhorn for help with "Black, Brown and Beige", what Billy testified seems to be true, namely that he had little to do with BB&B. Only 4 minutes of the 45 minutes are filled with Billy Strayhorn music. We counted 53 bars in total. (See Walter van de Leur p.88).
35:38 - You hear Sugar Hill Penthouse, recorded 11Dec44 for RCA at Victor Studio No 2 in NYC.
35:44 - You see on screen Duke Ellington in "Symphony in Black".
36:17 - Johnny Come Lately. The start of this number is taken from the RCA recording of 26Jun42. The remaining part is obviously "freshly" made for the documentary.
37:17 - Duke was much involved in the production of "Beggar's Holiday", see John Franceschina, "Duke Ellington's Music for the Theatre" p.59. Accordingto Robert Levy there were 20 songs written by Billy Strayhorn. According to Duke Ellington (MIMM p.185) there were 50 songs in total and Duke promised to write a few more.
38:21 - Passion Flower, recorded and filmed on 31Jan65 at the Falkoner Teatret in Copenhagen and later released on video Quantum Leap QL 0194 and on DVD Quantum Leap QLDVD 0246. You see Billy behind the piano on stage in the Middle East between 20oct and 22Nov63, but you hear Duke on the piano in Copenhagen. See DEMS 03/2-4/2.
38:55 - You see Billy walking again on the tarmac.
39:34 - You see Billy behind the piano on stage in the Middle East between 20oct and 22Nov63.
39:42 - You see segments of the Bridgers films.
41:00 - You hear Orson, recorded 13-17oct97 or 28oct99 for Challenge Records in Hilversum by the Dutch Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Jerry van Rooyen.
41:57 - You see Billy leaving a hotel in Paris, filmed by Bridgers.
42:47 - You see segments of the Bridgers films.
43:16 - You hear Raincheck, recorded 30Aug67, take -6 at RCA studio A in NYC for the album " …and His Mother called Him Bill".
45:48 - You see the very well-known but not identified (by me that is) clip to illustrate Be-Bop.
46:28 - You hear Love Has Passed Me By Again, recorded 2Jul65 at RCA studios in NYC. Released in 1992 on the Red Baron CD AK 52760 "Billy Strayhorn - Lush Life" as track 17, on the CD titled Passed Me By and credited to Mercer Ellington! Ozzie Bailey is the singer. According to Walter van de Leur this selection was recorded for the first time by the Dutch Jazz Orchestra in Jan95.
49:02 - Taffy Twist (Dig Not the Distortion), recorded 18Feb65 in London for telecast "Jazz 54" from BBC 2. It was telecast as "Duke Ellington in Europe, part 2" on 10Apr65. In the old Desor two themes each of 12 bars were recognised. The credits were given to Billy Strayhorn. In the New DESOR the second theme was identified as Taffy Twist and this title was given to the whole number. The credits were now for Mercer Ellington. What actually happened was that Billy played the intro, four passages and the coda and the band played five times the 12 bar chorus of Taffy Twist. The passages by Billy Strayhorn are very much the same as the piano introduction to Strayhorn's Cashmere Cutie. I suggest that this title should be mentioned in a note on page 1172 of the New DESOR.
At the beginning the sound and the pictures are in synch, but this is later no longer the case. I guess that this is due to the fact that from the soundtrack everything between 2°BAND and cod8BS was deleted.
51:55 - Satin Doll, recorded and filmed 23Jan67 in Copenhagen and released on video Quantum Leap QL 0249 and on DVD Quantum Leap QLDVD 0182. See DEMS 03/2-4/2.
52:03 - Satin Doll. This is a non-Ellington item. Does anybody recognise the singer and/or the band and the date and/or the location?
54:14 - Rhumbop, recorded 17Sep56 at the 30°Street Columbia Studio in NYC for the television show "A Drum Is a Woman". The first take was released on both Columbia releases. The second take was used for US Steel Hour. It is that second take from which you hear (and see) a short part in the documentary.
56:15 - Duke Ellington Interview. Recorded at Duke's apartment in NYC on 15Mar57. Interviewer was Ed Murrow. The programme was titled "Person to Person".
56 :25 - Taken from an unidentified Ellington interview on television.
56:30 - Introduction of Duke Ellington in the programme "David Frost Show" by Orson Welles. Recorded 19May70 and probably telecast on 8Jun70. See Klaus Stratemann p.599.
56 :41 - Taken from the same unidentified Ellington interview on television.
56:49 - A short part of the "David Frost Show" with Orson Welles.
57:11 - Angu, recorded and filmed on 21or 22Jan63 at the Chelsea Studios in London for Granada television.
58:53 - You hear Happy Anatomy, recorded between 2 and 7Jun59 at Radio Recorders Studio in Los Angeles for the picture "Anatomy of a Murder", in the New DESOR 5920e.
59:58 - You see an unidentified location on screen.
1:00:02 - Taken from an unidentified Ellington interview on television.
1:00:21 - You see Duke closing the door in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. This clip is taken from the Ralph Gleason documentary "Duke Ellington - Love You Madly".
1:00:30 - You hear Flirtibird, recorded 1Jun59 at Radio Recorders Studio in Los Angeles for the picture "Anatomy of a Murder"; in the New DESOR 5920e. This recording was not used for the soundtrack, it was however released on LP and CD; in the New DESOR 5918b.
1:01:49 - Overture [to the Nutcracker Suite], recorded and filmed 26Jun60 at Radio Recorders Studio in Los Angeles for the CBS promotion picture "Playback - Duke Ellington". The clip includes a very short part of the interview with Goddard Lieberson.
1:04:33 - You hear a combination of Nite and Paris Blues, recorded 2 and/or 3May61 at the Reeves Sound Studios in NYC for the picture "Paris Blues". The start of the combination is taken from the start of Nite and the remaining portion is taken from Paris Blues. In the New DESOR, respectively 6108a and 6108h.
1:05:48 - You see Duke, Billy and Aaron sipping coffee in a Paris café in Dec60.
1:08:40 - You hear an edited version of Marian Logan's statement about Duke's relationship to Martin Luther King. In the documentary "Reminiscing in Tempo" (by the same Robert Levi in 1991) Marian described how she made Duke and Martin meet each other. She said: "Martin and I had flown up from Atlanta," and she went on to describe extensively the meeting with Ellington after she went to Duke's hotel with Martin Luther King. She continued with the words: "So he [Duke] said: 'let's go to McCormick Place' to Strayhorn who was rehearsing the cast and he [Duke] said: 'Strays, put on BAM' and they come out with King Fit the Battle of Alabam'….."
In the documentary "Lush Life" only the underlined words have been used, which gives the impression that Duke wasn't even there.
As far as I have known the late Marian Logan, I do not believe that she would have been pleased about the way that her statement has been edited selectively in this way.
King Fit the Battle of Alabam' was not written by Billy Strayhorn. See Walter van de Leur p.274: My People: Purple People, Billy Strayhorn. 1963. All other movements are by Duke Ellington.
1:09:16 - You see Billy Strayhorn on stage in the Middle East between 20oct and 22Nov63. It is undoubtedly true that Billy took over at the piano when Duke was ill (24Sep-9oct63). This clip however was filmed at a concert after Duke returned to the band. He introduced Billy to play first Lush Life, followed by Take the "A" Train. This clip is recorded during that performance of Take the "A" Train and taken from the French documentary titled "La Légende du Duke", made in 2000 by Frank Cassenti. See DEMS 01/2-11/2.
109:40 - You see 3 segments of the Bridgers films.
1:11:18 - Love Came is a replay of the recording by Billy Strayhorn on piano of 14Aug65. What you see and Duke's narration were recorded and filmed on 20Sep65 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco by Ralph Gleason and later used for his PBS documentary "Duke Ellington - Love You Madly". (On the Red Baron CD, Love Came was twice credited to Duke although we hear Duke clearly declare that it was written by Billy!)
1:11:52 - You see another segment of the Bridgers films.
1:13:12 - Lush Life, see my previous comments at 1:09:16.
1:14:04 - You see Duke sitting in Harry Carney's car; clip is taken from the Ralph Gleason documentary "Duke Ellington - Love You Madly".
1:15:16 - You see two segments of the Bridgers films.
1:18:52 - What you see is not the hotel-room in Reno but a room in an unidentified Hilton Hotel where Duke replayed the recording of STAR (clarinets), recorded 23Mar67 at the RCA studio in NYC for the stage performance of "The Jaywalker". This clip is taken from the "Bell Telephone Hour" documentary "On the Road with Duke Ellington".
1:19:01 - Lotus Blossom, filmed and recorded in Copenhagen on 23Jan67 for telecast by TV Byen. Released on video Quantum Leap QL 0179 and DVD Quantum Leap QL DVD 0249. See DEMS 03/2-4/2.
1:20:07 - You see a clip taken from the documentary "On the Road with Duke Ellington".
1:22:13 - You see an earlier clip from the Bridgers films.
1:22:23 - You see Billy Strayhorn thanking the audience around him in the BBC 2 "Jazz 625" telecast, recorded 20Feb64.
While preparing a review for "Blue Light", the Newsletter of the Duke Ellington Society (UK), a review of the new Mosaic 7CD set of 1935-1940 Ellington Small Group Sessions, I asked the co-producer of the set, Steven Lasker, for ‘chapter and verse’ for the composer credit for Finesse (21Mar39) listed as B. Taylor – R. Sour. The question, who wrote Finesse, has puzzled me for a long time. I discussed it in a 1996 article in Blue Light, vol.4 no.1. Billy Taylor’s name didn’t surprise me at all, but the name of R. Sour, associated in my mind with Body and Soul, certainly did.
Steven replied with a copy of the copyright submission :
Night wind; w Robert Sour, m Billy Taylor. © Nov. 22, 1944; E pub. 127206; Onyx publishers, New York 49562
Steven also sent this fascinating article for DEMS Bulletin. He wrote:
Roger: Here is my response to your request for "chapter and verse" on Finesse.
All About Finesse by Steven Lasker
Finesse was first recorded in New York City on 21Mar 39. I’d like to tell you what the original ARC ledger entry says, but the sheet for this master is missing. Borrowed but not returned by Columbia’s legal affairs department in about 1962, perhaps? Read on…
Fortunately for us, the missing data can be gleaned from other file sources. The sheets for the adjacent masters tell us that the day’s previous session (by Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra) concluded at 4.45 pm, while the session that followed (by Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra) began at 5.30 pm, thus Finesse was recorded in between those two times. The matrix card, its information presumably copied (in the early 60’s?) from the ledger, shows the title as Finesse, the composer as Billy Taylor, and notes the artists’ credit as ‘Duke Ellington (piano), Johnny Hodges (alto sax), Billy Taylor (bass).’ The engineer’s log tells us that only a single take was waxed and retained: matrix WM 1005-1.
This first recording of Finesse was originally released 6Sep55 on Columbia CL 663 (‘Blue Light’). Original pressings omit composer’s credit. A corrected label copy notice dated 21May58 ordered composer’s credits added on subsequent runs. That for Finesse: Billy Taylor.
The second recording of Finesse was made in Paris on 5Apr39 by Rex Stewart and his Footwarmers, consisting of Rex, Barney Bigard, Billy Taylor and Django Reinhardt. The label of Swing 70, the original French issue (released 22Feb40), as well as that of HMV B 9154, the original British issue, credits Billy Taylor as composer; the area on the Swing label where the publisher is customarily identified bears only a generic ‘contrôle copyright.’
Rex (Boy Meets Horn, pp 190-1) recalled that upon his return from the 1939 European tour, ‘one of the first persons I got together with was my old buddy Brick Fleagle, who was not only a good friend but also the arranger on most of my record dates.’ So I loaned my copies of the [five titles from the] Paris date to Brick, because he was also a guitar man and I knew he would really enjoy Django’s artistry. So far, so good. That is, until he loaned my records to Steve Smith, who at the time operated a record label, HRS [Hot Record Society]. The next thing I knew, HRS had my Paris date on the market – only it had been retitled Ellingtonia! Well, you can bet I was furious at this type of double dealing. But […] I did nothing about it. Subsequently, my friendship with Brick Fleagle was never the same’
HRS wouldn’t issue sides from Rex’s Paris session until 1941. Prior to that, on 23Jul40, Rex Stewart recorded a session in New York City for Steve Smith’s HRS label with his ‘Big Seven,’ with Barney Bigard, Brick Fleagle and Wellman Braud among others. One of the four 12-inch sides recorded at the session, Solid Rock (composer’s credit to Stewart on HRS 2005), was the same piece as Rex had recorded on 5Apr39 in Paris as Solid Old Man (composer’s credit to Stewart-Bigard-Taylor on Swing 56, released 24May39) and on 22Nov39 in New York as Honey Hush (with Barney Bigard and his Orchestra, a version credited to Stewart-Taylor-Bigard on Okeh 5663, released 26Jul40). (This is an entirely different piece from the Solid Old Man that Ellington composed and his orchestra on 21Mar39 recorded for Brunswick.)
Four titles from Rex’s 1939 Paris session (but not Solid Old Man) first appeared in the US on the red and white ‘Hot Record Society Originals’ label. Two issues, bearing catalogue numbers HRS 1003 and 1004, issued Low Cotton, Montmartre, Finesse and I Know That You Know; the labels bear the additional designations ‘Improvisations in Ellingtonia’ parts I, II, III and IV. The matrix numbers, R4098, R4099. R4100 and R4101 respectively, were controls assigned by Reeves Sound Studios when they dubbed the parts from Rex’s copies circa May 1941 (this is dated by reference to other masters recorded by Reeves for Commodore Records that year: master R4061, recorded 25Mar41 by Joe Sullivan, and master R4178, recorded 28Aug41 by Chu Berry). HRS 1003 was the first issue anywhere of Low Cotton which wasn’t issued in Europe until early 1945, when it appeared on the ‘B’ side of Swing 203, coupled with a side by Leo Chauliac et son Orchestre. While the various titles were accurately titled on these HRS issues, the composer credits seem to have been scrambled somewhat. While I Know That You Know is correctly credited to Youmans and Caldwell, Low Cotton, Montmartre and Finesse were each credited to ‘Bigard-Stewart-Taylor’; by contrast, the composer’s credits on the Swing issues read Low Cotton (Rex Stewart), Montmartre (Rex Stewart) and Finesse (Billy Taylor).
To complicate matters, these weren’t the first HRS issues to bear these catalogue numbers, nor would they be the last. The first variants of HRS 1003 and 1004 date to 1939 (and were advertised in Jazz Information no.9, 7Nov39) and contain previously unissued Decca masters from 1936 by Jimmy McPartland’s Squirrels. The third variants of HRS 1003 and 1004 would appear in 1945.
During a hiatus from Ellington in mid-1943, Stewart "teamed up with guitarist Brick Fleagle in the band of clarinettist Dick Ballou at Mexico City’s new El Patio Club" per Stratemann, p242, citing Down Beat, 1Jul43, p3). A photo of Rex Stewart’s 8Jun44 Keynote session, printed on page 11 of the booklet to Mosaic’s recent Ellington Small Groups set, depicts Steve Smith (who supervised the date), Brick Fleagle and Rex Stewart all together.
Billy Taylor’s Big Eight (with Hodges, Carney and Brick Fleagle among others) recorded Night Wind for Keynote on 1Aug44 under the supervision of Steve Smith. The composer’s credit: "Billy Taylor – Robert Sour." Rex Stewart, in Boy Meets Horn, groused (p191): "After my pal Billy Taylor had left he band, Johnny Hodges made a record of my tune Finesse, but this time it was called Night Wind and credited to my boyhood buddy Billy Taylor!"
Night Wind was published as sheet music by Onyx Publishers later that year. The song’s copyright submission, registered 22Nov44, credits w[ords] Robert Sour and m[usic] Billy Taylor." (A phone call to BMI resulted in the information that Billy Taylor’s share of Night Wind is currently administered by ASCAP while Robert Sour’s - he was a co-lyricist of Body And Soul, incidentally - is administered by BMI. The current publisher of Night Wind is Druropetal Music.)
The third variants of HRS 1003 and 1004 issue four of the 1939 Paris recordings as by Rex Stewart’s Big Four and were released circa October 1945 (they were registered in that month’s Record Changer). Labels are cream in colour with a golden curlicue design. Variant three of HRS 1003 couples Low Cotton with Django’s Jump [aka Montmarte]. Both sides are shown as composed by Rex Stewart. Variant three of HRS 1004 couples Night Wind (aka Finesse) with Solid Rock [aka Solid Old Man and Honey Hush]. Billy Taylor is shown as the composer of Finesse, Rex Stewart as composer of Solid Rock. This was the first HRS issue of this recording. (Thus the HRS catalogue carried a 10-inch version of Solid Rock by Rex Stewart’s Big Four, plus a 12-inch version of the title by Rex Stewart’s Big Seven.) I Know That You Know from the Paris session was also re-released, this time on HRS 1026 coupled with a side by Buck Clayton’s Big Four.
According to The Book of Django by the late Max Abrams (self-published, Los Angeles, 1973), p66: "Rex Stewart, in about 1962, asked the author, as his attorney, to write to the appropriate composers’ society in France, the equivalent of ASCAP in the United States, to register a complaint that he was receiving less credit as composer of some of these titles [from the 1939 Paris session], particularly Finesse, and that Billy Taylor was receiving too much. (The credits, on the various recorded issues, differ substantially for the session.) The Society did not seem to agree with Stewart’s version of the manner in which the tunes were composed for the session, but an unexpected result was that Django’s name was removed on the composers’ credits in the Society’s files.With only half the session’s participants now alive, the argument probably will never be settled…’
ASCAP’s "Record of the Works of Duke Ellington" shows Finesse as a composition by Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges; the publisher is listed as the American Academy of Music (Irving Mills’ firm) and the year as 1968. The New DESOR, using as its authority the list of Ellington’s compositions found in MIMM -- which was copied from ASCAP’s "Record" - - credits D. Ellington – J. Hodges. Yet: A review of the official U.S. "Catalog[s] of Copyright Entries for Musical Works" for 1939-1944, 1968 and 1969 omits any entry for a title Finesse by any Ellingtonian. (Songtitles being uncopyrightable, there are numerous copyrighted songs titled Finesse by others.)
"Hodge Podge" on Columbia Special Products JEE 22001, a 1974 reissue of Epic EE22001, credits Finesse to Hodges – Ellington, as does CBS (F) 8818 from 1981.
So, who actually composed Finesse? The evidence at hand weighs most heavily in favour of Billy Taylor, the melody’s copyright holder. Rex Stewart’s attempt to claim the tune fell flat, while the claim advanced with ASCAP in 1968 by the American Academy of Music on behalf of Ellington and Hodges strikes me as flat-out bogus.
I wrote back to the effect that, while I accept that Robert Sour wrote the lyric for Billy Taylor’s Night Wind, I cannot accept Night Wind as an alternative title for Finesse. Rather, it is a descendent of Finesse, in the sense that Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me is a descendent of Concerto For Cootie. Bob Russell wrote the lyric for Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me, but he is not considered because of this to be co-composer with Duke of Concerto For Cootie. I also sent Steven my 1996 article, which in addition to describing my puzzlement about who wrote Finesse and Night Wind, also explains the relationship between the two. Here is my article. It appears as published in 1996, apart from a small number of additions in the interests of clarity, which are in square brackets.
ROGER BOYES listens to three versions of a lovely tune. But who wrote it?
Finesse Vocalion 21 March 1939
1996 was a good year for Finesse. In his review of ASV’s Living Era CD devoted to Johnny Hodges in the April Blue Light [vol.3 no.2], Alun Morgan calls it an ‘overlooked little gem.’ Overlooked is right! There never was a finer singer of an Ellington melody than Johnny Hodges, and he recorded this lovely tune, accompanied only by Duke and Billy Taylor, just before the 1939 trip to Europe. But it wasn’t issued till years later (I think it was George Avakian who unearthed the piece after joining Columbia). It appeared in this country [UK] long ago on a 10-inch Philips LP, BBR 8086. Finesse – to win a trick with a card that is not the highest playable card of the suit; in non-bridge terms, a subtle ploy. Something To Live For was recorded at the same session and I wonder if we see the early influence of Billy Strayhorn here, in the piece as well as in the title? Maybe, but Duke himself is described as a ‘rabid bridge player’ in a breathless 1937 pen-portrait of the Ellington Orchestra originally appearing in Metronome, and reprinted on p451 of The Duke Ellington Reader. [By happy coincidence this portrait is reproduced on page 7 of the booklet accompanying the Mosaic 7CD set].
Introduction - 4 bars. A gently rocking figure for solo piano.
Chorus 1 – 16 bars. Johnny Hodges sings the song, more or less straight though with a curious obbligato-to-himself flurry at bar 8. The rocking lullaby figure continues behind him, with the addition of quiet notes from Billy Taylor on the first and third beats of each bar. The tempo is ever so slightly slower than in the Introduction. In the last two bars Duke comes forward, taking over the melody against Johnny’s long final note to ease seamlessly into his own solo chorus.
Chorus 2 – 16 bars. Duke’s is a simple approach, based on quiet chords, beautifully maintaining the peaceful lullaby atmosphere. Often he anticipates the beat; once or twice the chords open into a little arpeggio. Billy Taylor persists with those quiet notes as before. All is calm and contentment here – Serenade to Sweden territory. Duke’s chords are a little more forceful and percussive briefly, at bars 9-10. A rippling descent adds another new touch at bar 12.
Chorus 3 – 16 bars. Johnny returns, playing more freely than before. A bluesy feel, which was always present around bars 13-14, permeates the second half of his solo. The accompaniment reverts to the gentle lullaby of Chorus 1. All this winds down at bar 15, and bar 16 is no more than a closing piano chord followed by a single chime higher on the keyboard. Perhaps the bass is still there, but the saxophone has already died away. This lovely piece is over.
Here’s an interesting twist about Finesse. Although it lay forgotten in Columbia’s vaults for years, a second version made a fortnight later in Paris by Rex Stewart and Barney Bigard with Django Reinhardt became justly celebrated. Billy Taylor was once again on bass. It was issued in the USA on the HRS label in the early 1940s with a new title, Night Wind. Why? Was Finesse too foreign-sounding? Montmartre from this session became Django’s Jump and Solid Old Man was retitled Solid Rock. Strangely, whereas the Vocalion Finesse was credited to Johnny Hodges and Duke, the Paris one was attributed to Billy Taylor. Another 1996 ASV Living Era CD spotlighting Rex Stewart’s playing reissues the entire session with Django of which Finesse is a part. Reviewed in July’s Blue Light [vol.3 no.3], it perpetuates the mystery concerning composer credits.
What an extraordinary moment in Duke’s career this was! Quite apart from the changes in his personal life, he was about to split with Irving Mills. Billy Strayhorn, recently arrived from Pittsburgh, had done his first specific assignment on 26 February (Lush Life [Hajdu], pp 59-60). Mills sailed for London on 11 March on his unsuccessful bid to persuade the British to let Duke play this country. On 23 March the band (minus Billy Strayhorn and Jean Eldridge) sailed for Le Havre, two days after a flurry of recording activity involving both the full band and small groups. On the 20th there was a Rex Stewart session featuring Barney Bigard and Billy Taylor as well as Rex himself. The Hodges session including Finesse was on the 21st.
Is it likely that a Hodges composition, whether or not co-composed with Duke, should be recycled a couple of weeks later on the other side of the Atlantic by the band’s bass player, cornettist and clarinettist? I think not. Presumably the band, including Rex and Barney, were in the studio when Finesse was cut in March. [Yes, Steven’s article confirms this.] But Billy Taylor is the link between the two recordings, and it is a reasonable conjecture that the theme was Billy’s, and that it was he who elected to record it again in Paris with Django and the others. Perhaps he did it to say ‘this is mine’ and to put his name to it. If so he succeeded. The Paris recording was judged a masterpiece. The Vocalion disappeared.
So whose finesse was it, in the end?
For a discussion of this most celebrated recording of Finesse, simply refer to page 836 of Gunther Schuller’s The Swing Era. Then you can listen to the piece with the full transcription in front of you (Ex.15, pp 837-839). There’s little to add. Billy Taylor plays those soft notes on the first and third beats of the bar. After his four extraordinary opening chords Django plays Duke’s rocking lullaby figure. Did Billy simply tell him what was required? I suppose so. The score also shows how Django’s solo shrinks from 16 to 14 bars. This is amazing, and it has nothing to do with the three-minute straitjacket [imposed by the length of a 10-inch 78 rpm side] since the whole recording lasts just two minutes and eighteen seconds.
Introduction – 2 bars. Solo guitar, four chords; the first two anticipate the start of the theme.
Chorus 1 – 16 bars. Rex, solo, with guitar and bass.
Chorus 2 – 16 bars. Barney, solo, with guitar and bass (‘one of his more flamboyant inventions’, comments Schuller)..
Passage – 2 bars. Break, for solo guitar. This is a lovely moment.
Chorus 3 – 12 bars. Guitar solo continues, now with bass. Django solos for 14 bars as Schuller says, but it seems to me that the chorus itself is shortened to 12 bars. We definitely get the first four, but then we seem to jump straight over bars 5-8 to bar 9. After a couple more bars we move on to the closing 6 bars of the piece. In terms of the 16-bar chorus therefore, we have bars 1-4 followed by bars 9-16. Add the 2-bar introductory passage for Django’s full 14-bar solo.
At no stage do all four musicians play at once. Against Rex’s closing notes Barney climbs into the start of his own solo. Only at this point do the two horns play together, but as they do Billy is silent.
There’s a second less well-known twist to the story of Finesse and the puzzle as to whose piece it really is. In August 1944 it was recycled again as Night Wind by a semi-Ellingtonian band including both Johnny Hodges and Billy Taylor of the original Vocalion trio. The melody is expanded into a 32-bar ABAC song, taken faster than the 1939 Vocalion. On my record (Mercury LP SMWL21023), the piece is credited to Wayne. Who he? And as Billy Taylor was the leader on the 1944 date (was it for Keynote? [Yes – see Steven’s article]), how odd it is that he was deprived of even a part of the credit!
Introduction – 4 bars. Piano and horns (rocking lullaby), plus rhythm; trumpets at bars 2, 4.
Chorus 1 – 32 bars (ABAC). Johnny Hodges with rhythm, against the lullaby. Emmett Berry is evident in the accompaniment in the first A, and Harry Carney contributes tellingly on bass-clarinet in B, as the horns move into held notes and the piano into little ripples. In AC, A returns to the lullaby and C to the held notes (without bass-clarinet this time). At the end of C Harry picks up the melodic line as Johnny fades, just as Duke did back in 1939. AC is the original 16-bar Finesse. The last few bars of B turn back into A to give the piece its new 32-bar shape.
Chorus 2 – 32 bars (ABAC). After two bars from the horns Harry Carney, now on baritone saxophone, solos through the rest of AB, In A the background is rhythm only (no evidence of piano); in B there’s a cushion from the other horns.
At bar 17 Johnny Hodges returns, backed by the rocking lullaby as in Chorus 1. This dies away in the first two bars of C as Johnny solos on. In the next two bars Billy Taylor’s bass dominates the accompaniment, on the first and third beats in the tradition of Finesse. As the mid-point of C is approached the performance slows down at a rippling signal from Johnny Guarnieri and moves out of tempo for the bluesy passage at bars 13-14. The accompaniment is on piano and bowed bass, Bar 15 is the conclusion, a long Hodges note againdt a figure rising through the keys. There’s no 16th bar in this curiously abbreviated ending which echoes the one on the 1939 Hodges trio.
A final note on the composer. Rex Stewart writes (Boy With Horn, p185) of ‘winning the Grand Prix for the best composition of 1939. It was awarded for a tune I titled Finesse.’ So Rex claimed the title [though not the tune] and he also won the Grand Prix. The Grand Prix was awarded for Finesse. The unanswered question is: Who wrote Finesse?
This fascinating discussion and exchange of articles still left me wondering: why should the 1944 Billy Taylor – Robert Sour Night Wind appear on my 1970s Mercury LP as a composition by ‘Wayne’? Perhaps there’s another song titled Night Wind which really was written by someone of that name. As Steven says, tune titles are uncopyrightable.
Next, Steven sent me a photocopy of the sheet music itself, which confirms the information on the copyright submission registered on 2 November 1944. He also wrote:
The composer’s miscredit to Wayne is news to me. Fat chance?
The artist’s credit for the 1939 trio version: Duke Ellington (piano), Johnny Hodges (alto sax), Billy Taylor (bass). Had Hodges’ name been listed first, it would have been a 35-cent record issued on Vocalion (or later OKeh). But with Ellington’s name first, the destination labels would be Brunswick (75 cents) or (from September 1939) Columbia (50 cents). So you shouldn’t refer to this as the Vocalion version – Finesse wasn’t recorded for that label.
Brick Fleagle is described as ‘HRS’s mid-40s musical director’ in a Mosaic catalogue blurb on their release ‘The Complete HRS sessions’ which reissues a 5May 47 session by Brick Fleagle’s Footwarmers (with Rex). Discographies list a 22Aug45 Associated transcription date by Brick Fleagle that includes Rex. In other words, the close association of Rex and Brick evidently persisted despite any fallout over Rex’s test pressings.
In my summary paragraph, I accept as a given that the American Academy of Music submitted the 1968 claim to Finesse through ASCAP on behalf of ‘Hodges-Ellington’ rather than ‘Hodges-Ellington’ themselves; this is postulated on the assumption that, were ‘Hodges-Ellington’ the actual claimants, we would expect the publisher to be Tempo, not the American Academy of Music, and we might even find a copyright deposited in their names – yet I didn’t find one in the official catalogues for the most likely years."
There the matter rests, at any rate for the time being. It seems that Finesse was the work of Billy Taylor, as therefore is its descendent Night Wind, for which Robert Sour supplied words.