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Jantzen Beach Ballroom, Nov. 13, 1954

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The period 1951-1955 is an interesting Ellington period. As was discussed in the first article in the Premiered by Ellington  series last month, it was a transitional period for Ellington and the orchestra both in terms of band members and repertoire but also as regards jobs particularly in New York with the fierce competition with new styles of jazz.

During these years, Ellington was on the road almost constantly and he played a lot at clubs and venues on the West Coast and in the mid-West. In the invaluable, The Duke Where and When (tdwaw.ca), David Palmquist has put together a special section called Ellington’s Marathon 1951-1952 (http://tdwaw.ellingtonweb.ca/1951-1952Marathon.html), which illustrates this.

The touring continued in more or less the same way in 1953-1954 with a lot of dance dates and concerts for Ellington in the West and Northwest of the country.

Much from the tours has been issued on LPs and CDs but there is a lot of unissued material from appearances in Chicago to the North Western states,, which the website will try to make available to DESS members in the coming months.

We start with a complete recording of Ellington’s dance date at Jantzen Beach Ballroom on Nov. 13, 1954. Due to its length it will be published in four parts.

The Jantzen Beach Amusement Park in Portland, Oregon, was during the years 1928-1970 one of the biggest of its kind and was sometimes called “the Coney Island in the West”. It had everything that could be expected in an amusement park. It also had restaurants and a well-known venue for dancing named Jantzen Beach Ballroom.

Jantzen Beach Ballroom in the 40’s

In 1954-1955, Duke Ellington and his orchestra performed there at least three times. NDESOR and TDWAW gives the dates as May 1 1954, Nov. 13, 1954 and Nov. 6 1955.

At the time of the dance on Nov. 13, 1954, Peck Morrison had replaced Wendell Marshall on bass and Frank Butler replaced Dave Black on drums and that Rick Henderson played alto sax. Frank Butler was not very well known, but he had played with Dave Brubeck, Edgar Hayes and Perez Prado. Peck Morrison was an experienced bass player who had worked with Lucky Thompson, Gerry Mulligan Art Framer and Jay & Kai. Rick Henderson was of the Charlie Parker school and he played with the orchestra for a couple of years, replacing Hilton Jefferson.

Here is a tidbit from the dance. It is Smile, composed by Charlie Chaplin

The program starts with Dick Vance’s fine arrangement of Stompin’ At The Savoy with the following soloists: Jimmy Hamilton, Clark Terry, Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves, Frank Butler (a few bars) and Rick Henderson. The next number is a joint venture by Ellington and Strayhorn (John LaTouche wrote lyrics  which are not used here) called Maybe I Should Change My Ways, written for the ill-fated Beggar’s Opera and we hear Britt Woodman and Ray Nance soloing. From the Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times comes Smile, which did not stay in the band book for long despite  Gonsalves, Nance and Carney doing their best. Cocktails For Two is a tune that Ellington had recorded already in 1934 and in this 1954 version Ellington, Nance and Hamilton are heard. Time On My Hands and Summertime follow and they are solo vehicles for Jimmy Hamilton and Cat Anderson, respectively, before we finally hear two versions of Take The A Train, with Ray Nance and Paul Gonsalves in the main roles.

Here we take a break, but will be back with more from Jantzen Beach Ballroom next week.

This first part of the dance is available for DESS members in the Goodies Room.

We hope you’ll enjoy the music!






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