When one looks at the program for the conference, which has got a very nice and clear design, it is easy to understand why it is considered as one of the best in the series of Ellington Study Group Conferences.
The presentation part is very strong both on paper and when one listens to them in Sjef Hoefsmit’s videos from the conference.
It is supplemented by a excellent concert program including three concerts – ”A Nite at the Cotton Club”, ”A Portrait of See’ Pea” and ”The Extended Ellington”.
The presence of Ellington alumnies like Alice Babs, Bill Berry, Buster Cooper, Herb Jeffries and Jimmy Woode at the conference and their active participation in it gave a special dimension to the event.
The DESS website will this time give more of thematic rather than chronological snapshots of the conference. This article gives some of the presentations on early Ellington.
But first we will let John E. Hasse talk about Mercer Ellington’s donation of Duke Ellington’s papers to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. It was Hasse’s first appearance at an Ellington Conference but there would be many more.
At Ellington ’89 in Washington D.C. a full day was devoted to the Ellington Archive and the presentations on that occasion can be viewed here.
We have chosen two presentations on early Ellington for this article. The first is by Jerry Valburn – one of the instigators of the Ellington Study Group conferences and leading authority on Duke Ellington. He had chosen to talk about Ellington’s recording career 1923-1929.
The second presentation is by the noted jazz researcher and jazz journalist Frank Dutton. He had chosen Ellington’s Cotton Club period, on which he was a respected authority, as his topic.
All these three presentations were given at the first day of the conference and in the evening of it, the conference participants were invited to ”A Nite at the Cotton Club”. The English band Harlem provided the music and Herb Jeffries guided the audience through the night.
Here is a short excerp from the start of it. We will return to it in a later article.
The Ellington Study Group Conference in Oldham, England in 1985 was apparently very special. Roger Boyes, who was one of the participants, says that ”the spirit it generated was quite magical”.
As a result, the organizers took the decision ”there and then” to do it again. However, planning for Newark ’86 was already well in hand by then, and Toronto was penciled in for ’87. So 1988 was the next year available.
Once the conference was announced, the registrations for participation started to come in quickly and soon it was a sold-out event.
Bo Haufman, Deputy Chair of DESS and the editor of the DESS Bulletin, took part in the conference and remembers it very well.
”It was my first Ellington Study Group Conference and it was a very good experience, which triggered me to go to many more, including Birmingham 2018 in two weeks. It took place in the same venue as the 1985 conference – Birch Hall in Oldham – and was run in a very capable way by Mike Hazeldine after the sad passing away of Eddie Lambert about a year before the conference.
Almost all of the presentations were very interesting. I remember in particular the ones by Loren Schoenberg, who talked about “Midriff”, and by Bob Wilber, who made a very knowledgeable presentation of Johnny Hodges and his development over the years.
Jerry Valburn talked about both common and odd 78 rpm Ellington records in his extensive collection of records and Klaus Stratemann about his “Day by Day” project.
In the many panels, that discussed various aspects of Duke Ellington and his music, we could hear Sjef Hoefsmit, Patricia Willard, Andrew Homzy, Jack Towers, Alice Babs, Herb Jeffries and several others.
The evening concerts were presented by a fantastic band put together and led by Bob Wilber. Guest performer was Bill Berry and of course Herb Jeffries and Alice Babs appeared with the band. In it were such names as Jimmie Woode, Buster Cooper, Danny Moss and Anti Sarpila. Afterwards Herb Jeffries gave us a wonderful show ending with “Flamingo”.
The Swedes, who attended the Conference, were Carl-Erik Carlsson, Peter Lee and myself and then of coursefor Alice Babs and Nils Sjöblom.”
The organizing committee had worked hard for almost two years to get everything in place and the day before the conference some of its members made sure that the conference attendees would easily find their way to the conference venue.
Bob Wilber followed in their steps and brought together the band for an two and a half hour rehearsal before the start of the conference.
And then finally, in the morning of May 26, 1988, it was time to open the conference.
The opening ceremony ended with Hazeldine inviting Herb Jeffries to the podium to say a few words. ”It is all for the love of Duke” was Jeffries credo.
The second ”goodie” in May is program 24 in the Duke Ellington series broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the ”Goodies” section of the website.
The program was broadcasted on July 5, 1985 and Ib Skovgard is the announcer also in this broadcast.
It is a broadcast similar in format to the one heard on June 28, 1985 – a mixture of excerpts from live concerts and snippets of interviews with Ellington.
It has three more selections from the Munich 1958 concert, which was featured also in broadcast 23. This time ”Jeep’s Blues”, part of the ”Medley” and ”Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” are heard.
The program also includes ”Take The ”A” Train” (nc) from the 1973 concert in Malmö and two stockpile recordings – ”Riba” (take -19) from March 10, 1970 and ”Kinda Dukish-Rockin’ in Rhythm” from April 3, 1969.
The interview snippets are from March 1962 (Los Angeles), March 17, 1970 (Toronto), January, 1972 (Japan) and one possibly from England i January 1970.
In the interview in Japan, Ellington demonstrates a rare outburst irritation when he was asked what he considered a political questions and he did not want to answer these kind of questions.
The interview in Los Angeles is a joint interview with Billy Strayhorn, in which they play ”Take The ”A” Train” together on one piano.
Den här gången är det dags för det sjunde programmet i Jan Bruérs och Lars Westins serie om Duke Ellington.
Titeln på programmet är ”Crescendo in Blue” och det är i hög grad fokuserat på 1950- och 1960- talet med mycket betoning på Columbia-åren.
Programmet sändes första gången den 4 april 1994.
Liksom de föregåendet programmen i serien finns det här tillgängligt för DESS-medlemmar i radiodelen av Elllington-arkivet.
In their conference folders, the participants in Ellington ’89 found an invitation to a very special event.
The Washington jazz broadcaster and Ellington aficionado Felix Grant had spent a lot of time and energy to find Ellington’s birthplace in Washington D.C. Once he had found it, he lobbied hard the U.S. Congress and local authorities to have a memorial plaque installed on the site.
Finally, he got what he had strived for and on the last day of the conference, the plaque was unveiled.
Despite some cancellations, the conference participants could also enjoy presentations and music during the last day of the conference.
The first speaker of the day was Dr. Jerome Sashen, who provided a ”Psychoanalysis of Ellington’s Music”.
In the afternoon, Sjef Hoefsmit did a presentation on ”Ellington’s Train” A soundfile of the presentation was included in the first article on the conference. Here is the video version.
He was followed by Don Miller, President of the Chicago Chapter of the Duke Ellington Society and one of the instagators of the Ellington conferences. He gave a brief presentation on what was available at that time of Ellington’s music on CD. He had found that some 75 CDs of this kind had been issued at the time!
The Danish jazz researcher and jazz critic Erik Wiedeman was the last speaker at the conference. His topic was ”Ellington in Denmark” and the presentation included a lot of musical examples.
Part of the afternoon was also a concert – ”Program of Ellington’s Music” – with Ronnie Wells and her students from the University of Maryland.
The DESS member Peter Lee was the only Swedish participant at the conference. Also Alice Babs and her husband Nils were there but they were considered as Spanish.
Peter remembers that he thought that the organization of the conference could have been better since almost a quater of the scheduled speakers never appeared. But there were a lot of good things and Peter remembers particularily
- The day at the Smithsonian. Besides the presentations, he was happy to be able to see the documentation on Ellington’s Honorary Membership of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music.
- Among the presentations, Peter rembers the one by Sjef Hoefsmit’s on ”Ellington´s Trains” as the best. ”It was very well structed and very thourough”, he says.
- The unveiling of the Memorial Plaque on the site where Ellington was also ”quite special” and so was the ”lunch afterwards with only me and Alice Babs. She wanted to have the opportunity to speak some Swedish”.
- The big band concert with Jimmy Hamilton and Herb Jeffries.
The full text of Peter’s comments in Swedish is in the Washington 1989 part of the Ellington Archive.
This is the last article in the Ellington ’89 series. The DESS website likes to thank in particular Ted Hudson and Peter Lee for help with photos and Ted and Bob Reny for help with contacts in Washington D.C.
Joe Williams and Oliver Nelson also participated in the celebrations
The third part of Bob Udkoff’s birthday party is not complete, due to problematic source material, but if we can obtain a better copy we’ll publish the full recording later on. Instead we now have to contend ourselves with one hour and three minutes, the rest, about 17 mins long’ not fit for listening. At the end of the hour, we can hear clear signs of deteriorated, but bearable sound.
First out is Oliver Nelson in Body And Soul
Ellington ’18 in Birmingham
Finally, information on the presentations to be made at the conference is starting to become available.
Among them are:
Jack Chambers: Celebration, Duke Ellington’s Lost Symphony
Matthias Heyman: Plucked Again: Ellington’s bassists and the mediation of technology
Vic Hobson: Ellington: Collective Improvisation and Arranging
Barry Long Ellington and Coltrane: Tone Parallels
Brian Priestley: Monk and Duke
Alyn Shipton: Ellington and synaesthesia: to what extent did Duke Ellington hear sounds as colours?
New Storyville Ellington CDs
Volume 25 in Storyville’s DETS series – was issued a couple of weeks ago and can be bought at the musicroom website (https://www.musicroom.com/product-detail/product1140872/variant1140872/duke-ellington-the-treasury-shows-vol-25/).
It is the last in this important and invaluable series. The CD set has the final recorded broadcast from Ellington’s stay at Blue Note in Chicago in June 1953 issued on the last volume of the original DETS LP series plus a 1943 Pastel Period broadcast from the Hurricane Club in New York and two other Hurricane broadcasts (April 22nd and May 5th 1944)
By issuing the original Treasury Show series and adding to it a large number of broadcasts from the Hurricane and other New York clubs, Storyville has served the Ellington community in an incredible way and must be lauded by all friends of Ellington for its effort.
In mid-August, Storyville will issue another Ellington CD. It will have the concert the Coventry Cathedral in England on February 21st 1966. A restored version of the telecast is rumoured to also exist and participants at the Ellington conference in Birmingham later this month might have a showing of it.
Remembering Brooks Kerr
The almost blind jazz pianist and performer of Duke Ellington’s music, Brooks Kerr, passed away last Saturday.He was reputed to have known every Duke Ellington composition by the time he was 8 years old.
An article about him in New York Times in 1974 was headlined ”He Knows More Ellington Than Duke Himself” and Duke himself said to students at the University of Wisconsin back in July 1972 “If you have any questions about my music, just, ask Brooks Kerr.”
In the late 1970s, Kerr performed in jazz clubs with a trio often including Sonny Greer and Russell Procope. He also did some recordings of Ellington music with Greer and/ or George Duvivier in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Kerr was a featured attraction at the New York 1981 and Washington 1982 Ellington conferences. Here is an example of his way of playing from West End Cafe in New York during the 1981 conference.
New pod at Ellington Reflections
This excellent Ellington blog (https://ellingtonreflections.com/) has published a new pod. It deals with Sonny Greer and is called ”Portrait of Sonny Greer.” It can be listened to at the website and downloaded from iTunes (https://t.co/2yKFpLm0jF)
DESS Bulletin 2016-2
This issue is now available also for non-DESS members in the Bulletin 2013-2016 section of the website.
The main feature is long article about Ben Webster written by Steve Wallace. But there are also many other interesting article to read like the one by Fred Glueckstein about the unfinished film for which Ellington was supposed to write the music.