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The Ellington Study Group Conferences

Last year, the 24th Duke Ellington Study Group conference took place and this time in New York City. And in May this year, DESUK organized a one day mini-conference using a format similar to the Study Group ones.

The Study Group Conferences have had a tremendously important role in building an international network of Ellington scholars and aficionados and a solid knowledge base of Ellington’s work, life and music.

The network of Ellington clubs and societies has been crucial for the conferences. Without them, they would never have taken place. The first one – “The Duke Ellington Jazz Society (DEJS)” – was founded in Los Angeles, California with Bill Ross as President and Patricia Villard as Vice-President. It not only wanted to bring together Ellington fans locally but also build an international network of Ellington clubs.

Unfortunately, DEJS disappeared in the early 1960s but by that time The New York Chapter had been formed. It started in 1959 and with its large membership, it soon had a leading role among Ellington fans. It change its name to The Duke Ellington Society (TDES) at the request of Duke Ellington himself in the 1960s and later it became TDES only.

In 1993, the Duke Ellington Society of Sweden was formed.

Another key factor behind the conferences was the existence of a network of Ellington experts, who worked together to increase the knowledge about Ellington’s work and life.

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Trianon Ballroom, Seattle, May 1, 1954

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Are Ellington and Strayhorn studying the UMMG Score?

Upper Manhattan Medical Group

In April and May 1954 Ellington and his orchestra were touring in western USA. This has been documented in a concert from Embassy Auditorium in Los Angeles on April 13, and from a dance date at McElroy’s Ballroom in Portland on April 29. In addition, songs from a Capitol Recording session on April 26 have been issued on the Capitol label.

On May 1, Duke and the orchestra were performing at a dance date at Trianon Ballroom in Seattle and the first part of this is rather interesting due to the the fact that the tunes played are not so common in the band’s repertoire. DESS members can enjoy this by logging into the Goodies Room.
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New issue of the DESS Bulletin

The third issue of the Bulletin is now on its way  to the DESS members. As usual, it is full of interesting articles within a broad range of Ellington subjects. The fact that the editor and his team manage to do this quarter after quarter is really impressive.

This time, the cover article is about Russell Procope – the clarinet and alto sax player, who was a solid part of the Ellington orchestra for more than 25 years.

In a four-page article, Bo Haufman – the Bulletin editor – let us follow the career of Procope from his early days on the New York big band scene in the 1920 and 1930s to the John Kirby Sextet and military service before focusing on his years with Ellington, whom he joined in 1946. Of course, the author goes more into detail as regards the Ellington period and separately deals with Procope – the altosaxophonist and Procope – the clarinettist.

The article lists many of the recordings in which Procope participated both with Ellington but also other bands like Clarence Williams, Fletcher Henderson and John Kirby. They can be listened to in the (right) music player of the website. Details of the songs are listed in a comment to this article.

The Swedish readers of the Bulletin can also enjoy a reprint from Orkesterjournal of a review by Bo Scherman of the concert by Cootie Williams and Russell Procope in the Stockholm jazz club Fasching on February 22, 1978. (mer…)

Blue Light 2017-3

The summer issue of Blue Light arrived in my mailbox in early July. It is marked by the sad passing away of DESUK chairman Geoff Smith in March last year but also provides some good Ellington reading.

The key feature is a 10 pages long article on Ellington at the piano. It is written by Jack Chambers – a regular contributor to Blue Light.

He guides us through Ellington’s  stylistic development as a pianist from someone being firmly anchored in the stride piano tradition to a man open to venture into post bop styles.

Chambers singles out the two LP albums – The Duke Plays Ellington (aka Piano Reflections) on Capitol and Money Jungle on United Artists – as highlights in Ellington’s pianist career. His reason: they are major advances in his way of dealing with the piano.

However, his choice for the ONE piano performance is the spontaneously played Lotus Blossom at the end of one of the recording sessions for the ”…And His Mother Called Him Bill” album.

Chambers also considers that the recital at the Whitney Museum in New York in 1972 – eternalized in the ”Live at the Whitney” CD album – ”might be the most comprehensive view of Ellington as a piano player”.

The original article was apparently written some years ago and even if it has been revised and updated there are a couple of mistakes.

On page 7 Chambers writes about the Paramount recording of Jig Walk which for almost 2o years is considered as a non-Ellington recording. He also says (page 11 and 15) that the recital at the MOMA in 1962 is unissued but Maison de Duke made it available on CD almost 1o years ago.

In addition to Chamber’s article, Blue Light provides us with reviews of recently issued Ellington CDs and concerts with Ellington music.

 

 

Concert In Bergen, Norway, Nov. 3 1969

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Duke in front of the band in Bergen

Early this summer, NRK – Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation – published a video file with an Ellington concert from Bergen on November 3, 1969 on its web site. This concert was said to have been telecast only once (June 1970), which is a long time ago. Probably only a few people outside Norway had the opportunity to watch it. Because of this and the good quality of the video, we decided to make this available to the DESS-members in the Goodies Room. The contents of the programme is what can be expected from this tour, with the exception of the the closing number Acht O’Clock Rock with Tony Watkins performing a strange show as a dancer. In this number, Cat Anderson plays a very nice solo trumpet, mainly in the lower and medium registers. Otherwise, Cootie is the soloist in Take The A Train and Paul Gonsalves in Cottontail. What we see here is obviously the second part of the concert, the first part was pobably not recorded, judging from its absence in discographies and Duke’s introductory remark about Cootie returning to the solo microphone.. The full programme is as follows:

*Take The A Train*Cottontail*Up Jump*La Plus Belle Africaine*Come Off The Veldt*El Gato*Medley*Acht O’Clock Rock*

Below is a sound recording of Up Jump from the concert:

We hope you will enjoy the show!

A new season starts

Today is September 1 and as promised the DESS website is back after its summer break. As before, we will continue to do our best to provide members of DESS and others interested in Ellington with music, photos, videos, articles etc related to Il Maestro. Possibly we will do this less frequently than before but at the same time the website has now at its disposal a lot of quite unique material of interest to Ellington connoisseurs. This includes radio programs about Ellington, photos never published and the video and radio taped proceedings of the 24 Ellington Study Group Conferences.

The conference tapes in the Sjef Hoefsmit Collection, which have been made available to the website, are currently being digitized and excerpts of the result will be published on the website during the year.

It seems appropriate to start the season by doing this. Here is the Swedish pianist Berndt Egerbladh and Alice Babs improvising at the opening session of the 1994 Study Group Conference in Stockholm.

Stockholm 2004 revisited (2)

This time, the website publishes another tidbit from the proceedings of the Ellington Study Group conference in Stockholm May 12-15, 2004. The source is once again the Sven Eriksson’s tape recording of the conference  (see article June 1).

It is the second presentation made on the first day of the conference. It was given by Frank Büchmann-Møller, who talked about unpublished 1941 recordings by Ben Webster found in the Ben Webster Collection housed by the University Library of  Southern Denmark in Odense.

As Jens Lindgren says in his introduction, Büchmann-Møller was at that time (and still is) responsible for the jazz collection at the music departement of the University Library of  Southern Denmark. He is also the author of books on – among others – Lester Young and Ben Webster.

The three recordings in the presentation was issued by the English record label AB Fable on a CD a couple of years after the conference but it is not so easy to find today. Fortunately, the CD is nowadays also available at iTunes.

 

 

Russell Procope Plays

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