Over the last week, we have published articles on Danish Radio’s Ellington broadcasts Nos. 31 and 32. These broadcasts are very much focused on the music Ellington composed and recorded for the art film Degas’ Racing World (sometimes referred to as The Impressionists at the Racetrack. The soundtrack for this never completed film is what is called The Degas Suite.
The film was the brainchild of the American film maker Sam Shaw. He was the producer of Paris Blues and this is how he got acquainted with Duke Ellington.
The idea of Racing World was apparently triggered by a major exhibition of impressionists and post-impressionists works with horse track and horse racing motives, which Shaw saw during his stay in Paris for Paris Blues.
He approached Ellington to write the music for the film, which he accepted. According to Stanley Dance, Ellington even was ”enthusiastic” about it.
The music was recorded on three occasions, November 6, November 23 and December 3, 1968.
”After seeing the Degas material for the first time, Ellington decided to use just four horns and piano” (Dance). However, in the end, Ellington changed his mind and involved himself and 9 of his band members in the recording of the music.
Before the film projected stopped because of lack of money, a sound track for the film was put together out of the recorded music. Ellington got the rights to it as a compensation for having paid for the studio time and for his musicians.
But he never made use of the sound track and he does not refer to the (unissued) film and The Degas Suite in Music Is My Mistress. This can be interpreted as there was no Degas Suite to him, just a soundtrack of a failed film project.
Instead, the originator of the name The Degas Suite is Stanley Dance. For the fifth volume of the Ellington Private Collection issued in 1987, he selected a set of takes from the Racing World recording sessions based on the soundtrack and issued them under the name of The Degas Suite in the CD album. In his liner notes, he says ”The soundtrack…solves the problem of deciding which takes Ellingtom himself considered definitive”.
His selections and the order of them are slightly different from the one Erik V. Krustrup had in DR 31 and 32.
A comparative list can be found on page 582 in Klaus Stratemann’s ”Duke Ellington Day by Day, Film by Film”
In 1987, the President of the Southern California Chapter of the Duke Ellington Society, William Fawcett Hill, together with the art historian James Dobbs, decided to produce a reconstruction of Degas’ Racing World. They did so without having able to find any of the original film clips and getting only vague information when he interviewed Sam Shaw.
So the ”reconstruction” must be considered as a rather personal interpretation of the original film both as regards the paintings which appears and the order of the music.
It was shown at the Ellington ’88 conference in Oldham and now DESS members can also enjoy it. We apologise for the poor quality of the images.
The fourth ”goodie” in December is program 32 in the Duke Ellington series broadcast by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the ”Goodies” section of the website.
This program was broadcast on August 30, 1985 and the presenter is once again Erik V. Krustrup.
He continues to bring the listeners some of the music Ellington composed and recorded for film The Impressionists At The Racetrack.
The program starts with the version of Race with Harry Carney and Russell Procope that ended the previous broadcast. Krustrup then plays some more takes of the melody. The first one is played by Ellington solo and the second features Russell Procope in particular .
The next number is Pastel with Paul Gonsalves in the solo role. According to notes from the recording session, it was supposed to follow Race in the film.
After this, comes Drawings, which is an interplay between Ellington, Willie Cook and the trombone section. It is followed by Prat – a solo number for Harry Carney – and the same Opening Titles as was heard in the previous broadcast.
The section with music recorded for Racing World ends with Piano Pastel – an Ellington solo number. Krustrup says that he plays it ”as an epilog to the suite”. However, it was not meant to end the film. Apparently, this was to be done by Opening Titles.
The broadcast continues with three selections from stockpile sessions at the end of November 1969. First comes three takes of Reva recorded on November 29, 1969 and then two takes of each Just A Little Jive and Riverboat. In the broadcast they are respectively referred to as Untitled Blues and Country.
The broadcast ends with two rockin’ numbers from the stockpile session on December 9, 1970 – Sans Snyphelle and Big Luv (aka Amore Grande).
Det var ett nytt möte i det nya formatet – föredrag och film men ingen levande musik.
Kvällens föredragshållare var Bo Haufman och ämnet Cootie Williams.
Bo hörde en platta med honom redan när han var tretton år och det satte djupa spår. Genom åren har han skaffat sig en gedigen kunskap om Williams och i ett timmes långt föredrag delade han den generöst med närvarande DESS-medlemmar.
För DESS-medlemmar finns en video med Bos föredrag tillgängligt i avdelningen DESS-möten.
Efter pausen för förtäring och mingel bjöd Anders Asplund på ett trevligt 35 minuters filmprogram med blandad jazz.
Han visade naturligtvis några filmer med Cootie Williams, bl.a. en med Cooties storband från 1943 eller 1944.
Därefter blev det ett blandat swingprogram med bl.a. Cab Calloway, Art Tatum, Billy Eckstine opch glimtar från Benny Goodmans Carnegie Hall konsert 1938.
Anders avslutade med delar av ett jazzprogram på BBC 1964. I rutan ses Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck-Paul Desmond och Willie ”the Lion” Smith.
Sammantaget: en bra jazzkväll för alla DESS-medlemmar som besvärat sig att ta sig till Franska Skolan.
The third ”goodie” in December is program 31 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.
This program was broadcasted on August 23, 1985 and the presenter is Erik V. Krustrup.
It is totally focused on the music that Ellington wrote for the film Racing World or The Impressionists At The Racetrack). However, the musical part is most commonly known as The Degas Suite.
The film was to be a 30 minutes documentary about paintings and sketches of race courses by foremost Degas but also other impressionist painters like Forain and Dufy. Unfortunately, the project run out of money before the film was finished so it was never released.
Using the many pieces of music recorded for the film found in Mercer Ellington’s donation, Krustrup tries to bring The Degas Suite to the listerners in a form close to what it was meant to be.
As an appetizer, the broadcast start with one of the takes of Race. This one is played by Paul Gonsalves. Then the program continues with some examples of recorded snippets and how they were used to build larger musical blocks like for the opening squence of the film.
Four takes of Race comes next – two with Johnny Hodges and two with Ellington. They are followed by Promenade (aka Red Circle), COPA II, Racing, Trump, Sonnet and Daily Double.
The broadcast ends with a piece called Improvisation and another take of Race.
Improvisation was later used in The River and then called The Run. It is the same theme as The Queen’s Guard, which Ellington played on piano at the rehearsal for the telecast from Cirkus in Stockholm on February 8, 1966.
More of The Degas Suite is in the next broadcast.
The second ”goodie” in December is program 28 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.
This program was broadcasted on August 2, 1985 and the presenter is Knud Sörensen.
The first 1/3 of the broadcast let us listen to 16 very short snippets of music Ellington composed for the film Change of Mind, which was released in October 1969. The snippets in the broadcast were recorded on April 25, 1969 but music for the film was also recorded in two sessions in May and one in June 1969.
This part of the broadcast ends with a longer piece – Neo-Creole – played by Ellington on electric piano. It’s a rock adaptation of the main theme from Creole Rhapsody.
Those interested in how the music was used in the film can find part of it on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfIVJ50357I). At 8:53 there is a segment with Ellington’s music. Thank you to Brian Koller for the link.
From ”Change of Mind”, the broadcast moves on the May 24, 1962 stockpile session. The selection in the program has Ray Nance in the lead role. We hear him play Flirtibird and Smada. The recording engineer announces Flirtibird as take -3 which means that it is different from the take used for the issues on LP and CD.
Sörensen then brings the listener The Feeling of Jazz recorded on May 25, 1962. It is sung by Milt Grayson accompanied by Ellington at the piano.
Next in the broadcast comes a small jewel, We hear Ellington sitting down alone at the piano in Paris March 10, 1967 playing Meditation, T.G.T.T. and Little Purple Flower. The circumstances surrounding this session is not known to us. Was it recorded in a rehearsal room at Theatre Des Champs Elysée before the concert there started? Anyone knows?
The broadcast ends with an excerpt from the recording session November 23, 1968 in which Harold Ashby in a tribute to Ben Webster plays I Can’t Get Started accompanied only by trio.
The first ”goodie” in December is program 27 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.
This program was broadcasted on July 26, 1985 and the presenter is Fleming Jensen.
He starts the program with Feeling of Jazz from the July 3, 1962 stockpile session. First we hear take -8, which has been issued on both LP and CD, and then the short take -2.
The next feature in the program is three selections from March 29, 1962 – Things Ain’t What They Used To Be, I Got It Bad and Jam In C (Circle Blues in NDESOR). Jensen thinks that in this small group session Sonny Greer replaces Sam Woodyard on drums. The ellingtonia.com discography agrees with this but only as regards Jam In C.
Three numbers from the stockpile session March 15, 1967 bring the broadcast to the end. Apparently, there were no names on the score sheets They when they were recorded but were only identified by numbers – No. 3, No. 5, No. 4 and No. 6.
However, They have been given names both in the Ellington discographies and in the album texts to the LP and CD issues of them.
No. 3 is Tell Me ‘Bout My Baby, no. 5 is Kentucky Ave, AC, No. 4 Near North and No. 6 Soul Country
By including six takes of No. 6, Fleming Jensen gives the listener an opportunity to follow the creative when a new melody is born.
In addition to the 40 minutes film we presented on the website the other day, there is about one hour of raw material from the filming of the Second Sacred Concert in Saint Sulpice in Paris on Nov. 16, 1969.
Some of this material is identical to what appears in the film but it also features some of the songs that were left out from the film.
News clips are available too, they were filmed by ORTF during the rehearsal for the concert and the website has located a segment of one of them. ORTF was the agency responsible for public radio and television in France between 1964 and 1974.
Because of technical WordPress limitations, we have decided to present the material in four separate segments rather than edit all of them together in one clip.
We start with a snapshot from the rehearsal.
Then we move on to the moment when the audience arrives and the orchestra gets on stage to the organ music of Wild Bill Davis.
Next comes the moment when Ellington enters and is welcomed by the chaplain of Saint Sulpice. Then the concert starts and Ellington announces Harry Carney in Praise God. After this follow Supreme Being , Something ‘Bout Believing, Almighty God, The Shepherd , Heaven. And finally the segment ends with Freedom.
The last segment is the final 13 minutes of the film we brought to our readers on Nov. 19. It starts with Ellington paying tribute to Alice Babs, Tony Watkins, Harry Carney and The Swingle Singers for their performance of Freedom. He then announces a break. When he comes back, the film goes directly to Meditation and then continues with Alice Babs singing T.G.T.T and an incomplete version of Praise God And Dance.
With the four segments, we bring you most of what happened in Saint Sulpice on Nov. 16, 1969.
However, despite our efforts, we have not been able to find film clips with the performances of The Biggest, Dont Get Down On Your Knees and Father Forgive, which would have given us a complete version of the concert. Neither have we found clips with The Preacher’s Song and In The Beginning God, which, according to NDESOR, ended the concert.
Luckily, we have at our disposal a sound tape with the five missing songs. The tape seems to be the result of someone recording the concert from a television broadcast. There are two reasons we believe this. Firstly, the sound is very different from the two other film sources we have used; secondly, a French voice describes what is going on in the concert and interpret into French what Ellington says. This voice no doubt belongs to Phillipe Adler (see previous article) but we doubt that the tape was recorded from a Jazz 6 program. It simply does not sounds like one. So the sound on the tape must come from a telecast of the concert at the time.
The tape has everything that follows the performance of Freedom, that is The Biggest, Meditation (nc), Dont Get Down On Your Knees, Father Forgive, The Preacher’s Song and In The Beginning God. The sound quality of the tape is inferior but we have decided to publish it anyhow.