Dick Buckley was a well-known radio presenter in Chicago, who for many years hosted ”Jazz With Dick Buckley”. One day in May 1981, he started his program by saying:
What Buckley refers to is a lunch meeting with a small group of eminent American Ellington specialists that took place on a Saturday in May 1981.
It was organized by Donald (Don) Miller – a leading figure on the Ellington scene in Chicago and the founder of the Ray Nance Chapter of the Duke Ellington Society.
He was well connected in the American and international network of Ellington specialists and was very focused on how to preserve the Ellington legacy.
In a report from the meeting published in the DEMS Bulletin 1982/1, Miller sketched the task(s) ahead for what he saw as an Ellington Study Group.
“We are a privileged generation for having personally known and experienced Ellington. This provides us with the opportunity to maximize the record for posterity’s experience of Ellington.”
The guest speaker at the four-hour lunch was the musicologist, composer and author Gunther Schuller.
He was just on his way to start to write the second volume of his work on the history of jazz and it was one of the topics he talked about at the lunch. But he covered many more. Here is one example of what he (and others) said during the lunch.
Miller taped the lunch meeting and in total there are three and a half hour of talks and conversation to listen to. Unfortunately, the recording was not done in the best of ways and the tapes have deteriorated with time. As a result, the sound quality of the tapes varies quite a lot.
However, another 21 minutes of what Schuller and others had to say have been edited together and the result is available in the Ellington Archive.
Last year, the 24th Duke Ellington Study Group conference took place and this time in New York City. And in May this year, DESUK organized a one day mini-conference using a format similar to the Study Group ones.
The Study Group Conferences have had a tremendously important role in building an international network of Ellington scholars and aficionados and a solid knowledge base of Ellington’s work, life and music.
The network of Ellington clubs and societies has been crucial for the conferences. Without them, they would never have taken place. The first one – “The Duke Ellington Jazz Society (DEJS)” – was founded in Los Angeles, California with Bill Ross as President and Patricia Villard as Vice-President. It not only wanted to bring together Ellington fans locally but also build an international network of Ellington clubs.
Unfortunately, DEJS disappeared in the early 1960s but by that time The New York Chapter had been formed. It started in 1959 and with its large membership, it soon had a leading role among Ellington fans. It change its name to The Duke Ellington Society (TDES) at the request of Duke Ellington himself in the 1960s and later it became TDES only.
In 1993, the Duke Ellington Society of Sweden was formed.
Another key factor behind the conferences was the existence of a network of Ellington experts, who worked together to increase the knowledge about Ellington’s work and life.
The third issue of the Bulletin is now on its way to the DESS members. As usual, it is full of interesting articles within a broad range of Ellington subjects. The fact that the editor and his team manage to do this quarter after quarter is really impressive.
This time, the cover article is about Russell Procope – the clarinet and alto sax player, who was a solid part of the Ellington orchestra for more than 25 years.
In a four-page article, Bo Haufman – the Bulletin editor – let us follow the career of Procope from his early days on the New York big band scene in the 1920 and 1930s to the John Kirby Sextet and military service before focusing on his years with Ellington, whom he joined in 1946. Of course, the author goes more into detail as regards the Ellington period and separately deals with Procope – the altosaxophonist and Procope – the clarinettist.
The article lists many of the recordings in which Procope participated both with Ellington but also other bands like Clarence Williams, Fletcher Henderson and John Kirby. They can be listened to in the (right) music player of the website. Details of the songs are listed in a comment to this article.
The Swedish readers of the Bulletin can also enjoy a reprint from Orkesterjournal of a review by Bo Scherman of the concert by Cootie Williams and Russell Procope in the Stockholm jazz club Fasching on February 22, 1978. (mer…)
The summer issue of Blue Light arrived in my mailbox in early July. It is marked by the sad passing away of DESUK chairman Geoff Smith in March last year but also provides some good Ellington reading.
The key feature is a 10 pages long article on Ellington at the piano. It is written by Jack Chambers – a regular contributor to Blue Light.
He guides us through Ellington’s stylistic development as a pianist from someone being firmly anchored in the stride piano tradition to a man open to venture into post bop styles.
Chambers singles out the two LP albums – The Duke Plays Ellington (aka Piano Reflections) on Capitol and Money Jungle on United Artists – as highlights in Ellington’s pianist career. His reason: they are major advances in his way of dealing with the piano.
However, his choice for the ONE piano performance is the spontaneously played Lotus Blossom at the end of one of the recording sessions for the ”…And His Mother Called Him Bill” album.
Chambers also considers that the recital at the Whitney Museum in New York in 1972 – eternalized in the ”Live at the Whitney” CD album – ”might be the most comprehensive view of Ellington as a piano player”.
The original article was apparently written some years ago and even if it has been revised and updated there are a couple of mistakes.
On page 7 Chambers writes about the Paramount recording of Jig Walk which for almost 2o years is considered as a non-Ellington recording. He also says (page 11 and 15) that the recital at the MOMA in 1962 is unissued but Maison de Duke made it available on CD almost 1o years ago.
In addition to Chamber’s article, Blue Light provides us with reviews of recently issued Ellington CDs and concerts with Ellington music.
Today is September 1 and as promised the DESS website is back after its summer break. As before, we will continue to do our best to provide members of DESS and others interested in Ellington with music, photos, videos, articles etc related to Il Maestro. Possibly we will do this less frequently than before but at the same time the website has now at its disposal a lot of quite unique material of interest to Ellington connoisseurs. This includes radio programs about Ellington, photos never published and the video and radio taped proceedings of the 24 Ellington Study Group Conferences.
The conference tapes in the Sjef Hoefsmit Collection, which have been made available to the website, are currently being digitized and excerpts of the result will be published on the website during the year.
It seems appropriate to start the season by doing this. Here is the Swedish pianist Berndt Egerbladh and Alice Babs improvising at the opening session of the 1994 Study Group Conference in Stockholm.
This time, the website publishes another tidbit from the proceedings of the Ellington Study Group conference in Stockholm May 12-15, 2004. The source is once again the Sven Eriksson’s tape recording of the conference (see article June 1).
It is the second presentation made on the first day of the conference. It was given by Frank Büchmann-Møller, who talked about unpublished 1941 recordings by Ben Webster found in the Ben Webster Collection housed by the University Library of Southern Denmark in Odense.
As Jens Lindgren says in his introduction, Büchmann-Møller was at that time (and still is) responsible for the jazz collection at the music departement of the University Library of Southern Denmark. He is also the author of books on – among others – Lester Young and Ben Webster.
The three recordings in the presentation was issued by the English record label AB Fable on a CD a couple of years after the conference but it is not so easy to find today. Fortunately, the CD is nowadays also available at iTunes.
The 19th Duke Ellington Study Group conference took place in Stockholm May 12-15, 2004. Sven Eriksson – DESS member, Ellington collector, hi-fi expert and much more – recorded the proceedings on his cassette player and the result was 13 cassette tapes of music and presentations.
The box with Sjef Hoefsmit’s video and sounds tapes from the Study Group conferences included copies of them and this week the website will give a couple of examples of what is on the tapes.
Jan Bruér – musicologist, jazz historian, music producer, Ellington expert etc. – started the first full day of the conference with a presentation – ”Ellington In Swedish” – about Ellington music played by Swedish musicians. As you can here, he covered a lot of ground from the early 1940s to the 1970s. Many of the conference participants must have heard the music in the presentation for the first time.