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Another Ellington Birthday Celebration

Today is the Maestro’s 121st birthday and the members of the Duke Ellington Society of Sweden join members of other Ellington societies and Ellington fans in general in paying tribute to the memory of one of the most extraordinary personalities of jazz and music in the 20th century  . The DESS Bulletin, the DESS website and the quarterly meetings is our way to keep the memory alive and to get new generations  interested in Ellington’s music and achievements.

The Ellington community celebrated Ellington’s 100th birthday with the 17th Ellington Study Group Conference in Washington D.C. so today might be the proper moment to start revisiting this conference.

As part of this, we give our readers the opportunity to hear Mark Tucker’s presentation Ellington, Washington and the Music of Memory, which was the first of the presentations at the conference. It is available at the end of the article.

But first a little bit about the conference itself.

It seems that it was organized fairly late. There was no announcement about it at the Ellington ’98 conference in Chicago the year before and when Göran Wallén – the Chairman of DESS at the time – brought it up with Theodore (Ted) Hudson – Vice President of the Washington D.C. Ellington Society – , the answer was: “We have not thought about it.”

But Göran Wallén’s question must have triggered some action because in the Sep.-Nov. 1998 issue of the DEMS Bulletin, it was announced that “Ellington ’99 – the 17th Annual  Ellington Conference” was to take place in Washington D.C. “April 28 through May 2, 199” and that the conference was sponsored by the Washington D.C. Duke Ellington Society.

When asked about what he remembers from the ’99 conference, Göran Wallén says: “There was a lot of travelling by to Smithsonian, Library of Congress for study visits and music events and to schools and addresses with an Ellington connection. Unfortunately, there was less time for presentations than at earlier conferences like the ones in Oldham in 1988 and in Chicago in 1989.

Asked the same question, Bjarne Busk answers: “As I remember the conference, part of it was about Duke’s growing up in Washington D.C. and his association with the city. One highlight was the bus tour in Ellington’s Washington – his birth place, where he lived as a boy and young man, places where he played, the commorative statue etc.

Among other things, we stopped at the bar where Duke had played pool in his youth. I wanted to go in and play a little bit but I was firmly told that if I did that I would not come out in one piece.”

Ted Hudson, who played an important role in organizing the conference, has very kindly donated a copy of the official conference program to the website. There are all the details of the conference, including the greetings from President Bill Clinton. Thank you, Ted!

Ellington ’99 Program

There was a strong element of Ellington’s religious side in the conference. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra provided a concert of Ellington’s sacred music drawn from the three major recorded sacred concerts. Rev. Mark S. Harvey talked about The Sacred Concerts and Duke Ellington’s Religious Vision and Annie Kuebler lectured on The Spiritual Works of Duke Ellington and Mary Lou Williams: Singing His Praise or Seeking Redemption.

Another group of presentations focused on Ellington’s music and his orchestra.

A panel led by Patricia Willard included among others the Ellington singers June Norton and Yvonne Duke, who talked about their memories of Duke. Claire Gordon “recalled her years as an Ellington enthusiast and employee” in her presentation Me ‘n Duke.

In this category was also Peter MacHare’s presentation Duke Ellington and the Classics, Peter Townsend’s Ellington ’42: A Year In The Life and Jeff Lindberg’s Transcription Crises. Will We Allow Corporate Publishers to Suppress Ellington/Strayhorn’s Creativity In the 21st Century?

In addition, Steven Lasker shared some new discoveries with the audience and Phil Schaap ended the two days of presentation by talking about Duke Ellington’s World Music: Jazz an International Jazz Form.

Ellington ’99 was also the moment when two long-awaited major publications about Duke Ellington’s work and music was unveiled.

Elaine Norsworthy and Peter MacHare presented Eddie Lambert’s Duke Ellington: A Listener’s Guide and Luciano Massagli and Giovanni M. Volonté were present to introduce The New DESOR – the result of many years of incredible work.

The conference had some 170 registered participants and 14 of them were Swedes.

Among the attendees was also Lois Moody, chairperson of Ellington ’90 in Ottawa. After the conference, she wrote a long and detailed report for the Ottawa chapter of Duke Ellington Society. It was also published in the DEMS Bulletin 1999/3.

Now back to Mark Tucker’s presentation. We quote from Lois Moody’s report: “Through examples performed at the piano, Tucker traced the influences of Washington life on Ellington’s and stated his belief that conscious use of memories in composition is more important than technique.”

Here is Tucker’s presentation. Due to technical problems when it was delivered, the file has been edited to improve the sound quality.




Ellington DR Broadcasts (40)

The fifth ”goodie” in April is program 40 in the Duke Ellington series of broadcast by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the “Goodies” section of the website.

The program was broadcasted on Jan 5, 1986. The presenter is once again Erik V Krustrup

It starts with a segment from an interview of Ellington in Toronto in March 1973.

The interview is followed by the Louie Bellson composition Ortseam (=Maestro). It was recorded in the stockpile session on March 3, 1968 with Rufus Jones as the main soloist.

The next selection in the program is Soso (aka Woods) from Togo Brava Suite. It is take 22, which is included in Storyville’s Togo Brava Suite CD.

After another segment of the March 1973 interview, Krustrup moves on to the stockpile session on April 4, 1969.

It features singer Shirley Witherspoon, who was with the band for five months in the beginning of 1969. She recorded three songs in this session and one of them was I Love My Lovin’ Lover. Krustrup chose take 5 of the song. For this take (and a couple of others), Jimmie Jones had taken over the piano chair from Ellington.

However, in the two other selections from the April 4, 1969 session – Happy Birthday (for Buster Cooper) and Rockin’ In Rhythm, (nc) – Ellington is back at the piano.

The next stockpile session featured in the program is the one from June 15, 1970. First comes two takes of All Too Soon – take 27 (nc) and take 28 – and a little bit later in the broadcast Some Summer Fun (take 38).

Between All Too Soon and Some Summer Fun, Krustrup lets the listeners hear more from the group that played Riddle (take 21) in broadcast 39 – Ellington, Wild Bill Davis, Joe Benjamin and Rufus Jones. Benny Aaslund lists what is played this time as Riddle take 22. However, in NDESOR it is listed as Blues No. 18 and this seems more correct since the song played has a different structure than Riddle in broadcast 39.

Blues No. 18 is followed by what Benny Aaslund in his DR listings simply calls an unidentified title with no recording date. However, it is what NDESOR lists as No Title recorded in the same session as Blues No. 18. Its NDESOR number is DE7106am.

Krustrup mistakingly announces Some Summer Fun which follows (see above), as Orgasm, which is a different song composed by Don Byas.

The last stockpile sessions in the program are April 27 and April 28, 1971. From the first one, Krustrup plays Fanfare from the Goutelas Suite (take 27 brkd and take 28)  and Hick – a rocked-up version of New York, New York – from the second.

The broadcast ends with two unissued takes from The Third Sacred Concert in Westminister Abbey on Oct. 24, 1973 – Praise God And Dance and In The Beginning God. Before them Ellington talks about The Sacred Concerts in an interview from New Zealand on Feb. 9, 1970.

Broadcast 40 was the last in the originally scheduled series of programs with material from the Mercer Ellington donation. However, in July 1990 three more programs were broadcasted and they were followed by more programs in1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994.

The part of the file with No Title had problems and we have replaced it with a copy from another file.


Ellington DR Broadcasts (39)

The fourth ”goodie” in April is program 39 in the Duke Ellington series of broadcast by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the “Goodies” section of the website.

The program was broadcasted on Dec. 22, 1985. The presenter is Erik V Krustrup

It starts with a short segment of an Ellington interview in which he is asked what his upcoming concert in Montego Bay on Feb. 8, 1973 will be about

“Well”, he says, “a concert is pretty fexible  and  I expect that we will play things with which we are identified like one of the songs that has  been popular like Mood Indigo, Sophisticated Lady, Satin Doll, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore to get the feel right and of course we have interesting soloists who no matter what they play they are interesting and followed by acrobatic something.”

This proclamation leads seamlessly to three stockpile recordings – R.T.M. from Dec. 9, 1970 and Naidni Remus (Indian Summer) together with Hard (aka The Hard Way) from Dec. 11, 1970. Only Hard is unissued so far. It is based on In A Blue Summar Garden, whose second theme was used for Blues To Be There in Newport Suite.

On March 9, 1969, Ellington, Jeff Castleman and Rufus Jones appeared with The California Youth Symphony Orchestra at Stanford University in Palo Alto CA. Two selections from this concert are included in the program – The Mooche and Alcibiades (from Timon of Athens). Nothing from the concert have been issued on LP or CD.

To end the broadcast,, Krustrup had chosen six unissued selections from the second concert in Eastbourne on Dec. 1, 1973. He starts with Blem sung by Anita Moore. It is followed by Chinoiserie and I Can’t Get Started with Harold Ashby as solist, Basin Street Blues and Hello Dolly (nc) played and sung by Money Johnson. The finale is a segment of C Jam Blues from the start of the concert.

Ellington DR Broadcasts (38)

The third ”goodie” in April is program 38 in the Duke Ellington series of broadcast by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the “Goodies” section of the website.

The program was broadcasted on Dec. 8, 1985

It starts with a short rehearsal excerpt of Don Juan recorded in New York on July 18, 1966. Then follows what the presenter says is “an earlier but shorter take of Sam Woodyard’s Blues” from the same stockpile session. He says it is is called 6:40 Blues.

Possibly, this is written on the tape box but what he plays is The Shepheard. Benny Aaslund pointed out this already in his listing of the Danish Radio broadcasts in the DEMS Bulletin 1986/2 and it is listed like this in NDESOR. Despite what Aaslund says in his listing, it is take -2 which is included in The Pianist album.

The broadcast continues with five Ellington selections from another stockpile session – the one in New York on March 17, 1965.

This part starts with what the presenter calls Counter. However, it is better known as Banquet from Ellingtonton’s “incidental music” for Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. In NDESOR it has the alternative title Counter Theme.

Next comes the unissued take 4 of Pass Out Blues (based on St. Louis Blues) and Skillipop take 3 before the section ends with * Amad from Far East Suite och Monologue (aka Pretty And The Wolf). Both are unissued takes.

The presenter then moves on to the stockpile session of March 4, 1965. First he plays Tutti For Cootie (aka Fade Up) and The Opener – both recordings used in the Concert in Virgin Islands album.

They end Ellington’s part of the recording session but Billy Strayhorn stayed behind and improvised two melodies together with John Lamb and Sam Woodyard. At the time of the broadcast, they were a mystery and in a  comment Benny Aaslund and Sjef Hoefsmit said “this kind of cocktail piano playing is hardly executed Duke Ellington.

The broadcast ends with three selections from different stockpile sessions. First comes Tang from Afro-Eurasian Eclipse followed recorded on Feb. 17, 1971. It is followed by Take The “A” Train recorded on  May 24, 1962 and I‘m Gonna Go Fishin’ from Anatomy Of A Murder recorded the following day.




Dance Dates in Sweden 1963

Amiralen – Wikipedia

Amiralen in Malmö

There are two surviving recordings of dance dates with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in Sweden in 1963  –  one from Dans In  at Gröna Lund in Stockholm from June 8  and one from Malmö in  the south of Sweden on June 19.

The website published a longer article about the dance date at  Gröna Lund with lots of photos on September 1, 2018

The dance date was recorded by Benny Åslund with the permission of Ellington. He managed to get more than two hours of music on his tapes.

There are no other recording of the dance so it must have been the source in one form or the other of the double CD album that Storyville issued in 2018.


Duke Ellington In Gröna Lund - Storyville Records - The Best in ...


Concerts in Sweden 1963

Gröna Lund in June 1963

Ellington at Gröna Lund June 1963 (1) | DUKE ELLINGTON SOCIETY OF ...

Duke directing the band in one of the outdoors sessions

After the February visit to Sweden, Cat Anderson left the band temporarily, to turn up again with the band at Newport in July. He was replaced by Eddie Preston, another change in the trumpet section was that Rolf Ericson replaced Roy Burrowes, but the rest of the band was the same as in February. The band played concerts and provided dance music at Gröna Lund from June 4 to 9. Seven outdoor concert from the main scene (see picture above) and one indoor dance date from Dans In have survived. The outdoor concerts were more or less identical, consisting of

*Intro*Take The A Train*Afro-Bossa*Perdido*Medley*Take The A Train*

In one case it ends with the Medley (Take The A Train omitted) and in another case it ends with Satin Doll instead of Take The A Train.  An example from June 4 can be enjoyed below:

Perdido from June 4 with Rolf Ericson


Smått och gott / Bits and Pieces

New DESS Bulletin

The second 2020 issue of the DESS Bulletin was sent to the DESS members last week. It is an impressive piece of work by Bulletin’s editor Bo Haufman, who also is the new President of Duke Ellington Society of Sweden

The cover story is about Fred Guy – The Obscure Fred Guy as Bo Haufman headline his three page article about him. A highly recommended reading!

Another of Bo’s articles in the new issue is an encyclopedic one about Ellington songs with a reference to a dance style or similar. It is in Swedish but it might be worthwhile to have it translated into English to give DESS’ English-speaking members a chance to comment.

In another four-page article (also this in Swedish), Bo writes about the record companies with which Ellington was associated. Also this article is in Swedish.

The Royal Swedish Ballet performed Ellington’s and Alvin Allley’s ballet The River at the Royal Opera in Stockholm in 1993. Erik Wiedemann wrote the text for the program and it is reprinted in the new Bulletin issue. It is accompanied by what Ellington said about the River at the Grace Cathedral concert in San Francisco on April 16, 1970.

Another reprint is what George Avakian said to an interviewer in 1978 about his first meeting with Ellington when Avakian was 18 years old.

The article by Mike Zirpolo emanating from his website Swing & Beyond in this issue is titled Something To Live For. It deals principally with the start of Billy Strayhorn’s career with Ellington and Ellington’s recording of Something To Live For March 21, 1939. The article is supplemented by one of Bo Haufman about recordings of Strayhorn and others of the song. The two articles are in English.

Ellington 2020

Det nya numret av Bulletinen (se ovan) innehåller en heltäckande rapport om Ellington 2020 – konferensen som aldrig blev av. Här följer några korta tillägg och foton.

Allt tydde på att det skulle bli en bra konferens. Den var väl förberedd av musikprofessorn Anna Celenza som vi alla är skyldiga ett stort tack för hennes sätt att organisera konferensen och hantera krisen som ledde till att den ställdes in.

Den hade också ett tema som pekade framåt. Det tilltänkta programmet och en kortare sammanfattning av de planerade presentationerna finns på webbplatsen för konferensen – https://www.ellington2020.org/.

Men av allt som planerats blev det alltså nästan intet. När vi satte oss ner på den anrika jazzklubben Blues Alley i Georgetown på onsdagskvällen var konferensen reducerad till ett symposium med maximalt 35 tillresta deltagare och färre presentation än planerat. Ett par timmar senare var också detta inställt och för oss européer gällde det att snabbt boka om flygbiljetterna så att vi inte fastnade i USA på obestämd tid.

Konserten “A Tribute To Billy Strayhorn på Blues Alley med Washingtongruppen Marshall Keys and Soulful Path var således det enda av det ursprungliga programmet som genomfördes.

Det var intressant och stimulerande att höra Billy Strayhornlåtar i beboptolkningar men det utlöste många diskussioner mellan de tillresta Ellingtonexperterna. Stämningen var dock överlag god.


Besvikelsen över att konferensen inte blev av ens i ett miniformat var naturligtvis stor särskilt bland de som arbetat hårt med att förbereda presentationer. På torsdagsmorgonen när konferensen skulle ha invigts tog några av dem upp initiativet att samla oss andra runt ett bord och en bärbar dator i ett hörn av konferenslokalen för att visa upp vad de förberett. Bl. a. visade filmmannen och Ellingtonkännaren Joe Medjuk filmen The Duke som CBC TV producerade 1965 för sin serie Festival. En mycket intressant film. Senast den visades på en Ellingtonkonferens var den i Toronto 1986.

Kanske det kan bli möjligt att visa den på ett kommande DESS-möte?

Frågan är naturligtvis nu om det kommer att bli fler Ellingtonkonferenser. Det är tveksamt. Det krävs mycket arbete för att organisera en konferens och tillflödet av en ny generation av Ellingtonexperter är svagt. Kanske behövs det andra former och mindre krävande former än en stor konferens för att driva arbetet på att “Mapping Duke Ellington’s World” vidare.

New recording of Black, Brown and Beige

Some five years ago, Jazz At Lincoln Center launched its own record label Blue Engine Records.

On March 6, the label released  Wynton Marsalis’ first recording of the Black, Brown and Beige (https://wyntonmarsalis.org/discography/title/black-brown-and-beige)

The website boosts that it is “a definitive, present-day recording of the suite.” This is true. It is not an effort to recreate what BB&B might have sounded at Carnegie Hall in 1943 but give Ellington’s composition a fresh face.

It will be interesting to hear the reactions of the Ellington community to this.

The work was recorded during a live performance of the work by the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis at Time Warner Center’s  Rose Theater at the end of April 2018. The conductor was Chris Crenshow – trombonist and saxophonist in JALCO.

Some excerpts of the recording is available on YouTube like this one with Work Song.

The recording is available on most digital streaming platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer. A mp3 version costs around 10 euros on Amazon. It is also available in a high resolution format (24 bits/96 kHz). For those living in the E.U. the easiest is to buy this version at http://www.highresaudio.com. It costs 15 euros.


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