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Stockholm 1994 (2)

After the opening of the conference, the first morning had a very strong Swedish accent.

It started with a panel talking about “Ellington in Sweden 1939”. Participants in the panel were Alice Babs, Rolf Dahlgren, Bertil Lyttkens och Hans-Henrik Åberg.

Thanks to a change in the program, the audience could then enjoy an improvised concert by the Swedish pianist Berndt Egerbladh, who also brought Alice Babs onto the stage.

The morning session ended with Benny Åslund  – appropriately – giving his greetings to the conference and showing some of his films of the Ellington band’s visits to Sweden.




Stockholm 1994 (1) revised

After almost two years of preparations, the official opening of the Ellington ’94 conference in Stockholm  took place on May 20, 1994. It was the 12th one in the series of Study Group Conferences.

The conference was opened by Göran Wallén, Chairman of the organizing committee and of The Duke Ellington Swedish Society, and Alice Babs.


Video: Sjef Hoefsmit

The night before, the participants had got acquinted at a “Get-Together-Party” at the Scandic Hotel, where the conference took place, and had time to read the 40 pages program provided to all.

Program 94 (pdf downloadable)

Ads about the conference had been in the Stockholm newspapers well in advance thanks to a sponsorship by Dagens Nyheter, the leading Stockholm newspaper

Göran Wallén has kindly provided the DESS website with the story how “Stockholm ’94” came about. Below is a summary in English. The full version in Swedish is available in the Ellington Archive.

Göran Wallén

“The 10th Ellington Study Group Conference took place in Copenhagen on May 19-22, 1992. We were some 30 Ellington-interested participants from Sweden. During the first night of the conference, Arne Domnérus and Bengt Hallberg played at the Montmartre Jazz Club together with Clark Terry, NHOP and Peter Danemo.

During the conference, I talked to Leif ”Smoke Rings” Anderson – the well-known radio voice and jazz journalist with a particular interest in Ellington. I had known him for several years and I told him that I was thinking about doing a similar conference in Sweden.

I asked him if this could be done and his direct answer was “It can’t be done; it is too much work; we will not manage.” I replied: “But if the Danes could do it, why not the Swedes? Shall we arrange the conference in Malmö (where Leif lived)”, I asked? “No, it is not possible”, he said, “Then we have to do it in Stockholm” I replied, and that was how it came to be done. But Leif was not convinced and very skeptical.

Back in Stockholm, I brought together Rolf Dahlgren, Olle Lindholm and Lennart Landström, who had been with me in Copenhagen, to discuss the idea. They were all very positive and we shared thoughts on how to make it happen.

The 1993 Ellington Conference was already scheduled to take place in New York so we decided to go for 1994, which would give us time to organize the conference and find the funding needed.

After the meeting, I told Benny Åslund about our intentions and he was very positive about having a conference in Stockholm.

In August 1993, I went to New York together with Alice Babs and a couple of others to participate in the 11th Ellington Study Group Conference (August 11-15, 1993). There Alice and I presented the program for Ellington ’94 in Stockholm the year thereafter and we got very positive responses.

In the end, more than 250 delegates from 22 countries came to Stockholm.

By that time a lot had happened in terms of getting the conference in place.

Organizations and government agencies in the field of arts and music like the Swedish Radio, the Swedish Performing Rights Society (STIM), the Swedish Arts Council, the Swedish National Concert Institute and many others had started to realize what was going to happen and had come on board. They worked with us to make the conference a large-scale jazz event in Stockholm with concerts and club performances all over the city.

We had also secured funding for the conference thanks to support from local and regional authorities and sponsorships from different kinds of industrial companies, a bank (Nordbanken/Nordea), an insurance company (Wasa) and SAS, which provided tickets for our American guest musicians. DagensNyheter provided us with generous space for ads in the newspaper.

After the New York announcement of the conference all the practical work accelerated. The initial group of four had expanded to 12 people, each responsible for a particular set of tasks. It got some good help from Åke Edfeldt, who had agreed to be the presenter during the three days and also from Carl Gunnar Jansson, Lars Westin and Jan Bruér from the Swedish Jazz Federation. Early in the project, Alice Babs and Leif Anderson had accepted to be conferenciers at the concerts. I was very happy when Leif in one of our conversations said: “I was wrong regarding an Ellington conference in Sweden. It looks like it will be a success.”

The illustrator and author Olle Snismarck designed the logo for the conference and for DESS.

Scandic Crown Hotel (today Hilton Stockholm Slussen Hotel) was chosen as the main conference site and the National Concert Institute took care of printing the extensive 40 page program.

So when the date for the opening of the conference approached, everything was well prepared. More than 250 participants from 22 countries had registered and the concerts in the Stockholm Concert Hall and the Swedish Radio Concert Hall (Berwaldhallen) were sold out.

At 9 o’clock on May 20, 1994 I had the pleasure to open the conference together with Alice Babs and then followed three days full of presentations, concerts and other events. A nice surprise was the spontaneous concert that Alice Babs and Kenny Burrell provided at the luncheon at the Stockholm Town Hall.

The conference ended with a gala dinner with dancing to the music of Kustbandet and one of the conference participants, Austin Lawrence, who had toured with Luis Russell in the 1940s added to the entertainment by stepping up to the microphone to sing Call of the Freaks with Kustbandet.

At the end of the conference, we heard many nice words from the participants. Among them was Klaus Stratemann, who called it an “extraordinary conference”.

The conference was also a financial success. It had a surplus of almost 300.000 Swedish Crowns, which provided the base for setting up a Swedish Duke Ellington society.

All Swedish participants in the conference were invited to a founding meeting on May 22, 1994 at the Castle Hotel and the new organization was given the name “The Duke Ellington Swedish Society” which was later changed to “Duke Ellington Society of Sweden”.

So this is the story about the conference. Ten years later another Ellington Study Group Conference took place in Stockholm but that is another story.”

Louie Bellson Interview


The Hawk Talks,  Louie Bellson’s probably most famous composition played by his own All Star Orchestra in 1992

Very recently DESS members received DESS Bullentin nr 4, 2017, in which Louie Bellson is featured prominently. In 1996, Monk Rowe of Hamilton College Jazz Archives, conducted a TV interview with Bellson in Sarasota, Florida and we are  happy to give you the opportunity to listen to this nice personality talking about his long career as a drummer, composer, arranger and band leader. Enjoy!


DESS Bulletin 2017-4

The new issue of the Bulletin has been published and is on its way to DESS members. As usual, a lot of good and interesting reading.

The feature articles this time is about Louie Bellson. Over four pages, Bo Haufman, who had met Bellson personally, paints a portrait of him. He gives us Bellson’s career and his time(s) with Ellington but also Bellson -the drummer and Bellson – the composer. A separate article descibes Bellson’s drumkit as it was circa 1952.

The new issue also has another article by Fred Glueckstein related to early Ellington films. This times it deals with Fredi Washington – the co-star in the film-short “Black and Tan”.

These are the articles in English this time but for those, who able to read Swedish, there are another four to enjoy. One gives snapshots of what the local press wrote about Ellington’s 1963 tour and another is a reprint from the Swedish jazz magazine “Estrad” from April 1947, in which Nils Färnström tells about his visit to Harlem and particularly to Apollo Theatre.

The other two articles in Swedish come from the hand of Bo Haufman. One is about Bojangles and the other a review of a concert by Stockholm Swing Stars “In the Spirit of Duke Ellington” in September 2017.

Smått och gott / Bits and Pieces


DESS finns nu också på Twitter

Det är ännu så länge ett experiment men vi hoppas att de DESS-medlemmar som också finns på Twitter kommer att följa oss. Vårt användarnamn är @ellingtonswe.

Nytt Storyville-album

Storyville har gett ut ett nytt Ellington-album – den här gången i det allt mer populära DSD (Direct Digital Stream)-formatet.

Det välrenommerade kanadensiska 2xHD svarar för den tekniska produktionen. Man har gett ut albumet i DSD256-formatet vilket betyder en samplingsfrekvensen 256 gånger den som används för en CD.

Resultatet är ett mycket bra ljud men eftersom albumet bara finns att köpa som en nedladdningsbar fil så kommer många bara att lyssna på den via datorn med dess ljudmässiga begränsningar.

Musiken då? Många DESS-medlemmar har den säkert redan antingen på LP eller CD så det är säkert mest ljudfreakar som jag som lockas att köpa albumet. Men kanske också en yngre generation?

Det innehåller all musik (utom “Kinda Dukish”) från Ellington-delen av filmen “Goodyear Jazz Concert” inspelad den 9 january 1962 och Ellingtons pianokonsert på Château Goutelas i Loire, Frankrike den 25 februari 1966.

Albumet kan köpas hos bl.a. NativeDSD (https://www.nativedsd.com) eller HighResAudio (https://www.highresaudio.com).




Ellington-serie på Sveriges Radio 1994 (2)

Så är det dags för andra programmet i Lars Westins och Jan Bruérs radioserie om Ellington och hans musik.

Den här gången är temat Harlem och programrubriken är följaktligen “Echoes of Harlem”. Fokus är senare delen av 1920-talet och början av 1930 men det innehåller utvikningar också till senare år.

Liksom det föregåendet programmet finns det tillgängligt för DESS-medlemmar i radiodelen av Ellington-arkivet.

Casa Mañana, Feb 20, 1941

Casa Manana

In last week’s article on Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge”, Walter van de Leur was quoted as saying in his book ” Something to Live For, The Music of Billy Strayhorn”, that “an unissued broadcast from the Casa Manana, Culver City” is “the only known full recording of Chelsea Bridge by the Ellington Orchestra.”

That was said before Joe Medjuck spotted that a full version was also played in the broadcast from Radio City in New York on September 8, 1945.

For DESS members who would like to compare the two “full” versions, the broadcast from Casa Mañana in Culver City, CA on Feb. 20, 1941 is the second “goodie” for November together with three songs from a broadcast made at  Trianon Ballroom, Southgate,CA, in June 1941. They are available for listening and downloading in the “Current Goodies” section.

Chelsea Bridge (Casa Mañana, Culver City, Feb 20, 1941)

Our program starts with four surviving numbers from an MBS broadcast of Feb. 20 1941. The opening number is Are You Stickin’, which was obviously written for Barney Bigard to show his technical brilliance on his clarinet. Although the announcer nicknames him “Speedometer”, Barney plays this number in a relatively slow tempo.

The main reason for presenting this program is to make it possible for our members to get access to both the recordings of Chelsea Bridge which Walter van de Leur was referring to in his book about Billy Strayhorn. (The first one was presented last week). Most people associate this composition with three people: Duke, Billy Strayhorn and Ben Webster. Webster made his interpretation stick, but it must be said that also Paul Gonsalves, later on, made a lasting impression when playing this tune.

Another Strayhorn original comes next: Love Like This Can’t Last, sung by Ivie Anderson. This number was shortlived, there are only three known recordings of it, all from 1940.

The last number we play from this broadcast is Moon Mist, composed by Duk’e son Mercer. This is in many ways an interesting performance; it is the first recording of this song,  Ben Webster plays a long solo and we hear Wallace Jones playing muted trumpet and it continues into Take The A Train as a sign-off. Later on, Ray Nance would play a violin solo and it would be used as a radio sign-off theme.

As a bonus for DESS’ members, three numbers from a broadcast at Trianon Ballroom in Southgate, California in June 1941 are also included in this month’s “goodie”.

Again a rare performance: It’s Square, But It Rocks (by Freddie Slack and Carl Sigman) has only been recorded on two occasions (within a week or two) by Duke Ellington and his orchestra. It is sung by Ivie Anderson. The next tune, In A Mellow Tone, in contrast, has become a well-known jazz standard. Johnny Hodges and Ray Nance are the soloists.

In 1940 Duke had often used Sepia Panorama as his theme song but at the time of the Casa Mañana engagement, in early 1941, Take The A Train had been added to the band’s book. The first surviving live recording using this song as the theme comes from the Casa Mañana dance date on Feb. 16, the day after the first famous Victor recording was made The first ever recording was made exactly one month before that for Standard Transciptions.



Chelsea Bridge

Chelsea Bridge was one of the songs Billy Strayhorn wrote in 1940 when he and Mercer Ellington were called upon by Ellington to write new material for the band following the boycott by the radio stations of songs licensed by ASCAP.

In his biography on Strayhorn, David Hajdu describes “Chelsea Bridge” as “more Debussy than Ellington. It is classical’ in its integration of melody and harmony as an organic whole.

Strayhorn himself has said that “Chelsea Bridge” was “an impressionistic miniature composed with a painting by James McNeill Whistler in mind.

The first appearance of “Chelsea Bridge” in the Ellington discography is the dance date at Casa Manana in Culver City, California on February 16, 1941 but probably it was performed several times during the engagement there from Jan. 3 to Feb 20 1941.

Chelsea Bridge, Febr. 16, 1941

Chelsea Bridge was recorded for Standard Transcriptions on September 17, 1941 and for RCA-Victor on September 26 and December 2, 1941.

In his quite wonderful book “ Something to Live For, The Music of Billy Strayhorn”, Walter van de Leur laments that there is no readily available recording of the Ellington band playing the full score of Chelsea Bridge.

In a note on page 207 of his book, he mentions that an “unissued broadcast from the Casa Manana, Culver City” is “the only known full recording of Chelsea Bridge by the Ellington Orchestra.

Later recordings … use different parts of the manuscript.  The recording of June 30, 1945 (“Your Saturday Date with the Duke” broadcast issued on Duke Ellington Treasury Series 12) moves after the bridge of the third chorus into Something to Live For.”

Chelsea Bridge June 30, 1945

Since I didn’t have the unissued recording, I decided to listen to the DETS recording.  I went to my cd collection and pulled out the Storyville DETS Vol. 12.

Indeed there is a version of Chelsea Bridge as part of a  “group of three Billy Strayhorn compositions” wherein the band does go from Chelsea Bridge to Something to Live For but with a bond promo in between.  However,  Chelsea Bridge is quite long. It lasts 5 minutes and sounds a lot like van de Leur’s description of the complete composition.

Chelsea Bridge Sep. 8 1945

I then realized that I had been listening to a different version of “Chelsea Bridge” than the one van de Leur was referring to in his note. When he said “DETS  Series  12”, he meant LP no. 12 in the original LP series, not Vol. 12 in the Storyville series. The one Walter was referring to is on Vol. 7 in this series and is much shorter than the one on Vol 12.

So I decided to contact him and ask for his comment. Here is what he replied.

“Thanks for this. Indeed, the full score, fantastic. Duke opens, but Strays takes over from the first chorus. It confirms that he had some composed piano parts as I had figured.”

So small misunderstandings can sometimes lead to something interesting.

Author: Joe Medjuck




Fargo Nov. 7, 1940

Today is the 77th anniversary of the night when Ellington and his orchestra played for dancing at the Crystal Ballrom in Fargo, North Dakota.

Crystal Ballroom was the main dance hall in Fargo and located on the second floor of the Fargo City Auditorium at the corner of First Avenue South and Broadway. It featured a glass ball two feet in diameter hanging from the ceiling that reflected the lights of the dance hall.

Ellington arrived in Fargo after having toured the Mid-West and Canada.

As all Ellington friends know, waiting for him there was not only a dance audience but also two young students – Jack Towers and Richard Burris – who had managed to get the permission from both the William Morris Agency  and Duke Ellington to record the dance on their portable recording equipment. So they did and the rest is legacy.

Jack Towers

Towers has been interviewed many times about Fargo and the recordings he and Burris made. Here are three of them.

In February or March 1980, Towers spoke to the National Public Radio (NPR) engineer Jim Anderson about the process of making, then restoring his Grammy-winning recording. The interview was aired on Morning Edition on March 6, 1980.


In 1981, in conjunction with the Ellington Study Group meeting in New York, Dick Buckley interviewed Towers about Fargo. He then used it in his program “Jazz Forum” on Nov. 7, 1981, which was commemorating the Crystal Ballroom dance.


Another interview with Jack Towers on Fargo took place in 2000 in conjuction with the 60th anniversary of the Crystal Ballroom dance.

This time, it was Rob Bamberger who interviewed him and his wife Brenda on “Hot Jazz Saturday Night” – Bamberger’s weekly program on the public radio station WAMU in Washington D.C. The music played on the program was from a pre-release of the Storyville’s Fargo 60th Anniversary CD album.


The first release of music from Crystal Ballroom happened without the direct involvement of Jack Towers. In the interview with Dick Buckley he says that “in the early 60s” he had a “very poor tape” which he gave to someone who visited him in Washington.

The tape ended up in New York “or someplace” and “a bootleg of very bad quality came out in Europe about six months later. Palm or some label like that.”

Apparently, Towers was upset about the tape coming out, and in the early 1970s,” Towers says in the interview, “I got interested in doing a better dub of it and helped a fellow in Sweden produce a pretty good version of it for Jazz Society.” This must be considered as the  first real issue of the Crystal Ballroom dance.

According to Carl A. Hällström, who was behind Jazz Society and other labels, “the idea for the Fargo album on JAZZ SOCIETY came from my visit with the Towers family  in Washington in the summer of 1973.  The music had already been out in two bad versions: two LPs in Denmark and three LPs (Palm 30) in England.  I wanted to produce a legitimate version of better quality and I made a deal with Jack Towers.”

“Tape transfers from the original acetates made at the Library of Congress in the late 60 ‘s were  then edited by Olle Swembel at Europa film in Stockholm in 1974”, Carl says , “and the Jazz Society two LP-set came out in late 1975. ”

“I did not then have any general retail distribution in Sweden; It was Leif Anderson who sold it. It was some years later that I first had AMIGO as distributor and then AD LIB, which sold much more even though the price was higher.  Jurgen Schildt’s review of Fargo in AFTONBLADET helped very well!”

Later the Canadian label Jazz Guild issued material from the dance supplementing the Jazz Society album

In 1978, the Book-of-the-Month Club issued a three LP-set with the same content as the Jazz Society and Jazz Guild albums combined.  However, Towers had worked further on the tapes producing a new version for the issue and he was very proud that the new album won the Grammy Award for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album” in 1980.

The 1990 issue of the Fargo dance on the Canadian label Vintage Jazz Classics must be considered as another hallmark since it includes everything that was recorded on November 7, 1940.

However, the ultimate version in terms of sound quality must considered to be Storyville’s “Fargo 1940 Special 60th Anniversary Edition”. For this issue, Towers had restored the tapes and improved them as much as possible.

It should also be said that the joy and value of the listed Fargo albums is not only the music but also the almost scholarly liner notes that come with them. The list of authors are impressive. Eddie Lambert, Jerry Valburn, Andrew Homzy and Annie Kuebler.

A section on Fargo 1940 with photos, documents and other material has been set up in the Ellington Archive. Contributions to it are most welcome.





DR Ellington Broadcasts (19)

The first ”goodie” for November is program 19 in the Duke Ellington series broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the “Goodies” section of the website.

The program was broadcasted on May 31 1985.

It brings the listeners excerpts from two “stockpile” recording sessions – one on July 25, 1962 and the other on April 4, 1967. All the selections in the program was later issued in the “Private Sessions” series.

The program starts with three tunes from the 1967 session – “Eggo”, “Amta” and “Little Purple Flower” (aka “The F.L.”). Eggo is mistakenly announced as “KIXX” (aka “Traffic Jam” or “The Biggest”) but it was recorded just before “Eggo”.

The 1962 session is the Ellington Orchestra without the trumpet section and in the second part of the session also Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney are out.

This part of the DR broadcast is a gem for fans of Paul Gonsalves. He is the featured soloist in all the numbers. We get the opportunity to hear him demonstrate his skills in different tempi but in particular in slow ones.

First we hear him in a number called “No. 1” but known in discographies as “Blue Too”; then comes No. 2 – aka “Tune Up” which is followed by “Tigress” and “Telstar” (aka “Tigress”).

The broadcast ends with “Like Late” and three Ellington compositions – “Major”, “Minor” and “G” (aka “G” for Groove”).






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