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Mark Twain’s Riverboat Restaurant, NYC 1966

In 1966, Duke Ellington and his orchestra did apparently not have a long-term engagement in New York (NYC) until late in the year. They did three major international tours in the Spring (Europe, Africa and Japan) and performed at the Antibes Jazz Festival in July. For the rest, the band basically played concerts and did gigs on the West Coast and in Northwestern and Midwestern states. (source: The Duke – Where and When)

There were also two recording sessions – one for the soundtrack of Assault on A Queen and  two for the RCA album Popular Ellington.

At the end of October, Ellington was briefly back in New York but mostly for engagements in Upstate New York and New Jersey. The visit back East ended with a Concert of Sacred Music at Mount St. Mary’s College, Newburgh, N.Y. on November 6.

Then the band went West again for a mixture of concerts, dances and seminars in Arizona and California. On November 15th, Ellington performed for the first time his Concert of Sacred Music in a synagogue – Temple Emmanuel Of Beverly Hills.

Circa November 20th, Ellington was back again in New York, this time for a longer club engagement. He was contracted to play for two weeks at the Mark Twain’s Riverboat Restaurant. The band started there on November 21.

The restaurant/club was located in the Empire State Building on 350, 5th Avenue at 34th Street in New York.

It had opened on April 16, 1964 in a space that originally housed a restaurant in the famous Longchamps chain of New York restaurants.

Bildresultat för Mark Twain Riverboat in Empire State Building

In 1959, the restaurant entrepreneur Jan Mitchell had acquired the chain with the purpose to put it back on good footing.

He originally tried a German concept for the restaurant in Empire State Building but it did not work out well so he decided to try something else.

The new concept was to make it a place for jazz – a place for Big Band Names – and over the next three years most of the big bands that existed at the time played there. They were not only jazz orchestra but Count Basie appeared there and both Charlie Barnet and Artie Shaw put together orchestras to play in the club.

In 1967, Jan Mitchell sold the Longchamps chain and with it Mark Twain’s Riverboat Restaurant. It continued to be a place for music but more of the pop style of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

The original restaurant opened in 1938 and occupied the entire northeast section of the first floor, basement and sub-basement of Empire State Building. It had a seating capacity of 1.000 persons. Mark Twain’s Riverboat Restaurant was half the size, was located on two floors below ground level and had a seating capacity of 500 persons.

But back to Ellington’s two-week engagement at Mark Twain’s Riverboat in November-December 1966.

DESS member and passionate photographer Olle Lindholm lived in New York at the time. ” I went to Mark Twain Riverboat Restaurant as often as I had time and could afford it. I enjoyed listening to the big bands that played there. It had fantastic acoustics and hearing for instance Xavier Cugat with eight bongos in his band there was an incredible experience.”

“I went to the club during the first week of Ellington’s engagement and I brought with me my Leica. Since it had no flashlight. I did not bother to ask anyone for permissions to take photos and I when had Ellington to pose for my camera he did not mind.”

Olle took two rolls of film and the photos catchs the atmosphere of the evening from the opening to the end. Together, they form a unique document of how an Ellington performance at a night club unfolded. We will come back to this later in the article.

Ellington’s stay at Mark Twain Riverboat Restaurant was well covered by radio and television.  The independent radio station WNEW broadcasted from the opening night and WNEW’s legendary disc jockey William B. Williams was the announcer. On November 25, CBS did a U.S. Treasury Departement broadcast from the restaurant and another one in the week thereafter. On November 29, NBC did a Tonight Show telecast.

Here is the next to complete WNEW broadcast with the different numbers presented by Duke. Here and there in the broadcast there is an interesting and funny dialogue between Duke William B. It is well worth listening to it

The broadcast starts with Take The “A” Train. Then follows The Old Circus Train with Jimmy Hamilton as the main soloist, this time he is playing tenor saxophone.

Harry Carney is next with Sophisticated Lady. At the end he demonstrates circular breathing when holding a long tone at the end of the song.

The broadcast continues with Satin Doll. It has an unusual piano intro by Duke and Cootie Williams and Paul Gonsalves are the other main soloists.

Then follows Tutti For Cootie (aka Fade Up), an unusual version of Mood Indigo and a somewhat wild  version of The Opener, with solos by Paul Gonsalves, Buster Cooper and Cat Anderson.

Passion Flower and Things Ain’t What They Used To Be, which are next in the broadcast, are omitted here due to the fairly poor sound quality on our original tape but we have kept the interesting dialogue between Duke and William B.

The program then continues with Wings And Things before most of the band members are heard in Jam With Sam. Duke signs off the broadcast with Satin Doll.

So back to Olle Lindholm’s photos.

As said before, they really tell the story of how an evening could unroll during Ellington’s engagement at Mark Twain’s Riverboat


DESS Bulletin – New Issue

The first issue of the DESS Bulletin for 2020 has just been published.

Its cover story is about Al Hibbler, who the editor of the Bulletin Bo Haufman calls Duke’s tonal pantomimist is his four-page biography of him. Read the article to understand why!

The song Gypsy Without A Song is also featured in the new issue. First, there is a reprint of an article by Mike Zirpolo about the song on his website Swing & Beyond (swingandbeyond.com) and then Bo Haufman discusses the song in a separate article.

There are several mystery issues about it. First there is the question of the title. Is it A Gypsy Without A Song or Gypsy WithoutA  Song. His conclusion is that the correct title is Gypsy Without A Song (as given in NDESOR).

It is apparently a Juan Tizol composition but credited to Ellington. He was also credit for the arrangement of the song when it was recorded for Brunswick on June 20th, 1938 but in reality is was done by Lou Singer, who was working for Irving Mills at the time. NDESOR has the correct credits and Steven Lasker elaborates on it further in his liner notes to the Mosaic’s Ellington issue “The Complete 1932-1940 1932-1940 Brunswick, Columbia and Master Recordings”.

In the new Bulletin, Bo Haufman also follows up his article in the winter issue of the Bulletin on what he calls “occasional vocalists”, e.g. singers who appeared on records by the Ellington Orchestra or small groups of Ellingtonians. This time he covers six vocalists – Buddy Clark, Scat Powell, Leon LaFell, Jerry Kruger, Mary McHugh and Jean Eldridge.

Other articles in the new issues are about the Crystal Ballroom recording in Fargo, North Dakota (Anders Asplund), the new book on Johnny Hodges (Peter Lee), Duke Ellington i Uppsala 1971 (Bo Haufman) and Aaron Bell’s memories of Duke Ellington (reprint).

Of course there is also a report by Thomas Harne from DESS’ November meeting.

Songs by Ellington/Strayhorn

interpreted by famous jazz singers

Bildresultat för Mel Tormé

Mel Tormé is one of them, but there are many others!

We would like to start this session by listening to  Mel Tormé (1925-1999). As a teaser to the Goodies section you will hear I’m Gonna Go Fishin’, a composition that was part of the music for the film Anatomy Of A Murder. It didn’t have words to it originally, but the singer Peggy Lee, came up with lyrics and made it a personal hit.

I’m Gonna Go Fishing

In the Goodies section you will find the following:

1. Mel Tormé sings a very personal rendition of Reminiscing In Tempo, which was one of Ellington’s earliest extended works, recorded in 1935. Tormé has added his own lyrics  to this somewhat sad theme, which Ellington wrote when grieving the death of his mother.  The baritone player you hear is Bill Perkins, better known for his outstanding tenor playing.

2 . Joe Williams (1918-1999), one of the foremost big band blues-singers, who is known for, among other things, his co-operation with Count Basie, sings  Come Sunday, originally from Black, Brown and Beige. Come Sunday was a theme Ellington played many times throughout the later part of his career.

3. Peggy Lee (1920-2002) became a success as Benny Goodman’s girl singer in the early 40ies. Perhaps her biggest hit which came later, was Fever, but here she is heard singing I Got It Bad, which was part of the “revusical”  Jump For Joy, which was performed by Ellington and his men in Hollywood in 1941. (more…)

Ellington ’90 Concert 2 part 2

The second part of the concert was given by a group of Ellington alumni with impeccable credentials to get music to swing – Harold Ashby, Butch Ballard, Wild Bill Davis, John Lamb – with Kenny Burrell added to the band.

Photos by Olle Lindholm

It provided an almost 2 hour long concert which, at the end, had the audience standing on their feet.

It starts with C Jam Blues followed by I’m Beginning To See The Light – particular feature for John Lamb.

The group then continues with Just Squeeze Me with Harold Ashby in Ray Nance’s old role and I Got It Bad also in a rendition by Harold Ashby.

What Am I Here is the next number and it is followed by the fairly seldom heard B.P. Blues. One version of this song was performed by the Ellington band as B.P. Blue.

Changing the mood, the band then plays Mood Indigo in a rather particular renditon folllowed by the two Strayhorn compositions – Satin Doll and Johnny Come Lately.

The next two numbers are solo features for Kenny Burrell – Azure in a very lyrical version and In A Sentimental Mood.

Caravan, which ends the first portion of the concert, is also a solo feature but this time it is Butch Ballard in the limelight.

First portion

After a short break, the “Ellingtonians” are back on stage for another set. The band kicks off with Things Ain’t What They Used To Be. Then it slows down a little bit with Sophisticated Lady and some solo piano by Wild Bill Davis playing Lotus Blossoom.

The end of the concert was a real swinging affair with the group joining hands in It Don’t Mean A Thing and another version of Things Ain’t What They Used To Be.

Second portion

Due to age, Sjef Hoefsmit’s video with the concert is in fairly bad shape and this is why we have decided to publish only a part of it is here.


Ottawa Ellington ’90 Concert 2 part 1

As announced by Andrew Homzy the night before, there was another concert on the second night of the conference.

The concert was called “Inspired Abandon” (as the Lawrence Brown 1965 LP with Johnny Hodges on Impulse).

Sjef Hoefsmit recorded the concert with his video camera but, unfortunately, time has affected the quality of the video so we have decided to publish only parts of the concert in video. Howeve, they come  together with two sound files so our readers will be able to enjoy the full concert anyhow.

For his part of the concert, Andrew Homzy had put together a program with songs (except two) from the early 1940’s Ellington repertoire. The orchestra starts with Never No Lament and Mainstem from this period before taking a small step back in time to demonstrate the full capability of the band with The Battle of Swing (1938).

Then Homzy calls the orchestra’s bass player Steve Holy to the front of the band to play Jack the Bear. The ghost of Jimmie Blanton was certainly in the room.

After this, it is time for a sort of “portrait of Harlem” composed of Harlem Speaks (1933), Harlem Airshaft and Take The “A” Train. Next the orchestra goes into A Mellow Tone before ending the first part of the evening’s concert with Cotton Tail in an arrangement bringing the band’s guitarist Bill Coon to the forefront.

Make sure to stay for the second part of the concert. You will not regret it!



Smått och gott i januari 2020 (1)

Ny CD från Maison du Duke

Maison du Duke har nyligen gett ut den 12 CD:n i sin serie av Ellingtonmusik hämtad från den s.k. Claviésamlingen, som MDD köpte för några år sedan.

Jimmie Blanton chez Duke Ellington 1940-1941 innehåller material från olika radioutsändningar med Ellingtonorkestern från juni 1940 till juni 1941. Den tidigaste är BBC-utsändningen från New York den 10 juni 1940 och den sista den från Trianon Ballroom i mitten av juni 1941. Radioutsändningar från 1939 med Blanton i orkestern finns alltså inte med.

CD:n innehåller också dels titlar från de tre utsändningarna av Kraft Music Hall då Ellington och Blanton spelade duetter och framträdde med John Scott Trotter och hans orkester (29 maj resp. 9 oktober 1941) dels två inspelningar från serien Standard Radio Transcriptions från den 17 september 1941. Två låtar från Kraft Music Hall-utsändningarna – Jive Rhapsody från 16 janauri  och Flamingo från 9 oktober 1941 -saknas. De kommer att göras tillgängliga för DESS’ medlemmar vid ett senare tillfälle, ev. tillsammans med material från 1939.

Det sista spåret på CD:n är en privatinspelning från sommaren eller hösten 1941 med Blanton tillsammans med en liten grupp Ellingtonianer med bl.a. Ben Webster och Ray Nance. En riktig godbit!

Fotot av Blanton på omslaget till CD:n är från hösten 1939 innan Blanton blev medlem av Ellingtonorkestern. Det utstrålar verkligen hans ungdom! Fotot publicerade ursprungligen i Down Beats nummer för den 15 december 1939 och fotografen var en man vid namn Sinbad Condeluci. Möjligen togs det när Blanton spelade Fate Marable.

Allt material på CD;n finns utgivet på LP och/eller CD sedan tidigare men det är bra att det nu finns samlat på ett och samma ställe och med bra ljud. En förteckning över i  vad som finns med på skivan finns här.

CD:n är bara tillgänglig för medlemmar i Maison du Duke. Medlemsavgiften är 20 euro och dessutom måste man betala 5 euro extra i porto för skivan. Kontakta isabelle.marquis757@gmail.com för hjälp att bli medlem.

Bloggar and webbplatser

Bloggen Swing and Beyond blog (https://swingandbeyond.com) är ett måste för alla som är intresserade av swing och liknande musik, Det är jazzhistorikern och författaren Michael P. Zirpolo som är ansvarig för den. Varje månad publicerar han 2-3 artiklar om en viss låt och artist. De är i allmänhet djuplodande och fungerar som en språngbräda till vidare sammanhang runt den behandlade låten.

Ganska ofta publicear Zirpolo artiklar relaterade till Ellington och en del av dem trycks om i DESS Bulletinen. Den senaste artikeln på bloggen om en Ellingtonlåt handlar om Concerto for Cootie.

I artikeln guidar han läsaren/lyssnaren genom stycket, chorus för chorus, segment för segment och man kan lätt följa vad han skriver eftersom den klassiska inspelningen av melodin på Victor också tillhandahålls i artikeln.

Men i inledningen av artikeln går Zirpolo bortom själva musiken och reflekterar över kommentarer om och analyser av ett verk som Concerto for Cootie förändras genom åren.

Han tycks säga att varje kommentar, varje analys är förankrad i sin tid, i dess kunskap och dess paradigmer och argumenterar att “we must look at the writing of history as an ongoing communal activity in the sense that everyone who is serious about understanding history and then adding to the historical record has to first look carefully at what has been written before, and then start his or her own work. That process, in turn, will be continued, extended and perfected further by those who follow.”

DESS ‘ medlemmar och andra besökare av webbplatsen  rekommenderas att läsa den fullständiga artikeln och besöka Swing and Beyond regelbundet.

Vi vill också rikta uppmärksamheten på den franska webbplatsen Duke on the Web (http://dukeontheweb.com). Den är ett illustrerat uppslagsverk om Ellingtoninspelningar skapat av Bernard Villiers som också är en drivande kraft i Maison du Duke. Webbplatsen ger fullödig information om utgivningar på skiva, band, film, video och andra medier av Ellingtonmaterial och innehåller också en del diskografisk information. Innehållet på webbplatsen är organiserat på ett lite speciellt sätt så det kan vara bra att klicka runt de första gångerna för att förstå hur den är upplagd.

Connaître le jazz – Duke Ellington

1965 sände den franska radion en serie program under titeln Connaître le jazz. I ett av dem pratar Lucien Malson – jazzkritiker, författare till många böcker om jazz och producent av jazzprogram på radion – och André Hodier – kompositör, tongivande jazzkritiker och mycket mera – om Duke Ellington.

I höstas återutsände den franska radiokanal France Culture programmet.































Hertigens spelmän program 6

Det sjätte programmet i Jan Bruérs radioserie Hertigens spelmän sändes den 31 aug. 1981.

Den här gången handlar det om Ellington – pianisten.

Det är ett välkomponerat program med många exempel på den sidan av Ellington och på hur han utvecklades från sina rötter i ragtime och stride till en mycket personlig pianist, som påverkade avant-gardepianister som Thelonius Monk, Cecil Taylor och andra.

“Ellington var tidigt avant-garde”, menar Jan, och illustrerar det med Ellingtons pianospel i Ko-Ko från 1940. Han berör också Ellingtons lite längre pianoverk från 1940-talet men väljer ett kortare stycke – New York City Blues – som exempel på den sidan av Ellington.

En annan sida som Jan berör är Ellington – ackompanjatören. Den illustreras av Creole Love Call och The Mooche i en liveupptagning från en dans på Mather Airforce Base den 22 juli 1960.

Till slut talar Jan om Ellingtons sätt att använda bluesens tolvtaktersschema  i sina kompositioner och exemplifierar det med Ad-Lib on Nippon, som avslutar programmet och därmed hela programserien.

I början av programmet spelas den s.k. pianorulleversion av Ellingtons och Joe Trents komposition Jig Walk från 1925.

Jan var – som alla andra vid tiden för programmet – i god tro att det var Ellington som spelade. Numera vet vi att det inte var fallet. Den här versionen försvann från Ellingtondiskografierna när NDESOR kom ut och det hade blivit uppenbart att inspelningen var en “fake”. I december 2016 publicerade webbplatsen en artikel om detta som intresserade kan läsa (https://ellington.se/2016/12/21/jig-walk/).

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