When Duke Ellington and his orchestra embarked on his 1969 tour of Europe, the Second Sacred Concert was set to be performed as well. The first possibility to do so occurred in Stockholm on 6 November 1969, where Alice Babs would be a vital ingredient who was also available to to take part. This memorable occasion took part in one of the churches in central Stockholm, the Gustav Vasa church. Of the band’s ordinary members at the time, Herbie Jones and Buster Cooper stayed behind in the USA, and for this concert they were replaced by the Swedish musicians Rolf Ericson and Gunnar Medberg. British trumpeter Ambrose Jackson was also added to the trumpet section. There were also dancers taking part and last but not the least the show was supported by the Swedish Radio Choir, under the direction Eric Ericson. The scene was thus set for a memorable performance. DESS members will be able to look at or download the first part of the concert in the Goodies Room, as it was televised by Swedish Radio. Above you can enjoy Almighty Good, a duet with Alice Babs and Russell Procope.The concert at Gustav Vasa Church had been preceded by two regular concerts at Kongresshallen in Stockholm on 4 November (without Babs and the SR Choir) and and a partly recorded rehearsal for the Sacred Concert on the evening before, with among others, Miles Davis in the audience. Later on during this European Tour, two more concerts of this kind were performed, one in Paris on November 16 (l’Eglise St Sulpice) and one in Barcelona on 24 November (Basilica Santa Maria Del Mar).
Our concert opens with Praise God with Harry Carney, followed by Supreme Being, elegantly performed by the SR Choir. Next, Cat Anderson plays a major role together with the choir in Something ‘Bout Believing, where the trumpet player shows that it’s not all about playing high notes on the instrument. At this point Alice Babs enters the scene for a simply beautiful duet with Russell Procope in Almighty God, where Alice handles the high and Procope the low register in a striking, but enjoyable contrast. The choir is also greatly contributing to the impression this number is creating.
Pastor John Genzel was an important person for Duke Ellington in his later life, and here Duke has dedicated his composition The Shepherd (Who Watches Over The Night Flock) to him. It is a work often played in ordinary concerts, with Cootie Williams in the main role.
Next, we hear another beautiful duet-performance. This time it is Johnny Hodges and Alice Babs in Heaven, one of the highlights of this concert.
The first part of the concert is concluded with everybody (including Tony Watkins) participating in Freedom, a word that according to Ellington can be pronounced and interpreted in many different ways, especially at the end of a decade of civil rights struggle in the USA.
We intend to return later with the second part of this concert.