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Extended Ellington (2)

On June 24 – just before the summer break – we published the first part of “The Extended Ellington” concert, which ended the third day of the Ellington ’88 conference.

The second part of the concert starts with what is the “world premiere performance” of The Queen’s Suite. It refers to the fact that this is the first public performance ever of the suite.

It took another 14 years before there was a second public performance took place. In 2012 during the Diamond Jubilee of the reign of Queen Elisabeth II, the Echoes of Harlem orchestra played it at the Marlborough International Jazz Festival.

At the fourth day of Ellington ’88, Roger Boyes talked about the Duke meeting the Queens in Leeds in 1958 and his memories from Ellington’s performances there. It can be heard here.

After a break, the orchestra continues with “Black, Brown and Beige”. Alan Cohen steps in as guest conductor and June Norton is vocalist.

The concert ends with a swinging Stompy Jones with Bill Berry, Buster Cooper, Jimmy Woode, Sam Woodyard, Alice Babs, Herb Jeffries and others joining in. A good way to end another succesful Ellington conference!

And it also marks the end of the series of articles on Ellington ’88 in Oldham.

Loren Schoenberg on Midriff

Billy Strayhorn composed Midriff in 1944. Its first appearance in the Ellington discographies (NDESOR) is Ellington’s first Carnegie Hall concert in December 1944 and was quite prominently featured in the Ellington 1945 repertoire as can be heard on for instance the Treasury broadcasts. The first recording of Midriff was also done in 1945 by World Transcription (January 2, 1945).

Then Midriff disappeared from the repertoire for a long time except for occasional appearances. It was recorded by RCA-Victor for the French Swing Label on September 3, 1946 (and issued couple with Esquire Swank recorded on the same date).

Midriff was also part of the program for the 1947 Carnegie Hall concert and performed during Ellington’s engagement at Meadowbrook and Birdland in 1951 and at a dance date (unknown location) in March 1952.

It was also recorded in 1956 (Bethlehem) and 1960 (Columbia).

However, its real return to Ellington’s repertoire was the 1965 European tour when DESS-members possibly heard it at the Stockholm Concert Hall on February 2.

The last time it was played by Ellington was the recording session on September 16, 1967 for the “And His Mother Called Him Bill” album. Making Midriff part of this special tribute to Strayhorn following his passing away on May 31, 1967 should tell us that this work was more important in the Strayhorn legacy than the number of performances of the song indicates.

Midriff is not discussed very much in the Ellington literature. Not even the Strayhorn specialists Walter van de Leur and David Hajdu give much attention to the work and neither does Eddie Lambert in his “A Listeners Guide”. One can wonder why!

But finally, it was Loren Schoenberg at the Oldham ’88 Ellington conference, who took upon himself to unveil the inner secrets of the work in a very well-structured presentation and guide the listerners through its developed over the years.

He had also taken the trouble to prepare a three-page hand-out summarizing his key points. Thanks to Roger Boyes, the visitors of the website can also follow Schoenberg’s presentation in hand.


It is available here.


Andrew Homzy on Idiom ’59

On June 26-27 1959, Duke Ellington appeared at a four-day jazz festival in Tamiment-In-The-Poconos, Pennsylania. Here he presented a new fourteen-minute work called Idiom ’59.

One week later, on July 4 1959, he played it again (in a slightly different version) at the Newport Jazz Festival and possibly at other festivals during the summer.

On September 8, Ellington and the band went into Columbia’s 30th Street Studios to record Idiom ’59 and other highlights of the summer tour. Ten of them – including Idiom ’59 – were issued on the Festival Session album in 1960. The original version – Columbia CL 1400 – was in mono but a stereo version was issued later in the year by CBS France.

After the Columbia recording, Idiom ’59 disappeared from the Ellington repertoire and went into a kind of shadow land. It “attracted little critical attention” (Boyes) and did not create much enthusiasm among Ellington experts and aficionados. When Eddie Lambert wrote about the work in his Listerner’s Guide, he says that “neglect and obscurity have been its lot” even if he considers that there is “enough of fine music to deserve more”.

With this background, it was very welcome that the Ellington ’88 conference in Oldham allowed Idiom ’59 to have a little bit of a comeback.

The Ellington ’88 Orchestra featured it in its “Extended Ellington” concerts and this was preceded by an outstanding presentation of the work by Andrew Homzy – Professor of Jazz Studies at Concordia University in Toronto at the time  and a specialist in extended jazz works.

Before coming to Oldham, Homzy had transcribed and analyzed Idiom ’59 in detail. For this he had used three different issues of the Festival Session LP (see below). To the benefit of the conference participants (and now also the readers of this article), he had summarized his work in an eleven-page handout. It goes through the work bar-by-bar and gives a number of examples, which illustrate the work’s motifs and their development.

It is highly recommended to digest it before listening to the presentation. It can be downloaded here.

With the lecture, Homzy wanted to take the listeners through Idiom ’59 to present some of the things he had “discovered in this piece of music to show the strength, the intelligence, the soul, the beauty of Duke Ellington’s work as a composer”.

Roger Boyes was in the audience and got very enthusiastic about Homzy’s presentation. An article he published in Blue Light in 2010 reflects this. “A fascinating paper” he says. Boyes’ full article is available here and we are grateful to Roger to have been allowed to draw from it for this article.




Brian Priestly on BB&B

In 1974, Brian Priestly – jazz writer and pianist among other things – and the arranger and composer Alan Cohen wrote what Mark Tucker has labelled “the first serious analytical article on Black, Brown and Beige”.

In the early 1970’s, they spent considerable time listening to and transcribing several recordings of the suite and they also studied a score published by Tempo Music.

Their work was the basis for the recording of BB&B, which Alan Cohen did with his orchestra in 1972.

Having acquired a very detailed knowledge of the suite, they were able to write an article which Tucker has characterized as a “densely detailed, section-by section discussion” with “special attention to Ellington’s thematic treatment and unifying techniques”.

The article was originally commissioned by the British “Jazz & Blues” magazine but finally published in “Composer” – the bulletin of the Composers Guild of Great Britain. A reprint of it is included in The Duke Ellington Reader.

At the Ellington ’88 conference in Oldham, Brian Priestly revisited Black, Brown and Beige.

The Ellington Orchestra ended its “Extended Ellington” concert on the third day of the conference with a performance of the work. For the occasion, Alan Cohen took over as guest conductor and he brought in Brian Priestly to play the piano as he had done when Cohen  recorded the suite in 1972.

In the afternoon before the concert, Priestly shared his analysis of and view on the work with the conference participants. It is a presentation not to be missed.

The performance of the BB&B at Ellington ’88 will be available on the website on September 28.

Ellington at Gröna Lund June 1963 (2)

There was hardly any reviews of Ellington’s week at Gröna Lund. I remember one in Dagens Nyheter, which I read at the time. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find it for this article.

The DESS member Sven Tollin was working as a journalist at Svenska Dagbladet – the other main morning paper in Stockholm -and he offered an article to cultural section of the newspaper. Unfortunately, the cultural editor was not interested.

So the only main article about the event is the one written by Leif Anderson and published in the June 1963 issue of Orkesterjournalen.

And it is obvious that he liked a lot what he heard during Duke’s week at Gröna Lund. “The nights at Dans In were musical thrills beyond word”, he wrote, “and the band demonstrated a relaxed attitude, which showed that ‘the kids in the band’ love their work”.  LA also thought that “a large benefit hearing Ellington’s orchestra play for dance is that during the span of a night one gets the opportunity to hear many numbers that the band rarely or never plays at concerts.”

The full article is here.

Leif Wigh went into Dans In ready to take more portrait photos of band members. Here are some of his shots.


Also Jim Björk had his camera with him at Dans In and he says that he took a full roll of pictures there. Here are some of them.


Furthermore, Jim brought a new autograph book with him one of the nights and during the breaks, he managed to get the autographs of all the members of the band.

Jim was also present at the informal jamsession at the Arena Theater (Arenateatern), which was advertised in the newspapers.


It took place on Friday night after the end of the performance at Dans In and went on long into Saturday morning. As Jim remembers it, it was Roffe Ericson, Eddie Preston and Paul Gonsalves from the Ellington band,  who took part in the jamsession together with some Swedish muscians, and possibly also Ernie Shepherd and Sam Woodyard.

“In the early morning Paul played an absolutely fantastic version of “I Cover the Waterfront” wearing a hat he had found in the storage room of the theatre. Someone taped it and it was included in a radio program a couple of weeks later.”

Bo Ahnegård was also one of the DESS-members, who went to Gröna Lund to enjoy Ellington. “I got the chance to dance to the band at Dans In”, he says, “and also to enjoy Alice Babs, who was there the same night. Duke invited her on stage and she sung a couple of songs with the orchestra.”

Thanks to Benny Åslund, Ellington’s performances at Gröna Lund were recorded. “I was permitted to record all the outdoor performances, and also, only two days left, the whole evening of 8Jun63.”

So on Saturday June 8, he set up his Tandberg tape recorder on a table next to the stage, gathered some friends around it and started to record when the band kicked-off.

Benny had a good stock of empty tape reels next to him and when one run out, he quickly put in a new one. Unavoidably, this caused some gaps in the recordings but they seems to be quite short and are a very minor nuisance.

As always, Duke’s condition for allowing this was that the recordings would not be issued commercially and for many years copies of the recordings circulated only among Ellington collectors and specialist. However, in 2014 Storyville issued the Dans Inn recordings on a two CD set and included one of the outdoor concerts in the 7 CD box “The Duke Box 2”.


Ellington at Gröna Lund June 1963 (1)

Duke Ellington spent the whole month of June 1963 in Sweden. He arrived at the Stockholm-Arlanda airport on May 31, where Swedish Radio made a short interview with him.

Ellington started his Swedish tour with gigs in the towns of Västerås, Örebro and Karlstad on June 1, 2 and 3.

Then on June 4, Ellington begun his week-long dance date engagement at the Gröna Lund amusement park in the center of Stockholm.

In his book “Gröna Lund – Stora scenen kl. 20.00”, Ove Hahn – the artistic director at the time – says that it was a dream come true to have Ellington to play for dance at the park.

Every night, the Duke and his orchestra, started the evening by playing a half an hour concert at 8 pm on the main outdoor stage in  the middle of the park in front of a big audience.

The full outdoor concert on June 8 is available in the “Goodie of the Month” section of the website

Many had brought their photo cameras to the concert. One of them was the photographer and photo historian Leif Wigh. Here are his close-up photos of Duke, Russell Procope and Harry Carney on the outdoor stage.


Also DESS member Jim Björk was in the audience and clicked with his camera. “I was there every night”, he says. “I first listened to the concert on Stora scenen, which was about 30 minutes long. Then I went to Dans In to be able to sit close to the orchestra and enjoy the music.”

At the Ellington conference in Stockholm in May 1994, Ove Hahn talked about Ellington’s week at Gröna Lund.

He said that when it was announced that Ellington and his orchestra was going to play for dance at Gröna Lund, there was a lot of articles in the newspapers saying that it was wrong to use art as dance music. Therefore, Hahn was very happy when he already on the first night discovered that the band loved to play for dance.

He had of course a lot of contacts not only with Ellington, but also with the members of the band. He got to know most of them by their first names, but learned quickly that Johnny Hodges should be addressed as Mr. Hodges.

He liked Paul Gonsalves a lot – “the most wonderful man I ever met” – but did not go along with Sam Woodyard. “I found him most arrogant. We never quarreled but we simply did not like each other.”

In his presentation, Hahn also claims that Ellington approached him at the end of the week and asked if the engagement could be prolonged. Possibly he did this but it is a little bit surprising since Ellington was contracted to play in many places all over Sweden after the week at Gröna Lund.

At the end of the presentation, Hahn played some of the music recorded by Benny Åslund at Dans In during Ellington’s engagement.


Smått och gott / Bits and Pieces

Next DESS meeting

It takes place on Monday September 17 at Franska Skolan in Stockholm. The doors open at 17:00.

Bo Lindström, well-known international author and specialist on early jazz, will talk about the background to his acclaimed book about Tommy Ladnier (co-written with Dan Vernhettes)  and his new book on the early Fletcher Henderson trombone player George Brashear.

Bo and Dan Vernhettes have written several other books together like Jazz Puzzles with biographies of early New Orleans jazz muscians (vol 1) and about the riverboat jazz history (vol 2).

They and other books can be ordered from the JazzEdit website (http://www.jazzedit.org).

Next Ellington Study Group conference

It seems likely that it will take place in Washington D.C. in March 2020. Anna Celenza, Professor of Music at the Georgetown University, is the driving force behind this initiative to keep the Ellington conferences going. It will be the fourth such conference in Washington D.C. since the series started.

Ellington OKeh recordings

In a follow-up to his article in “Smått och gott published on May 30, Bo Lindqvist has taken a closer look at the LP-album “The Ellington Era” (Columbia C3L-27).

He writes to the website: “According to Rust’s Jazz Records (at least the editions 4 and 6) and the  album booklet, three previously ’unknown’ takes, Black And Tan Fantasy (81776-A), Old Man Blues (404521-D) are Mood Indigo (400023-A) are included

However, after having listened to the three takes, it seems to me”, says Bo, “that they all are identical to take B of the recording, which was issued on 78s long before the Columbia LP album appeared.”

DESS Bulletin 2016-3

With the publication of the DESS Bulletin 2018-3, the third Bulletin from 2016 is now available to the general public. It can be found under the Bulletinen tab at the top of the front page.

The main focus in this issue is Willie Cook but there are of course much more to read about.

New pods at Ellington Reflections

The excellent Ellington blog (https://ellingtonreflections.com/) has published three new pods since the start of the summerbreak of the DESS website.

They are:

Piano in The Foreground II (28 July 2018)

Portrait of Al Hibbler (14 July 2018)

Beyond the Valley of The Usual Suspects (30 June 2018)

They can be listened to at the website and downloaded from iTunes (https://t.co/2yKFpLm0jF).

Birmingham 2018

The website published a first short report on the Ellington 2018 conference in a Bits and Pieces article on May 30. This month we will publish some more snapshots. The new issue of the Bulletin has a full and detailed article about the conference.

The Ellington Orchestra had a central role in the conference. This band composed of students from the Jazz Department of the Royal Conservatory and led by Jeremyn Price played concerts every day.

There was even an afternoon jamsessions with members of the band and conference participants. Here Brian Priestly is sitting in at the piano.

In the first evening’s concert, the orchestra played among other Ellington standards Black and Tan Fantasy.

The first concert in the second evening was titled “Live at the Chicago Blue Note 1959”.

Here is most of this concert.

DESS Bulletin 2018-3

The DESS members got the autumn issue of the Bulletin already in mid-August and have most likely read and digested by now.

For those that have not done so yet, here is a short summary of the content.

Rolf Ericson is the key feature in this issue.

Göran Wallén, who knew Ericson very well and had many talks with him over the years, has contributed a five-page detailed article about Ericson’s long and varied career in Sweden, USA and Germany from the 1930’s to 1990s. It gives a perspective much beyond “the Ellington trumpeter” and makes one hope that Göran will find time and enthusiasm to go deeper into Roffes years with Stan Kenton and his years in Germany in another article.

The article is supplemented by a reprint from the May 1994 issue of Orkesterjournalen of an interview that Martin Westin and Lars Westin did with Ericson at the time. It was originally published in Swedish but now it has been translated into English. The original article also appeared in the Bulletin 1999:3

The photo on the cover was shot in 1967 by Lars Westin in the small town of Kramfors.

The interview provides some further glimpses into Ericsons time with Ellington like the story on the 70th birthday party for Ellington in Paris. He also tells the two Westins about what happened when the Ellington band played at dances with a black audience.

“On such nights I almost cried because it was so good. It was the most fantastic thing I have ever experienced.”

Now one only has to hope that a recording of such a dance will surface.

The new issue also has an article by Bo Haufman on “Trumpet in Spades” – the concerto that Ellington wrote for Rex Stewart in 1937 – and three on new CDs with Ellington connections. In particular, don’t miss Anders Asplund’s review of vol. 25 in Storyville’s DETS series. It is full of valuable information.


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