Following the publication on June 26 of Jack Chamber’s article on Duke Ellington’s stockpile session in Toronto in 1972, two people, who attended that recording session, has contacted him and provided some additional information. Jack likes to share this information with the readers of the DESS website.
“In my DESS entry for June, I quoted an excerpt from Bill King’s interview with the late engineer George Semkiw, where he recalled setting up the studio for (what George called) “a secret session” with Ellington.
I inferred that the recording session must have taken place at RCA Studio Toronto, which was George’s main workplace.
However, Ted O’Reilly, the Toronto broadcaster who attended that session as Ellington’s guest, told me after he had read my article that he swears to the gods of jazz that the Collier stuff was done at Thunder with Phil. I am not putting down George’s recollection: he may have been Sheridan’s assistant, doing the setup at that session, as he would have done at others, but it was not at RCA.” Bill Smith, co-editor of Coda, who also attended the recording session, emphatically agrees.
Also George Semkiw thought the session took place on a Saturday or Sunday. But Ellington and the orchestra were playing in Seekonk, Massachusetts on Saturday June 24 and in Endicott, New York on Sunday June 25).
The Toronto recording sessions took place on Thursday June 22, the day before the orchestra performed at O’Keefe Centre in Toronto, and on Tuesday June 27, the day before they played a dance date in the town of West Lorne, Ontario, 150 miles west of Toronto (as in Stratemann, Ellington Day By Day and Film By Film).
So the venue for the sessions is Thunder Sound Studio, Toronto (not Toronto Sound Studio, as in most discographies, and also not RCA Studios Toronto, as I suggested in the previous article). The dates are June 22 and June 27 1972.
Ted O’Reilly and Bill Smith may be the only survivors of the many guests who attended the session. They also agree on a detail that partly explains the lack of contemporary documentation about it.
Bill Smith brought his camera, as always, but, he says, “I was asked not to take photographs of Duke as he was too scruffy.” O’Reilly also recalls “the unshaven and disheveled Ellington saying to [Smith], ‘No pictures – Duke doesn’t feel pretty today’, so he put his camera down.” As a result, the session is not documented in Coda magazine.”