The Ellington Study Group Conference in Oldham, England in 1985 was apparently very special. Roger Boyes, who was one of the participants, says that ”the spirit it generated was quite magical”.
As a result, the organizers took the decision ”there and then” to do it again. However, planning for Newark ’86 was already well in hand by then, and Toronto was penciled in for ’87. So 1988 was the next year available.
Once the conference was announced, the registrations for participation started to come in quickly and soon it was a sold-out event.
Bo Haufman, Deputy Chair of DESS and the editor of the DESS Bulletin, took part in the conference and remembers it very well.
”It was my first Ellington Study Group Conference and it was a very good experience, which triggered me to go to many more, including Birmingham 2018 in two weeks. It took place in the same venue as the 1985 conference – Birch Hall in Oldham – and was run in a very capable way by Mike Hazeldine after the sad passing away of Eddie Lambert about a year before the conference.
Almost all of the presentations were very interesting. I remember in particular the ones by Loren Schoenberg, who talked about “Midriff”, and by Bob Wilber, who made a very knowledgeable presentation of Johnny Hodges and his development over the years.
Jerry Valburn talked about both common and odd 78 rpm Ellington records in his extensive collection of records and Klaus Stratemann about his “Day by Day” project.
In the many panels, that discussed various aspects of Duke Ellington and his music, we could hear Sjef Hoefsmit, Patricia Willard, Andrew Homzy, Jack Towers, Alice Babs, Herb Jeffries and several others.
The evening concerts were presented by a fantastic band put together and led by Bob Wilber. Guest performer was Bill Berry and of course Herb Jeffries and Alice Babs appeared with the band. In it were such names as Jimmie Woode, Buster Cooper, Danny Moss and Anti Sarpila. Afterwards Herb Jeffries gave us a wonderful show ending with “Flamingo”.
The Swedes, who attended the Conference, were Carl-Erik Carlsson, Peter Lee and myself and then of coursefor Alice Babs and Nils Sjöblom.”
The organizing committee had worked hard for almost two years to get everything in place and the day before the conference some of its members made sure that the conference attendees would easily find their way to the conference venue.
Bob Wilber followed in their steps and brought together the band for an two and a half hour rehearsal before the start of the conference.
And then finally, in the morning of May 26, 1988, it was time to open the conference.
The opening ceremony ended with Hazeldine inviting Herb Jeffries to the podium to say a few words. ”It is all for the love of Duke” was Jeffries credo.