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Interpreting Ellington 1 – Toots Thielemans

With the passing away of Toots Thielemans on August 22, it seems appropriate to start our series ”Interpreting Ellington” with Thieleman’s interpretations of Sophisticated Lady given together with Jaco Pastorius.

The first occasion they played together was apparently the Berliner Jazztage in November 1979. At a a press conference, Pastorius was asked who of the musicians at the festival he foremost would like to play with. And his answer was Toots Thielemans.

So they performed ”Sophisticated Lady” together. It is not the most common interpretation of the song but it shows how creative musicians can find new angles into Ellington’s music.

Three years later they played ”Sophisticated Lady” together again – this time. It is interesting to compare the two versions. Pastorius seems to take a more dominant role in the second one.

Ritz-Carlton Hotel Boston 27 July 1939

The heritage of radio broadcasts from the late 1930s and early 1940s by Ellington and other black bands is quite small. So whatever there is, it is very valuable and we should be deeply grateful to those who have made at least a part of them available to us.

One example is the one that survives from Ellington’s engagement at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Boston in July-August 1939.

Ellington scholar Ken Steiner has given a very detailed account of this engagement it in the DEMS Bulletin 2003:2 and it has been used for this article.

Ritz Roof

The surviving broadcast is from July 27, 1939 and it has been issued on both LP and CD (see below).

However, recently it also  became available online in mp3 format thanks to the Star-Spangled Radio Hour (SSRH) radio program. It featured it in its July 16, 2016 program together with two broadcasts by Woody Herman from Glen Island Casino in August and September 1939.

The program can be downloaded here: http://www.cruisin1430.com/media/audio-channel/star-spangled-radio-hour-71616. (mer…)

The Duke Lives On – Kustbandet


Kustbandet has been around for more than 50 years.

They started in 1962 as a seven piece New Orleans jazz group but soon moved on to become a small big band with a repertoire from the 1920s and 1930s inspired by early hot and swing bands  lead by jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Duke Ellington or Count Basie

”It is one of the most authentic jazz bands in this category” according to jazz historian and producer Frans Sjöström’s cover notes for Kustbandet’s CD ”The Man From Harlem”.

Over the years jazz legends like Benny Carter, Benny Waters, Maxine Sullivan, Wild Bill Davison and Doc Cheatham have performed and recorded with the band.

Kustbandet have toured extensively in Sweden as well as the rest of the world.

Duke Ellington is featured prominently in the repertoire of Kustbandet and he is well represented in Kustbandet’s concerts and records (like Cotton Club Stomp from 1986).

This will also be the case at Kustbandet’s concert in Stockholm on October 9, 2016. The concert is part of the Stockholm Jazz Festival in co-arrangement with Duke Ellington Society of Sweden.

Time Magazine Cover


Tomorrow, it is 60 years since Duke Ellington appeared on the cover of the Time Magazine and was featured in a five-page article.


He himself said that it was “the epic ride of Paul Gonsalves, which brought us on the cover of Time Magazine” (Music Is My Mistress page 191) but the true story is a little bit more complicated.

Back in the early 1990s, Charles H. Waters – the Ellington scholar and a DESOK member – stumbled upon the information that the portrait of Ellington, which appeared on the Time Magazine cover and was done by the Western artist Peter Hurd, had been done already in early June (between June 8 and 17), i.e. almost a month before the Newport Festival.

Ellington Time Life

This triggered Waters to look into the story of the cover and he published an extensive article in Annual Review of Jazz Studies 6 (1993) based on thorough research.

He unfolded that the decision to write a cover story had been taken long before Newport – most likely in the late spring of 1956. The writer of the story, Carter Harman, interviewed Ellington in parallel to the painting of the project and at that time Ellington himself proposed that the peg for the article should be his appearance with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra in New Haven, Connecticut on July 12, 1956.

Harman was of course also present at the Newport Jazz Festival and he must have sensed the excitement that the performance(s) of Ellington (and Gonsalves) on the last night of the Festival created.

However, it was apparently Ellington’s press agent, Joe Morgan, who pitched the idea that Harman should use the Newport Festival as the hook to get his bosses to publish an Ellington cover story.

Harman took this to the assistant managing editor, Otto Fuerbringer – responsible for Time Magazine’s cover stories – and finally he agreed to run the story in the August 20, 1956 issue of the magazine.

In August 1956, Time Magazine ran cover stories also on the shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos, former U.S. President Harry Truman and the Egyptian President Nasser.

For Columbia Records and for Ellington, the timing of the article was perfect. The Newport Festival recordings including those of Ellington were going to be issued in September so Time provided some good promotion.

This was also done by Down Beat. It published its report on the Newport Festival also in the August 20, 1956 issue where Leonard Feather wrote the story on Ellington.

Members of DESS can read the full article in the Ellington Archive / Articles https://ellington.se/marknadsplatsen/ellington-arkivet/articles-and-documents/

Duke Lives On – Harmony in Harlem

In our series ”Duke Lives On”, we present today the Harmony in Harlem band. It is a British orchestra with DESUK member and arranger Michael Kilpatrick as its musical director. It is based in South Cambridgeshire and was formed in 2006.

It calls itself a rehearsal band, i.e. the band members meet regularly to rehearse and to expand its repertoire of Ellington music.  The orchestra tours frequently to play concerts and dances.

Kilpatrick has provided the band with an authentic repertoire, which evokes the Cotton Club days of Duke Ellington and his orchestra.

He has done this by drawing on his research at The Smithsonian in Washington D.C. transcribing the works of Ellington and Billy Strayhorn as accurately and faithfully as possible from the records and scores held there in the Duke Ellington Archive.

The aim of this work is also to ”encourage orchestras to bring to performance many of Ellington underrated masterpieces”. A catalogue of Kilpatrick’s Ellington transcriptions can be found at http://www.ellington-music.co.uk/index.php?page=catalogue

One of his recent transcription is Such Sweet Thunder, which the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland used for its performance in early August 2016 in the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms.

The Duke Lives On – American Music Program

From time to time, the website will feature examples how Ellington’s music lives on in younger generations and is interpreted by other musicians.

Today we present the jazz orchestra of the American Music Program of Portland, Oregon and its interpretation of ”Tattooed Bride”.

This is a band of basically 18 years old students of music, which won the 2015 edition of the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition.

This competition is an annual event aimed at encouraging young musicians to play the music of the Duke and other various jazz artists. It takes place at the Lincoln Center in New York and Wynton Marsalis is its artistic director.

Surely, Ellington would have liked the band and particularly the young pianist.

The Style of Ellington

Jazz Review was perhaps the most ambitious jazz magazine ever. It was founded in 1958 by Nat Hentoff and Martin Williams among others and they were the editors of the magazine during its three years of publication.

A fairly recent quality assessment says: ”While all of the material is of high quality, several features are particularly distinctive: the regular reviews of musicians’ work by other musicians; Hentoff’s regular column ”Jazz in Print”, which deals with the politics of the music business as well as of the nation; and the incorporation of a wide range of musical styles and approaches to discussing jazz” (Jazz Studies Online).

The magazine published several articles about Ellinghton and the first one appeared in the April 1959 issue.

Jazz Review cover

It is written by Mimi Clar and the topic is ”The Style Of Duke Ellington”. Clar was a writer for Los Angels Time in the late 1950s and early 1960s and also famous for her Double M Jazz Salon events at her home.

In the article Clar basically describes how the Ellington sound is formed by merging different elements – the stylistic elements of the individual musicians, the timbre of the instruments, the interplay between soloists and ensemble, his piano etc – into a whole. This is of course not revolutionary idea 67  years later but the article is still worth reading particularly since Clar makes her point with numerous examples.

One of the longer ones is Ellington’s recording of I Don’t Know What Kind Of Blues I’ve Got with Al Hibler but there are many other ones.

The full article can be read here.


Musik möte 9 maj 2016


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