Thore Ehrling & his orchestra play East St. Louis Toodle-Oo
The above recording is our starter for a small programme of prominent jazz musicians who present their own interpretations of Ellington’s music, to which we include also Billy Strayhorn’s compositions.
Thore Ehrling’s recording of East St. Louis-Toodle-Oo comes from an SR broadcast in 1945. This orchestra had many talanted jazz musicians, such as Gösta Törner on trumpet, Georg Vernon, trombone, John Björling and Carl-Henrik Norin reeds and they together present a very enjoyable version of Ellington’s early theme song. The rest of the programme is of mixed origin, and we present the tunes in the original Ellington chronology. You will find the complete programme below.
Sidney Bechet, who is supposed to have played occasionally with the Duke in the mid-twenties, but more importantly was one of Johnny Hodges’ mentors, recorded The Mooche with his Feetwarmers on Oct. 14, 1941. The band included Harry Goodwin on trumpet and Vic Dickensen on trombone. Next we can listen to a fantastic piano interpretation of Drop Me Off At Harlem played by the technically brilliant Dick Hyman some time in the 90-ies.
Mel Tormé took the leading theme from Ellington’s Reminiscing In Tempo and rearranged into a love song, which he performs in his unimitable style, accompanied by an all star group led by Johnny Mandel in 1960. The baritone sax you hear belongs to Bill Perkins. This could have been a sensitive thing to Duke, since his Reminiscing In Tempo was sparked off by his mother’s death in 1935, but there is no known animosity between Duke and Tormé because of this.
For his “Eighth Experiment In Modern American Music” on Dec. 25, 1938, Paul Whiteman had booked the Carnegie Hall in NYC. He had also commissioned Duke Ellington to write an original composition on the subject of “bells” for this concert. Ellington came up with Blue Belle(s) Of Harlem which was arranged by Fred Van Epps. The performance is in a style which could be referred to as Symphonic Jazz and which Whiteman was the proponent for in the 20ies and 30ies. There are some interesting Jazz profiles playing solos in this performance: Charlie Teagarden, Jack Teagarden and Miff Mole. Just over 4 yers later Ellington played this composition with his own orchestra on his first Carnegie Hall concert on Jan. 23, 1943.The work was never recorded in a studio, but can be heard from broadcasts.
Gerry Mulligan makes an impressive interpretation of Across The Track Blues with his orchestra from 1980, In addition to Gerry Mulligan soloing we also hear Tom Harrell on trumpet. It is an enigma that Duke didn’t play this fine tune after he made 2 studio takes and only one concert performance in Fargo on Nov. 7, 1940.
Even Glenn Miller would rarely play an Ellington or Strayhorn tune, as in this case, Take The A Train from May 15, 1941, in an entirely different style.
As the closing number we have selected, Don’t You Know i Care? by Johnny Hartman, who it is felt, was a somewhat underrated singer. His fine interpretation of this song is supported by an all-star group with a. o. Illinois Jacquet who is heard on tenor sax and Hank Jones on piano.