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Happy Birthday Duke – 120 years

Today the website celebrates Duke Ellington’s birth 120 years ago.

The number of visitors to this and other Ellington websites and blogs attest that his music is still alive and hopefully it will continue to be for many years to come.

When Ellington was born, William McKinley was the President of the United States. Two and a half years later he was assinated and succeed by the Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, who was to establish USA on the global scene.

One wonders if this was discussed in the Ellington family and had any impact on Duke’s first 10 years.

However, the election of a president with a strong segrationist agenda – Woodrow Wilson – in 1913 most likely had it since the implementation of Wilson’s segrationist policies halted the growth of the black middle class in Washington D.C.

When Ellington turned 30 on April 29, 1929, he was in residency at the Cotton Club and had been so for quite some time. Nothing is known about how he celebrated this birthday but it seems likely that there were some celebrations at the Cotton Club.

10 years later he was in Stockholm as part of his Swedish tour and there he was celebrated a lot. As we wrote in the first article on the new DESS website three years ago, Duke “was celebrated from the early morning into the late night”.

The article is available here.

In the article we included a photo in Orkesterjournalen of the morning celebration. Since then Jan Bruér has provided the website with the photo that was reproduced in OJ and we are happy to share it with DESS’ members and other Ellington aficionados. The French photo and video specialist Gérard Bouyssee has kindly helped fix some issues with the photo.

In 1949, Duke Ellington spent his 50th birthday in New York. He started an engagement at the Paramount Theatre on April 22 and it lasted until May 10th.  He and the band did six shows a day between showings of the new Glenn Ford movie. Billy Eckstine was also featured in the program but did not perform with Ellington.

In between the shows on his birthday, Ellington was interviewed by Barry Ulanov. The result was published in the June issue of Metronome. Unfortunately, we have not yet managed to locate this issue of the jazz magazine but small excerpts from the interview can be found at the TDWAW website.

In the evening of his birthday, Ellington did his first TV appearance. It was in a CBS TV show “Adventures In Jazz” hosted by the disc jokey Fred Robbins. DESS members can enjoy the soundtrack of the show in the “Goodies Room”.

Phil Schaap on 6 Ellington Sidemen

Phil Schaap was a frequent contributor to the Ellington conferences.

We have already published his presentations at the Stockholm ’94 conference and here is the one he gave in Copenhagen in 1992.

The topic for Schaap’s presentation was “After Duke: Six Ellington Sidement in Their Years After Leaving The Band”.

The six sidemen selected for the presentation had left the Ellington orchestra in different decades and covers together the full lifespan of the band.

The sidement are Louis Metcalfe (1920’s), Freddie Jenkins (1930’s), Al Sears (1940’s), Francis Williams (1950’s), Sam Woodyard (1960’s) and Russell Procope (1970’s).

Schaap had interviewed them at one point or the other and use selections from the interviews in his presentation.


Carnegie Hall 1947, 1st concert, part 4

Bildresultat för carnegie Hall

Inside Carnegie Hall

Al Hibbler sings It Don’t Mean A Thing

This is the fourth and last part from DESS with music from the Carnegie Hall concert in NYC on December 26, 1947. The last we heard in our previous posting was the Theme Medley which was played right after the Liberian Suite . This was followed by a speech by a representative of the Liberian government, which we have chosen to omit. Hence we start with Stomp, Look And Listen, a number quite frequently played between the years 1943 and 1956, thereafter to disappear from the repertoire.

Carnegie Hall 1947, 1st concert, part 3

Bildresultat för Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall by night

Dance No 3 (Liberian Suite)

The third part from the Carnegie Hall concert on December 26, 1947 introduces the Liberian Suite, an extended work, commemorating the establishment of the first independent African republic a century earlier. Ellington had been commissioned by the Liberian gouvernement to write this piece of music for the 100th anniversary celebrations. The suite consists of six parts: I Like The Sunrise and Dances no 1-5. It had been recorded a couple of days before for Columbia. According to available information it was recorded three times only, the performance on December 27, being the third one. (more…)

Carnegie Hall 1947, 1st concert, part 2

Bildresultat för Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall today

New York City Blues

Here comes the second part of the concert att Carnegie Hall on December 26, 1947. The show continues with On A Turquoise Cloud with Kay Davis in the main role, assisted by Jimmy Hamilton and Tyree Glenn on clarinet and trombone respectively, creating an unforgettable sound. Johnny Hodges is next heard on Johnny Hodges Medley, which include Wanderlust, Junior Hop, Jeep’s Blues, The Jeep Is Jumpin’ and Mood To Be Wooed, all numbers that are closely associated with Hodges. (more…)

Carnegie Hall 1947, 1st concert

Bildresultat för Ellington in Carnegie Hall 1947

Carnegie Hall


In the Goodies Room, you will find the first 40 minutes from Duke Ellington’s 1947 Carnegie Hall concert. This is the first part of the first concert which took place on December 26, 1947. The second concert which is dated December 27 has been issued on Prestige P-24075, whereas the 1st concert has remained unissued.

Billy Strayhorn’s Midriff

The concert had been planned for two consecutive nights at Carnegie Hall, 26 & 27 December 1947. The songs presented here  are:

*Star Spangled Banner*Snibor (AKA The New Look)*Blue Serge*Midriff*Triple Play*He Makes Me Believe He’s Mine*Harlem Air Shaft* Mella Brava and* Kickapoo Joy Juice. (more…)

The DESS Bulletin – New Issue

The indefatigable editor of the DESS Bulletin, Bo Haufman, has produced a new issue. It is the 2019-2 one and it is on its way to the DESS members.

The trumpeter Harold Baker – nicknamed “Shorty” – is the featured artist in the new issue.

Thomas Eriksson covers his life and career in a five page article. The focus is of course on his time in the Ellington band but the readers with also learn about his time with the big bands of Don Redman, Teddy Wilson and Andy Kirk before Baker joined Ellington in 1942. His time and marriage with Mary Lou Williams is also well covered as are his periods as freelancer.

A second Baker article in the new Bulletin is a reprint from Jazz Journal, in which Clark Terry tells Steven Voce about him. “There was never a better trumpet player to come out of St. Louis than Harold “Shorty Baker”, he says.

Another major article in the new Bulletin is about Al Sears. It is written by Nigel Haslewood, an Englishman living in Leicester, UK who runs the online Sadman Record shop.

It is the first part of an article, which was originally published in the IAJRC Journal. Like Thomas Eriksson’s article on Harold Baker, it is very well researched and very detailed. When the second part is also published, the DESS members should have a good monography on Al Sears.

This issue also have some shorter articles by Bo Haufman himself like one about The Women’s Duke Ellington and another on the Ellington-Strayhorn composition The Eighth Veil.

The DESS member Erling Torkelsson have also contributed to the new Bulletin with an article about Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington.




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