In 1971, University of Wisconsin (UWIS) awarded Duke Ellington an Honorary Doctorate in Music
This started a process that brought him and his orchestra to Madison, WI and the university for a full week-long festival in July 1972. The festival started exactly 50 years ago today and the Govenor of Wisconsin had declared it Duke Ellington Week in the whole state.
In a panel interview in April this year, James Latimer, Professor of Jazz in the Music Department at the time and the man who conceived and organized the week, told what happened after Ellington had received his Honorary Doctorate in Music.
Stanley Dance called the week-long festival (July 18-23) “the most rewarding festival we have ever attended”.
The program had two parts. One was a series of clinic‐workshops and master classes for students and teachers with Ellington and leading members of the Ellington orchestra and the students could earn credits by participating. And the other was Ellington concerts with a large attendance almost every night.
Duke Ellington 1972 Festival Program
There were four afternoon clinic-workshops with members of the Ellington band – one for brass, one for reeds and one for rhythm. Mercer Ellington, Johnny Coles and Vince Prudente were among the professors in the brass clinics, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney, Russell Procope and Harold Ashby handled the reed clinics and Rufus Jones and Joe Benjamin the rhythm ones.
In their articles about the Festival (see below), both Patricia Willard and Stanley Dance gave full and lively accounts of what went on in the clinics. Very worthwhile accounts to read!
The “Maestro” himself offered two masterclasses. The second of them were filmed and later broadcasted. The participants in the Ellington Meeting 2022 had the opportunity to watch most of the video and see a very relaxed Ellington, who obviously enjoyed himself very much under a disguise of some reluctancy. It is available for viewing at https://ellington.se/ellington-meetings/ellington-2022/presentations/ellington-at-uwis-july-1972/.
The concert program was as full as the educational workshops program. In Stanley Dance’s words: “The programmes presented perhaps the broadest spectrum of Ellington’s music ever performed within the space of five days.”
On the first night, there was an Ellington Favorites concert with great hits of Ellington’s career. The next night was a Family Concert with “music for people of all ages from eight to eighty”.
The third night offered a Sacred Concert performed by the Ellington orchestra, an Ellington Festival Chorus with more than 100 singers and Tony Watkins together with invited soloist.
The concert the following night – The Duke at Milwaukee – was meant to “reflect the classic Elliington, different periods of time, all, shaped by the leader’s love for dramatic contrast”.
The last concert was Night of Suites. It had Ellington’s last performance of The Goutelas Suite and premièred the newly written The UWIS Suite. Between them, Ellington and the orchestra played, among others, music from The Queen’s Suite and The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse.
Here is the UWIS Suite with Ellington’s introduction.
A 90 minutes excerpt of the concert is available for DESS members in the Goodies Room.
The music file does not include the final part of the concert with Perdido, The Kiss, the Medley, Hello Dolly, One More Time for the People and Things Ain’t What They Used To Be.
The NDESOR entry for the concert is DE7237 (a-x) and the same information can be found at ellington.com entry 21 July 1972.
Patricia Willard was very present and involved in Ellington’s visit to UWIS. Afterwards, she wrote an article for Downbeat, which was published in July issue. It is rich account of what went on during the week with many observations.
UWIS article in Down Beat Patricia Willard
Stanley Dance was also in attendence in Wisconsin as Festival Consultant and he summarised the Festival in an article to the English Jazz Journal. Also this article is full of perspectives and details.
UWIS article in Jazz Journal Stanley Dance
This article with be updated as more information is found.