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Duke Ellington in 1956 – month of May

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In May 1956, Duke Ellington must have had quite a relaxed time.

He and the band finished the tour of Virginia and North Carolina in early May and then turned west, bound for Las Vegas. As far as it is known now, the last concert was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on May 2.

DE Las Vegas

After concerts ”en route” in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Queen City, Texas (and possibly some other before those), Ellington and the band arrived in Las Vegas to start its a four-week engagement at the posh Flamingo Hotel on  May 10.

Flamingo Hotel 1956

It must have been a good engagement money-wise and work-wise but rather different from a stay at clubs like Blue Note in Chicago or Birdland in New York.To use the words of David Palmquist (TDWAW) to describe it: ”The Ellington orchestra played the first performance each night, and shared the billing with comedian Archie Robbins and pianist Hazel Scott, with Ellington as master of ceremonies. The finale was One O’Clock Jump performed by Ms Scott and the orchestra. Ellington’s orchestra backed the other acts including the dance line, the Flamingo Starlets.”

The jazz commentator and journalist William ”Bill” Willard contributed a review to Down Beat (published in the June 13, 1956 issue). He is not entirely happy with the show – ”there is a willy-nilly quality about this particular show” – but considers that Ellington brings ”some fresh musical air to this overly-commercialized gambling rampant”.

There exists a recording from the engagement. It has not been issued commercially but it gives what the band played during the stay at the Flamingo Hotel. The same titles as listed on http://www.ellingtonia.com for the recording are mentioned by Willard in his review – with one addition: Jimmy Garrison was apparently featured with ”Everything But You”.

The Flamingo engagement lasted until the first week of June.

This post is written using information from http://www.tdwaw.ca and http://www.ellingtonia.com – two absolutely invaluable sources of information on Ellington’s whereabouts and activities – and Ken Vail’s Duke’s Diary Part Two.


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