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Duke Ellington in 1956 – the month of September

The recording of ”A Drum Is A Woman” would become a major activity for Ellington in September 1956 but the month started by Ellington winding up his engagement at Blue Note in Chicago.

Then he went on the road again. His immediate whereabouts after Chicago are not known but on September 10 he started a week-long engagement at the Colonial Tavern in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The club was one of the most famous jazz venues in Canada at the time.


Before arriving in New York City in the early morning of September 17, the Ellington orchestra played at the Town Casino in Buffalo, New York on September 16. A recording of a broadcast from the club exists.

The recording session for ”A Drum Is A Woman” was supposed to start in the mid-afternoon but apparently it took some time before everybody was in place in the studio – Ellington included.

According to Irving Townsend, the band members arrived one by one but once everybody was in place they ”began to complain loudly about wasting all night just sitting around. At that moment Ellington walked into the room, stopping to kiss his female visitors, chatting with everybody as he worked his way slowly toward the piano. Then, with a bow toward the control room, he asked, ”Am I late? Oh, dear. What time is it anyway?”

Carribee Joe, Congo Square, A Drum Is A Woman and Rumbop was recorded.

The following day Ellington and the band started a week-long engagement at the Red Hill Inn in Pennsauken, New Jersey – another well-known jazz venue in the 50s and early 60s.


MBS made a remote broadcast from the club for its ”Bandstand U.S.A.” program during Ellington’s appearance there.

Having ended the engagement at Red Hill Inn on September 24, Ellington and the members of the orchestra rushed back for another recording session of ”A Drum Is A Woman”. It started just before midnight on September 24 and run all night of September 25th into the wee hours of the morning.

One or more takes of Rhythm Pum Te Dum, Caribee Joe, What Else Can You Do With A Drum, A Drum Is A Woman, Hey Buddy Bolden, Congo Square (Matumbe), Madam Zajj were recorded during this long session.

After a two day break, which included a performance at the Sports Arena at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Ellington and the orchestra was back in the Columbia recording studio for another ”A Drum Is A Woman” session. This time New Orleans (Sunrise Act 1), New Orleans (Sunrise Act 2), New Orleans (Parade), Rhumbop, Hey Buddy Bolden, Zajj’s Dream (Carribee Interlude), The Greatest Thing There Is, Congo Square and A Drum Is A Woman were recorded.

The recording session more or less ended the month for Ellington. If there were other engagements in the last couple of days of the months, they are not known.

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.











Ellington in Dakar April 1966

In April 1966, Duke Ellington appeared at the ”1er Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres” in Dakar, Senegal.


It was a tour arranged by the U.S. State Departement. He was quite an honored guest and seems to have enjoyed the event fully.


He was also prominently featured in the film made to introduce the Festival to the world.

A couple of weeks ago, France Musique showcased Duke Ellington’s concert in Dakar on April 9, 1966 in its not to be missed ”Les légends de jazz” program series. It is the full concert  in excellent sound except for the short ”Take The ”A” Train” theme and the usual medley.

This is link to listen to the concert.

Members of DESS can also download it in the Ellington Archive.

A segment of the beginning of the medley is in this video clip.


Danish Radio Ellington Broadcasts – Program 8

The 8th Ellington program broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s is the fourth ”Goodie” for  the month of September. As the others, it is available in the ”Goodies of the Month” section of the DESS Lobby (DESS-rummet).


It was broadcasted on January 18, 1985 and Bjarne Busk is the presenter.

A special feature of the broadcast is that segments of an interview with the Jimmy Lunceford arranger and the initiator of the Ben Webster Foundation, Billy Moore, are integrated in the program.

The program includes several stockpile recordings, some of which are not available on LP or CD.

The program starts with a stockpile recording of a rather unknown song – Elysée. Then follows some comments by Billy Moore on Ellington as composer and a snapshot of C Jam Blues with more Moore comments.

Next is an instrumental version of Strange Feeling from August 20, 1963 and the rocky ”There’s A Place” recorded on February 17, 1971. I wonder if Wild Bill Davis did not have a hand in ”There’s A Place?

After more comments by Billy Moore on Ellington as composer, the program turns to ”The River Suite” and let us listen to a take of respectively ”The Meander” and ”The River” from March 9, 1972. I hope that we will hear more from the ”River Suite” in later programs.

Comments by Billy Moore on Ellington as a piano player lead into an excerpt of of ”A Blue Mural From Two Perspectives” – the Billy Strayhorn composition from 1965, which apparently Ellington played quite often late in life.

The program ends with first another example of Ellington as pianist – the only recording of the rather unknown Cordon Blue from September 13, 1962 – and then a nice example of Ray Nance’s trumpet playing – ”Do Not Disturb” (aka Le Sucrier Velours) recorded on January 3, 1956.

In the Ellington Archive, there are a couple of documents with more information on the Danish Radio Ellington broadcasts, including a discography of the Danish Radio Ellington programs, which so far have been made available to DESS members on the website.



Willis Conover talar till Sverige


Det var säkert många i Sverige som – precis som jag – lyssnade på Willis Conovers ”Voice of America Jazz Hour” i slutet av 50-talet och början av 60-talet. Programmet var visserligen i huvudsak avsett för lyssnare på andra sidan av ”järnridån” men också för lyssnare i Sverige var det ett bra komplement till det magra jazzutbudet i den svenska radion. Programmet hade visserligen sin inriktning på jazz med rötter i 30- och 40-talen men det gav ett aktuellt perspektiv på den.

Programmet började sändes i januari 1955 och fanns ända till slutet av 2003. Men då var Willis Conover borta. Han dog 1996.

Duke Ellington förekom ofta i programmet. Nya skivor spelades och inspelningar från bl.a. Newport-festivalen skickades ut. Conover intervjuade också Ellington och andra ledande jazzmusiker.

African-American composer, pianist, bandleader and Jazz musician Duke Ellington and broadcaster and Jazz producer Willis Conover during a radio show, Washington DC, November 10, 1949. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

Jazz Hour sände också direkt från Ellingtons begravning och det är ett unikt dokument.

Conover började arbete för Voice of America i slutet av 40-talet och långt innan ”Voice of America Jazz Hour” startade producerade han jazzprogram där.Ett av dem hette tydligen ”American Jazz” och det annonserades i en sändning till den svenska publiken den 23 augusti 1949. Conover utlovade då ett program som skulle erbjuda både känd och mindre känd musik av Ellington men också av Benny Goodman, Count Basie och andra.

Men han gör det via en svensk tolk och hans egen röst finns bara med här och där i den 15 minuter långa utsändningen. Melodierna som spelas i programmet är Sophisticated Lady, Mood Indigo och Time’s A-Wastin’

Jag antar att tala via tolk var en engångsföreteelse för att nå en vidare publik. Men det var kanske något som Voice of America gjorde på den tiden?

Finns det någon bland DESS’ medlemmar som vet mer om detta och kanske också namner på den svenske kommentatorn? Hör i så fall gärna av er!

Danish Radio Ellington Broadcasts – program 7

The 7th Ellington program broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid 1980s is the third ”Goodie” for  the month of September. As the others, it is available in the ”Goodies of the Month” section of the DESS Lobby (DESS-rummet).


It was broadcasted on January 11, 1985.

The program starts with a Billy Strayhorn segment. Ellington talks briefly about Strayhorn (from the documentary ”On The Road With Duke Ellington). Then there is a RCA recording from August 30, 1967 of Midriff and the small group recording of Passion Flower from June 30, 1965 with Strayhorn at the piano. The segment ends with Take The A Train from a December 5, 1967 broadcast.

Next comes two selections from the Pentape session from March 19, 1956 and a Thelonius Monk segment. It contrasts Monk’s trio recording of Blue Monk from October 15, 1952 with Ellington solo recording of this piece ten years later (September 13, 1962)  together with Frere Monk. But then it is called Monk’s Dream.

The broadcast rounds off with The Piano Player from the stockpile recording session of August 2, 1972 and Action In Alexandria (aka ”Cle + Al”) from July 18, 1963  – another stockpile session.

It seems that all the songs played in the program except one are available on LP or CD. The exception is ”Take The ‘A’ from the December 5, 1967 broadcast.

In the Ellington Archive, there are a couple of documents with more information on the Danish Radio Ellington broadcasts, including a discography of the Danish Radio Ellington programs, which so far have been made available to DESS members on the website.

Boken om Arne Domnérus

Göran Walléns omfattande bok om Arne Domnérus (359 sidor, 150 bilder och en diskografi på 142 sidor) finns nu ute handeln efter lanseringen på Nalen, som vi skrev om för ett tag sedan. Och recensionerna har börjat strömma in och de är berömmande.


Så här skrev t.ex. Gävle Dagblad nyligen.

”Boken är snudd på ett mästerverk…..Huvudpersonen själv sätter med sina välinitierade kommentarer postumt en personlig touch på verket och såväl pressklipp som välformulerade uttalanden från jazzkolleger bidrar till bokens förtjänster. Boken är helt enkelt magnifik – trots vissa små felaktiga uppgifter, som dock inte förtar läsvärdet.”

Det är i linje med vad den nyligen avlidne Bengt-Arne Wallin sade förra året. ”En liknande bok har inte skrivits om svensk jazzhistoria. Det är samtidigt ett uppslagsverk”.

Göran Wallén själv säger att den är resultatet av nästan 12 års arbete varav fyra -2004-2008 ägnades åt att intervjua Domnérus.

Jag ringde upp Göran för att få veta lite mer och det här är vad han svarade.

Vad fick dig att skriva boken?

Den enkla anledningen var att det inte finns en bok om kanske Sveriges största musikant under 60 år. Det finns massor tidningar, TV och radioprogram, skivor, men vem hittar dem om 10-20 år. Med boken finns allt sammanfattat på ett ställe.

I de långa intervjuerna med Domnérus vad upptäckte du som du inte redan visste?

Det finns ingen bra presentation om t.ex. 40-talet och dess betydelse för jazzen. Se sammanhangen mellan Jederby över till Simon Brehm som sedan blev Nalenbandet. Detta under en tid då Bebopen växte fram i USA och Sverige.

Vad sätter du främst i Domnérus långa karriär

Frånsett hans sätt att behandla musiken med sina tolkningar tycker jag att han var en förkämpe för att se seriöst på jazzen. Han var ingen jammusiker.

Din favorit bland hans Ellington-tolkningar

När Arne spelade kompositioner av Duke som Johnny Hodges tidigare hade framfört eller när han spelade Barney Goin´ Easy, som var en klassiker för Barney Bigard.

Boken kan köpas i t.ex. bokhandeln och i vissa skivaffärer (som Plugged Records) eller beställas direkt från Göran Wallén (goran.wallen@telia.com). Han leverar gratis i Stockholmsområdet.




Duke and Ella in Stockholm 1966 – discography


In its last issue of 1998 (1998:4), the DESS Bulletin published a detailed discography/audiography of the three concerts (including rehearsals) by Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald in Stockholm on February 7 and February 8, 1966. It was put together by the Ellington specialists and discographers Bo Scherman and Göran Wallén and is available here stockholm-1966-discography.

The article triggered some comments of the Ellington scholar (and later editor of the DEMS Bulletin) Sjef Hoefsmit particularly regarding the rehearsals on February 8. They were published in the Bulletin 1999:1 but are included also in the document above.

An unresolved issue to this very day is is whether also the second part of the concert on February 8 was broadcasted by Swedish television at one point or the other or not. There are different views on this. Of course not a major issue but it is always nice to know the full story 🙂

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