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Ellington Study Group Meets In New York 1981

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The Chicago meeting was followed by another one in New York in the first weekend of October , 1981, It was labelled “the first ever international meeting of the Duke Ellington Study Group” because among the participants was Benny Åslund from Sweden and Charles Delaunay from France.

But the majority was of course American Ellington experts like Don Miller and Dick Buckley from Chicago, Henry Quarles from Milwaukee, Jack Towers and Terrell Allen from Washington D.C. and a lot of people from New York like Don Swenson and other members of the Duke Ellington Society of New York (TDES). In total, some twenty people attended the meeting.

On his return to Chicago, Dick Buckley told his listeners that it had been a good meeting.

 

Jerry Valburn was the driving force behind it. Apparently, most of it took place in his basement where he had all the necessary equipment for listening sessions.

But the participants also enjoyed each other’s company in various restaurants.

The event has been preserved on 6 K7 tapes. The sound quality is better than the ones from the Chicago meeting but of course there are glitches here and there. It is rather obvious that from time a transportable tape recorder was used.

All the tapes have been digitized and those interested in them can contact the web editor.

Contrary to later conferences, the meeting was not one of presentations but of informal listening and discussions. The short tape excerpts below give a sense of the atmosphere at the meeting. There are some more and longer ones in the Ellington Archive (section Ellington Study Group Conferences / New York 1981.)

Valburn had loaded his tape machines with a lot of rarities of Ellington music for the two days. Assisted by Jack Towers, he started by letting the conference participants listening to a demon tape of what was to become volume 10 of DETS series.

The discussions were of course quite focused on the music Valburn played but they went in all sorts of directions. ”American Lullaby” was one of the topics at a Chinese restaurant dinner.

 

There was a lot of piano entertainment during the meeting. Benny Åslund played the piano in Valburn’s living room and at the Sunday brunch at the West End Cafe.

 

Brooks Kerr and Tom Whaley – Ellington’s long-time chief copyist and much more – were also present at the West End Cafe and played their share.

 

A more full version of what Åslund, Kerr and Whaley played is available in the Ellington Archive.

On the Monday after the meeting,  TDES organized a special meeting to honor Benny Åslund. Tape excerpts from the meeting are also in the Ellington Archive.

There is also Valburn’s meeting report in the DEMS Bulletin 1982:1 together with the text of the talk that Don Miller gave at the Sunday brunch about the task of the Study Group – ”to maximize the Ellington record for posterity’s study”.

Thanks you to Bo Haufman for the photos and Anders Asplund for the K7s. They come all from the Benny Åslund Collection in the hands of DESS.


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