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Duke Ellington in 1956 – July

Ellington’s Newport Festival concert finished well after midnight. When he and the band left the following morning, they were faced with a full set of road bookings.

“As it had been for decades, it was a nonstop summer …. Newport had been only one gig among others” (John Fass Morton Backstory in Blue – Ellington at Newport ’56).

However, it was a little bit different than previous summers. The summer music festivals had entered the scene in full strength and the core of Ellington’s appearances in July were at such festivals. They had large audiences so Ellington managed to reach out quite well in addition to the success at Newport. Several of them was also recorded in one way or the other or broadcasted.

Ellington played the key pieces from the Newport concert quite a lot, particularily “Newport Jazz Festival Suite”. Surprisingly, “Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue” was played less frequently.

After Newport Ellington and the band played at the Danceland Ocean Park in New London, Connecticut and then returned to New York.

Duke and Billy Strayhorn spent most of the morning of July 9 with George Avakian and his team in Columbia’s Studio D going over the tapes from Newport and in the afternoon the full orchestra joined them for the recording session, which was already  agreed before the actual concert in Newport. The focus was “Newport Jazz Festival Suite” but also “Jeep’s Blues” was recorded. Fortunately, the initial idea to redo also “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” was skipped.

Amazingly, Ellington managed to squeeze two other events into his calendar on July 9. He participated in a panel with other prominent jazz colleagues and recorded a promotional short film for Time-Life.

The following day, the tour of New England and Canada started. The first stop was New Haven, Connecticut, where Ellington participated in the Bowls Pop together with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

July56 2

The next major stop was the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox, Massachusetts on July 15 and from there Ellington and the orchestra went to Ontario, Canada to perform at the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario.

There they gave two concerts – July 18 and July 20. In between and after, Ellington performed in Burlington, Ontario and both concerts were broadcasted by CBC Radio.

Following this, Duke and the band returned to the U.S.A. to perform in Cleveland, Ohio with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra on July 25 after having given a concert in Buffalo, New York the day before.

The next major destination was Fairfield, Connecticut where Ellington and the orchestra appeared at the First Connecticut Jazz Festival on July 28. This was major event and Ellington shared the stage with Willie “The Lion” Smith, Chico Hamilton, Buck Clayton and others.

Connecticut Jazz Festival CD

On July 29, they were back in New York and Ellington appeared on the Woolworth Hour playing a medley with the house band.

This post has been 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.

Willie Cook tells about Newport 1956

One of the focuses of the DESS’ website this month has been the Newport Jazz Festival 1956 (articles July 3, 7, 8, 11).

Willie Cook was one of the members of the band and he actually saved the first part of Ellington’s appearance at Newport. He was on stage when others like Ray Nance were missing so Ellington could call on him to play “Tea for Two”. Why Ellington chose this tune is a little bit of a mystery. Cook played it very infrequently with the band.

Willie Cook och Newport album 2

In 1995, Göran Wallén made an extensive interview with Cook (published in the DESS’ Bulletin 1995:3 where he also spoke about Newport 1956 and this is what he said.

“The concert was scheduled for 11 p.m. But it got delayed 1 hour and a half and meanwhile the band was sitting in the bar 500 meters from the stage. So when the band was supposed to start playing there was only 7 members in place. So Duke told me to play a solo number – Tea for Two. Unfortunately, it is not released on record. The reason that total hysteria broke out was that the band was in really good shape and that a blond woman started to dance in front of the stage during Paul Gonsalves’ solo. It is not really likely that Jo Jones was marking the rhythm with a newspaper backstage since Jo Jones and Sam Woodyard were not the best of friends.”


DR Ellington Broadcasts (5 and 6)

The 5th and 6th Ellington programs broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid 1980s are part of the “Goodies of the Month” offer for July-August.

The 5th program was broadcasted on December 30, 1984 and the 6th one week later on January 4, 1985. Both were presented by Bjarne Busk.

Program 5 focus on the Queen’s Suite and include the recordings made in February and April 1959, which were first issued on the Pablo label. The two interviews in the program have not been issued on LP or CD.

In program 6, a lot of music not issued on LP or CD so far was played. There are among other things a substantial segment from the January 3, 1956 stockpile recording session and two selections from the February 8, 1966 telecast from Circus in Stockholm. New York, New York was recorded on August 2, 1972 and is different from the one issued on Storyville 101- 8402, which was recorded on September 5, 1972.

A document with the discographical information for the programs (and others in the series) is available.Corrections are most welcome.

Meadowbrook, Cedar Grove, New Jersey, June 6, 1951


The second surviving MBS broadcast (June 6, 1951) from Frank Dailey’s Meadowbrook is one of the goodies in the “Goodies of the Month” section of the website.

After the theme and introduction, we hear the second part of  THE TATTOOED BRIDE called Aberdeen with beautiful clarinet playing by Jimmy Hamilton. Indian Summer is next, this time with an alto solo (one of his best)  by Willie Smith showing why Duke wanted him in his band.

Love You Madly  is sung by Norma Oldham, Ellington’s new female singer, who has a pleasant voice but had a short stay with the orchestra.

Juan Tizol is soloing in his own composition Moonlight Fiesta, which was one of his feature numbers alsos with the Harry James orchestra. We then hear the first recorded performance of Billy Strayhorn’s All Day Long , perhaps not one of his most well-known compositions but typical of his writing and arranging.

After Al Hibbler’s rendition of I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart, it is time for Louie Bellson’s probably most well-known composition, The Hawk Talks. Bellson did not have Coleman Hawkins in mind when he wrote it. Instead it is dedicated to Harry James, his former employer.Next comes an unusual version of Take The A Train with an impressive solo in slow tempo by Paul Gonsalves. At the absence of Johnny Hodges, some of the other musicians also got the chance at playing slow ballads and similar tunes.

DESS members are welcome to “the Goodies Month” section to listen to and download this broadcast.

Månadsgodis för juli-augusti

De första godisbitarna för juli-augusti är nu på plats i Godisrummet. De är

  • En radioutsändning från Frank Dailys Meadowbrook Ballroom i Cedar Grove, New Jersey den 6 juni 1951
  • Program 5 och 6 i Danska Radios långa serie av program baserade på Mercer Ellingtons donation

Radioutsändningar från Congress Hotel i Chicago den 9 resp 26 maj 1936 är tillgängliga för nedladdning ytterligare två veckor.

Artiklar med detaljer om de första fyra utsändningarna från Danmarks Radio och den från Meadowbrook den 6 juni 1951 har redan publicerats.

För tillträde till Godisrummet krävs ett lösenord, som alla medlemmar i DESS med epost-adress får.

In English on next page. (more…)

50th Anniversary at Château de Goutelas July 9, 2016 (2)

The day started with typical French lunch. Around the table of the musicians, there was a heated discussion on interpreting Ellington.


Claude CARRIERE, Laurent MIGNARD et André WENTZO

In the afternoon Claude Carrière gave a workshop where he demonstrated quite a number of Ellington songs. His CD box of Ellington songs is highly recommended

The evening started with an Ellington concert by the Wenzo Trio enlarged with Laurent Mignard and Franck Pilandon.

And it ended with dancing to Ellington music long into the night.

Duke Ellington is certainly alive in France!

50th Anniversary at Château de Goutelas July 9, 2016 (1)

Ellington fans know of course everything about Ellington’s visit to the Château Goutelas in Loire in February 1966 and the “Une poule sûr un piano” concert he gave there. The owners of the castle had invited him to inaugurate the completely renovated left wing.

Duke in Goutelas 1966

The French film maker Laurent Lukic has made a film about the renovation and the many people – workers, artists, farmers and intellectuals – that gathered to help with the renovation. It premiered recently but is still not totally finalised.

However, the castle is fully restored and it is now an important cultural center with a rich program every year. This year, the French Ministry of Culture awarded it the label  “Center for Cultural Exchanges”.


On July 9 2016, the Chateau de Goutelas celebrated that it is 50 years (plus some months) since Ellington made his visit with a full day program of presentations, concerts and activities of all kind.

Goutelas 9 juli

Claude Carrière – the Ellington scholar, pianist, writer, record producer etc. and the initiator of Maison du Duke – and Laurent Mignard – trumper and founder/leader of the French Duke Ellington Orchestra – were featured artists of the event together with the Wenzo Trio and the saxophone player Franck Pilandon.


Claude CARRIERE ,Laurent MIGNARD et André WENTZO

Videos with parts of the piano presentation of Claude Carrière and the appearances of the band with Laurent Mignard will be published in the part 2 of the article.

The photos and videos are courtesy  of Mr. Hubert Delaye – a member of the organizing committée for cultural events at Chàteau de Goutelas (and a good friend of mine).

The castle is located in the middle of the Loire about one hour and a half west of Lyon following the A 89 and A 72 motorways.

Books on Ellington for beginners

There are probably more books on Duke Ellington – his life, career, music and band – than on any other jazz artist. It reflects the world-wide interest in Ellington in different groups – critics, researchers, fans etc. Some of the books are very, very good and others are mediocre and without interest.

Sometimes I am asked what a beginner on Ellington should read and I am sure that others in the Ellington community get the same question.

Some months ago I decided to poll Ellington experts on the Duke-LYM mailing list on the matter and many gave their view. In the end, it was a long thread with many suggestions.

Almost 15 books were proposed but many by only one person. But there was a strong consensus that a beginner on Ellington should start by reading Beyond Categories – The Life and Genius Duke Ellington by John Edward Hasse and then continue with Stanley Dance’s The World of Duke Ellington.

Beyond category

When it came to the third book, the views were more divided. Some proposed The Duke Ellington Reader by Mark Tucker and others his book The Early Years of Duke Ellington.

Single votes were given to Ellington’ autobiography Music Is My Mistress, Harvey Cohen’s Duke Ellington’s America, Gunther Schuller’s The Swing Years and others.

At this stage, the eminent and very considerate Ellington scholar, Roger Boyes (of DESUK) entered the discussion and turned it a little bit upside down.

He very forcefully argued that David Bradbury’s Duke Ellington ( Haus Publishing’s Life And Times series, 2005) should be the first book a beginner on Ellington should read.



Mer om Duke och barn

I anslutning till gårdagens artikel om Duke i Kamratposten nr.2 1959 vill vi påminna om Sonja Svensson artikel i DESS-bulletinen nr. 2-2012 om litteratur för barn om Ellington.


I sin detaljerade artikel berättar Sonja bl.a. om Barbro Sedwalls “Glass och lite jazz” som kom hos BonnierCarlsen 2003. Den täcker både Ellington och andra klassiska jazzartister.

Mer Duke för barn

Hon drar också en lans för Mick Carlon och hans ungdomsroman “Riding On Duke’s Train”.

Sonja avslutar sin artikel med en utförlig lista över böcker för barn och ungdomar om Ellington. Rekommenderas! Jag skulle dock gärna också ha sett den underbara Harlem’s Little Blackbird om Florence Mills på listan.

Florence Mills




Gunilla träffar Duke 1958

Kamratposten är ju en tidningen för barn mellan 8 och 15 år och många DESS-medlemmar tillhörde säkert dess prenumeranter på 1950- och 1960-talet.

Kamratposten nr 2 år 1959 innehåller en artikel på fyra sidor om Duke Ellington skriven för tidningens unga läsekrets. Den får anses tillhöra “kulturen om Ellington i Sverige”.


Kamratpostens unga reporter Gunilla Holm besökte Duke Ellingtons konsert i Kungl. Tennishallen den 4 november 1958. Gunilla fick träffa Duke och samtalade med honom. Några bilder togs också. Vidare hade Kamratposten en tävling för läsekretsen om att identifiera en sång som Duke Ellington skrivit! Detta vore nog inte möjligt att göra i dagens Sverige.

Kamratposten Margareta Toss

I perspektiv – den 6 november 1958 besökte jag – Göran Axelsson – de två Duke Ellington-konserterna i Göteborgs konserthus. Nyss fylld 18, men ännu inget körkort.

Den fullständiga artikeln finns tillgänglig för DESS-medlemmar i Ellington-arkivet. Lösenordet är detsamma som tidigare.

Och varmt tack till Leif Jönsson, som ställt det här numret av Kamratposten till förfogande för DESS-medlemmar via DESS’ webbplats och till Sonja Svensson för fotot.

Författare: Göran Axelsson / Ulf Lundin

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