“is to sing with Duke Ellington”.
This was the answer Alice Babs gave to the American journalist Robert “Bob” Pierpont when he, in an interview for Swedish Radio in 1950, asked her about her greatest ambition.
A 2:44 minutes excerpt from the interview can be heard below.
Her fascination by and interest in Ellington from an early age also comes up in an interview by Ed Bridges – another American journalist and columnist – published in the DESS Bulletin 2002:3
He asked Babs about the first American song she sang and she told him that the first was Sweet Sue and the second “Diga Diga Doo” “I had heard a Duke Ellington recording and I imitated the growl effects, which Ellington had on that recording” she said.
The interview is also available in the Ellington Archive (read)
Given her early interest and familiarity with Ellington’s music, it is a little bit surprising that she did not recorded an Ellington song until 1943
It happened on October 12, 1943 when she recorded “Don’t Get Around Much Any More” with the Thore Ehrling Orchestra.
Two years later (September 21, 1945), Babs recorded another Ellington song – I’m Beginning To See The Light – with the same orchestra but then almost six years passed before it was done again.
On November 27, 1951 when she cut I’m Checkin’ Out Go’Em Bye” with the Andrew (sic!) Burman’s Metronome All Stars.
All three of them are available on CDs issued by Vax Records – the CD album “Early Recordings” and the 6 CD-box “Vi minns Alice Babs” (“We Remember Alice Babs”).
The next time she cut an Ellington song was eight years later. On June 3-5, 1959, she recorded “Just A-Sittin’ And A-Rockin'”, “Prelude To A Kiss” and “I Got It Bad” in a big band setup with the Arne Domnérus Orchestra.
The result of the recording session was issued as “Alice and Wonderband”.
During the first twenty years of her career, Alice Babs had managed to record only five Ellington songs but soon many more were to come.
With the help of the “Wonderband” album (and the Swedish TV-producer Arne Arnbom) she was going to enter a new career and to get her greatest ambition “to sing with Duke Ellington” fulfilled but that is another story and another article.