Tonight a year comes to its end and a new year starts. Traditionally, it is a night of celebration and festivities and the website likes to offer something special this year as well.
To avoid all the covid-19 restrictions in place and ensure that you stay healthy, we will do it by transporting you back in time and place. We will go back to 31 December 1952/1 January 1953 and visit Frank Holzfiend’s Blue Note club in downtown Chicago.
At that time, it was still located at 56 W Madison Street. For many years, Duke Ellington (like Count Basie and Benny Goodman) had summer and winter engagements there.
In 1952/1953, Ellington had a two-week engagement, which started on 19 December 1952 and ended on 1 January 1953. He was regularly broadcasted over the NBC network and some of the broadcasts have been preserved.
This is the case of the broadcast of the early morning of 1 January 1953. Let’s imagine that we are sitting at the bar together, waiting for the band to come back after the break.
Everything is prepared for the broadcast. Duke strolls on stage, sits down at the piano and now it starts.
When the broadcast is over, you will have heard the Take The “A” Train theme followed by Fancy Dan, My Little Brown Book, Bensonality, The Hawk Talks, Creole Love Call, All of Me, Smada and How High The Moon (a few bars).
With this, we wish you A Happy Year and hope that you will support the website and the DESS Bulletin by joining Duke Ellington Society of Sweden (DESS).
Anders and Ulf
Before the summer, DESUK distributed to its members the CD Who Knows with Brian Priestley and a small group playing “least studied and least ‘covered’ pieces” of Ellington music. It was originally issued in 2003 on the English 33 Jazz label (33jazz184).
The CD was recorded on 21 July and 8 October, 2003 when Brian gathered Bruce Adams trumpet, Frank Griffith saxophone and clarinet, Simon Woolf bass and Steve Brown drums in Clown’s Pocket, Bexley to record 16 Ellington songs in different constellations – solo, trio, quartet and quintet.
Fellow musician Derek Nash was responsible for recording, mixing, editing and mastering and he did an excellent job.
It seems that the solo, trio and quartet with Frank Griffith tracks were recorded on 21 July and the rest on 8 October when Bruce Adams was added to the group.
The music selected for the CD is a mix of fairly well-known Ellington compositions and songs played by Ellington and/or the band only once or a couple of times.
What Are You Gonna Do (1915), Who Knows (1953) and Blue Pepper (1966) belongs to this category. East, East By East could be added to it because it is of Ellington’s hand but never performed by him.
Among the more well-known Azure, Don’t You Know I Care, Johnny Come Lately and Lotus Blossom.
Common to all songs is that Brian with his arrangements has given them new life. Ellington’s (or Strayhorn’s) music has rarely been heard like this.
Three of the tracks are solos by Brian (Azure, After All, Lotus Blossom), 4 are trios (Who Knows, Johnny Come Lately, Searchin’, What Are You Gonna Do), three are quartets (Don’t You Know Are Care, Almost Cried, Perdido) and the rest quintets (Blue Pepper, Hand Me Down Love, My Love, East, East By East, That’s What He Says).
Here is my 25 minutes interview of Brian about the CD. In it, you can hear Who Knows and East, East By East with Brian’s comments on them.
To get the CD, one has to be a member of DESUK but it might have run out of CDs by now. Please contact Gareth Evans (email@example.com), the new Blue Light, and ask about this.
Steven Bowie’s Ellington Reflections (https://ellingtonreflections.com) is one of the indispensable websites for anyone interested in Duke Ellington. Steven himself says that it is a celebration of the World of Ellingtonia and all of its many facets.
The website with blogs about Ellington’s music, his orchestra and its band members was launched back in 2017 and has a large number of followers from all over the world.
So far, Steven has produced 65 blogs. The latest one is about Ellingtonian’s Playing Ellington.
Thanks to the work of DESS member Göran Axelsson, the website recently got an index with direct links to the blogs. Actually, there are two indexes, one chronological and one alphabetical by title.
In addition to the blogs, the website also has three lists of recommendations – Books, Recordings and Videos.
The format of the posts is more or less all the same. First comes the blog (i.e the audiofile), then a text about the topic with photos and scores, and finally a list of the albums played in the blog.
I recently interviewed Steven about his work with the website and what he wants to achieve with it.
In addition to Ellington Reflections, Steven is also working on a biography on Cootie Williams. “Williams was an giant of the trumpet; yet despite his stature in the jazz world, no one has previously written a full length biography.” So Steve has taken on the task to write one.
This is reflected in his presence on Facebook where he runs a Cootie Williams group. Steven also contributed to the Ellington Meeting 2021 with a presentation on Williams.
During his college years, he was teaching assistant for the legendary guitarist Kenny Burrell’s class on Duke Ellington
The Duke Book
Looking for some good “hi-res” DSD recordings of jazz for the holiday season, I came across The Duke Book recorded by the Dutch trumpeter/flugelhorn player Angelo Verploegen and drummer Jasper van Hulten.
The album was issued already in 2019 by Just Listen Records but it seems to be fairly unknown to the Ellington community.
It is a pity because listening to it is really worthwhile.. What Verploegen and van Hulten provide with the album is certainly not the most common interpretations of Ellington standards but very creative and interesting. Start by listening to Blues In Blueprint.
There is a lot of truth in what a writer wrote in a promotional text on the Just Listen Records’ website: “As a listener you are encouraged to play an active role: unnoticed you give your own musicality a place in between the game of the flugelhorn and the drums. Free as a bird you can spontaneously fantasize your own melodic lines.”
Once I had listened to the CD a couple of times and digested this way of playing Ellington, I come to think of the Calefax Reed Quintet, which I heard at the Ellington 2014 conference in Amsterdam. It also demonstrated how to interpret Ellington in a new way and widen the perspectives of the Maestro’s music?
Why is it only Dutch groups interpreting Ellington is this way?
Anyhow, let’s listen to what Verploegen and van Hulten have to say about the album.
The album exists in different versions The best is to go to the website of Native DSD (https://www.nativedsd.com), which sells it in different versions.. If one has a setup to play DSD files, one should really buy the DSD 256 version. The sound is magnificent!
However, the album is also available in traditional CD format from NativeDSD and on Spotify and other streaming sites.
24 December 2021 is the day in Sweden (and many other countries) when Santa Claus arrives with his presents. This year, Steven Lasker has joined him and given DESS and its members a present in the form of 25 minutes of Never-Issued Rarities from his collection.
It is a mixture of the rarities, which were presented at the DESS Ellington Meeting 2021 by Ken Steiner on behalf of Steven, and some new ones.
They are now available in Steven Lasker Gift in the Goodies section of the website
Track 1 is three fragments of Ebony Rhapsody, recorded in February 1934. They are never-issued alternates to the soundtrack version from Murder at the Vanities, and alternate to the alternates (PBS 79093-1, 79094-1, 79105-1 & 79106-1) first released in 2008 on Sony/BMG 88697302362 (“The Best of Duke Ellington, 1932-39”).
These fragments are sourced from 12-inch, 78 rpm exploitation discs (PCS 79193-1 & 79194) dubbed from optical soundtrack at RCA’s Hollywood studio with narration overdubbed; the first two tracks are from 79193, the last from 79194.
While Barbara Van Brunt sings Ebony Rhapsody on the film’s soundtrack, the vocalist on the second fragment here is Gertrude Michael. Fragments of other songs, performed by Paramount’s studio orchestra, have been omitted.
Track 2 is I’ve Got to Be a Rug Cutter from a spring 1937 Cotton Club broadcast.
Included among the gems from Steven is Never No Lament from a 1940 broadcast (exact date and venue of the broadcast is not known). As the Blanton specialist Matthias Heyman has observed, “Blanton is on fire!” here.
The version played at the Ellington Meeting was out of pitch and this has now been corrected. The new verion is track 3.
Track 4 is another Ellington composition, the earliest-known version of Barzallai Lew, a fact established by the presence of Barney Bigard, who isn’t heard on any other known version.
Track 5 have two songs from early June 1946. They were recorded by Duke in the chamber music hall at Carnegie Hall.
They were found together with much more on a set of 15 discs that Steven purchased at auction in 2019. The discs contain piano/vocal demos of songs Ellington wrote for “Street Music,” the working title for the show that would be renamed “Beggar’s Opera.”
Introductions to “Brown Penny” and “No One But You” are spoken by John Latouche, who wrote lyrics for the show, although for “Brown Penny,’ he borrowed words from a poem by William Butler Yeats. Kay Davis is the vocalist on both selections.
The songs found on the set of discs include an alternate take of “No One But You” as well as many other Ellington songs, some found nowhere else.
The last tracks are both sides of Gaye Records no. 365 (45 rpm), Perdido (mx. G3130) /Take the “A” Train (mx. G3131) by Paul Gonzalves with The Ivys [and] Billy Strayhorn Orchestra.
In his script, Steven asks, “Does this record include other members of Duke Ellington’s orchestra? I don’t hear a piano.”
Mercer Ellington owned Gaye Records, which was named after his daughter Gaye. Steven knows of only one other release on this label, no. 364 by Jimmy McPhail (mxs. G3127/28). New York Age (March 1, 1958, p. 27) reported it was recorded “this week,” thus the two Gonzalves tracks were likely recorded in March or April 1958, following the Ellington band’s return to New York City.
The rarities made available for the DESS’ website also includes two Ellington interviews, one by Nat Hentoff and another by Leonard Feather. They will be published on the website at a later date.
The text above builds on two scripts provided by Steven for the two sets of never-issued rarities from his collection.
The tracks in the Steven Lasker Room are meant for members of DESS and are password protected. Become a DESS member and enjoy Steven’s goodies and much more!
The website team – Anders and Ulf – wish all DESS members and other friends of Duke Ellington Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year.
We are looking forward to seeing you in 2022 on the website, in the DESScafé and at the Ellington Meeting 2022. Don’t forget to pay your membership fee to DESS to get the DESS Bulletin and keep the website with its many articles, resources and goodies going.
Following up the success of the Ellington Meeting 2021, DESS and DESScafé have decided to organise another virtual conference for Duke Ellington aficionados and experts next year.
It will take place during the last week of April. Further details will be announced later.
Those interested in making a presentation at the meeting should submit a short summary of what they would like to talk about. The presentations should fit into one of the following themes:
– Ellington compositions and interpretations
– Ellington band members and soloists
– Ellington’s tours and apperances
Submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org before the end of February 2022.
A Program Committee is currently being organised and it will select the presentations before the end of February 2022.
Registration will open 1 March 2022.
There is a page with information about the event on the website. It will be updated regularily.
Full blast at the Hurricane!
We follow up our series with unissued Ellington broadcasts from the Hurricane Restaurant in 1943 with two more.
They are from the end of Ellington’s tenure there. Both are from September 1943. Ellington and the band were to leave the Hurricane that month, playing their last gig on September 23. However, they would come back on March 30, 1944 for a longer stay.
The first broadcast that we present is of unknown origin (DE4356) and with a rather low sound quality. It is however of interest for the fact that a compositition by Wallace Jones is used, Until It Happened To You (Me) and also for nice bass plying by Junior Raglin on Jack The Bear. We can also hear one of the first recordings of On The Sunny Side Of The Street with solos by Johnny Hodges and Lawrence Brown. (more…)
Den 13 september kunde DESS äntligen hålla sitt årsmöte och Göran Wallén hade hjälpt till att organisera ett bra musikprogram.
Ett av inslagen i det var tenorsaxofonisten Erik Persson, som spelade många år i Kustbandet och andra jazzorkestrar i Stockholm. Han spelar för närvarande i swinggruppen Jambalaya.
Enligt ett referat i det senaste numret av DESS Bulletinen kåserade han “roligt och underhållande om sin musikkarriär” och blandade det med Ellingtonmusik.
Erik berättade också om hur han kom i kontakt med Rolf “Roffe” Ericson via en spelning på Stampen. Det blev ömsesidig högaktning och “Roffe” berättade för Erik om hur det var att jobba i Ellingtons orkester. Detta förde han vidare till publiken i Franska Skolans aula.
DESS’ IT expert m.m. Göran Axelsson fanns på plats och filmade mötet. Tack vare det kan nu inte närvarande DESS-medlemmar och andra ta del av föredraget här.
Blue Light 2021-2
It reached the DESUK members quite some time. The issue is the last one put together by Patrick Olsen and he has made sure that he marks his departure with a fanfare.
It is dominated by two ambitious and very interesting research-oriented articles.
The first one is about Harold Ashby.
In his six pages article, Peter Gardiner gives the readers a good insight into Ashby’s career and struggles. The section “Recordings Before the Duke” is a valuable survey of his participation in small group recordings with Ellingtonians as is the two following two parts of the article – “With the Duke” and “After the Duke”. The last one is particularly interesting since it is a quite detailed account of a rather unknown part of Ashby’s musical life.
Another very substantial article in the new Blue Light issue is Roger Boyes’ “More from the Hurricane, Summer 1943”.
The longest part of it is a mapping of the changes in the Ellington band during the Hurricane period caused particularly by military drafts and the attractiveness of the West Coast to some key band members like Rex Stewart and foremost Juan Tizol. He also covers the arrival of Al Hibler and the sacking of Ben Webster in this part.
The final part of the article covers Ellington apperances on radio and in and around New York.
Other articles in the BL issue are one by Fred Glueckstein’s about Duke Ellington’s Yale University Connection and one by Ian Bradley on DESS’ Ellington 2021 meeting. They are good reading as well.
The next issue of Blue Light will appear in early January.
Former Blue Light editor, Ian Bradley, has started a newsletter – Tone Parallel – dedicated Ellington news. The first issue was published in October and covers aspects of Duke Ellington’s tour of England in 1971.
It takes it starting point in Ellington’s concerts at the Winter Gardens in Bournemouth on Wednesday, 20 October 1971. He has had access to the archive of the late Richard Davis, who attended the concert and took notes of what was played during the two concert and reprint Davis’ list of music selections.
Davis and his wife also attended Ellington’s concert in Birmingham on 24 October. Ian Bradley uses this to advance his article to the English Concert LP album issued on the United Artists label in United Kingdom in 1972. The same album was issued as the London Concert in France and other European countries. In USA, it was called Togo Brava Suite.
From there, he makes an excellent discour on Togo Brava Suite and makes good use of an 2001 article by Stefano Zenni on The Aesthetics of Duke Ellington Suites.
Ian has put together for us a very interesting and well written article that everybody in the Ellington community should read. It is also a very good example how one can knit together different threads into a shining costume.
For his newsletter, Ian uses Substack – an American online platform, which allows writers to send digital newsletters directly to subscribers. The link to the article is https://toneparallel.substack.com. There one can also subsribe to the newsletter.
The next issue of the newsletter will be published at the end of January.
Radio Jazz Copenhagen
We wrote about this Danish jazz radio station earlier this year and we continue to enjoy its ambitious programming every week.
The best way to find out about Radio Jazz is to go to http://www.radiojazz.dk and walk around. After the summer, it has a new interface and some new features.
Most importantly, the Radio Jazz team has made it easier for listeners to access old broadcasts by making them available as podcasts. At the moment, 433 podcasts are available and the number is constantly going up.
Among the podcasts are some of the latest The Wonderful Life of Duke Ellington programs with Henrik Wolsgaard-Iversen. By now, Radio Jazz have broadcasted 139 programs in the series and number 140 is scheduled for 10 pm on December 15.
Every second Saturday, Bjarne Busk presents a concert and often it is an Ellington one. Two programs with such concerts are available as podcasts.
In one, Busk presenterar snapshots from Johnny Hodges’ concert in Berlin 1961 together with The Ellington Giants and in the other he talks about and plays musik from Ellington’s concert in Milano Jan. 30, 1966. By that time Elvin Jones had been hired by Ellington as a second drummer and Busk particullarly spotlights this.
However, the Ellington programs are only a small part of what Radio Jazz ofers. It offers much more of great interest to friends of jazz. There are several program series running like Jazz in Swedish, Rudy van Gelder, ECM etc but also programs about individual jazz muscians.
Go to website, check out the programming and enjoy!
Desscafé opened the first time on October 29, 2020. It is a virtual Zoombased Duke’s place for DESS members to meet and play music for each other.
The format for the meetings inthe DESScafé is very simple. A theme is chosen a couple of weeks and DESS’ members and other interested propose the music that should be played and discussed. 12 or 14 pieces are chosen among the proposal and presenters identified.
Some of the themes this year has been Rex Stewart, Irving Mills, Joe Nanton and his followers, Clark Terry, Female vocalists singing Ellington, Essentially Ellington and Ellingtonians in small groups.
The presentations and discussions are in Swedish but on March 15 David Palmquist came to the café to talk about his work with The Duke – Where and When (tdwaw.ca). Possibly, next year there will be more frequent meetings in English in parallel to the one in Swedish.
Most of the meetings have been recorded and put on the DESS website. They are available under the tab DESScafé at the front page of the website. Just scroll down the list and click on meeting date and you will get directly video and playlist for the meeting. Unfortunately, a couple of meetings were not recorded due to technical problems.
Here are direct links to some of the most recent ones.