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Wolfram Knauer, Director of the Jazzinstutut Darmstadt, did his first appearance at an Ellington Study Group Conference in Copenhagen in 1992.
He had chosen to talk about Simulated Improvisation in Black, Brown and Beige. The presentation built on an article Dr. Knauer had published in the journal The Black Perspective in Music in 1990.
In a 1986 article, André Hodier used the term ”simulated improvisation” to described an element in his compositions from the 1950s and Knauer considers that Ellington’s Black Brown and Beige is an early example of a comparable technique.
He gives several examples of this from the first part of the suite but starts his talk with some background on BB&B.
To help the audience to follow the presentation, Dr. Knauer had prepared a two-page handout, which is available here.
It is very good to have it at hand when listening to the talk.
Duke Ellington recorded Tiger Rag for the first time on January 8, 1929 for Brunswick. It was an extended version, which was issued on a 12 inch 78 (Brunswick 6510)
At the Ellington ’92 conference in Copenhagen, Dan Morgenstein – Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University for more than 30 years – spoke about Ellington’s performances of Tiger Rag and how he used the Tiger Rag themes in many imagitative ways.
He had spoken on this topic already at the Ellington ’83 conference in Washington D.C. but only a very short excerpt of that presentation has been preserved.
Another theme of the Copenhagen conference was ”Remembering Duke”, which allowed speakers to share the memories of Duke and experiences from working with him.
The first speaker on this theme was Leonard Feather, who of course had a lot to tell about his memories of Duke but also about himself.
Feather’s presentation also gave those, who has never heard Ellington sing, the opportunity to do so and also to hear Cootie Williams play trombone.
After his presentation, Feather called Clark Terry and Rolf Ericson onto stage to be interviewed about their times in the Ellington orchestra. It is a relaxed interview which gave the audience many laughs.
The presentation of the Ellington biographer Austin H. Lawrence on Ellington’s England 1933 tour also falls in the category of ”remembering”.
At one point Luis Russell – the small big band leader – had told him that one of the most important things that happened to Duke was when he went to England. ”He was a different man when he came back”, Russel said.
So for Lawrence ”the trip to England helped Ellington grow” and this is the focus of his presentation.
The Danish bass player and radioman Erik Moseholm was another speaker on this theme. His topic was the Danish bass tradition and the inspiration of Ellington’s basists on it. He talked about the guitarist/basist Niels Foss the first major Danish bass player, Oscar Pettiford, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and of course about himself. The classical bass teacher Oscar Hegner and his 4-finger-technique features also prominently in the presentation.
Moseholm’s presentation was followed by a live demonstration by two – at that time – young Danish bass players, Jesper Lundgaard and Mads Vinding. Unfortunately, the performance was not recorded, presumably for copyright reasons.
Another major theme for the conference was ”The Passing on of The Ellington Tradition”.
Stanley Crouch was the first speaker on this theme. In his presentation ”The Temporary Significance of Duke Ellington” he talked a lot about the early roots of jazz and placed Ellington in this context.
It was followed by a panel discussion, in which Crouch participated together with Andrew Homzy, Peter Watrous and Erik Wiedeman. The topic of the panel was Recreating Ellington – Problems and Rewards.
The chairman of the panel, Dan Morgenstern, asked it to focus on ”to what extent is it possible to create/recreate Ellington’s music”. He also brought in the issue: ”How can Ellington’s legacy best be used in today’s jazz”.
This led to an interesting discussion with comments with relevance also today.
The 10th Ellington Study Group Conference took place in Copenhagen May 28-31, 1992.
The lead organisers of the conference were Arnvid Meyer, Niels Toft and Karl Emil Knudsen – three leading figures in the Danish jazz and Ellington community. They organised the conference together with the recently founded ”The Scandinavian Duke Ellington Society – Danish Chapter”.
It followed in the path of previous Ellington conferences and offered an ambitious program mixing musical events and presentations.
Unfortunately only recordings of the presentations are available and they are sound recording made by the organisers. It seems as if Benny Åslund, who attended the conference, did some filming but the videos have not been found so far.
Photo Bjarne Busk
Bjarne Busk was one of the participants in the conference. He remembers it as ”a serious one, with a lot of information, and a lot of music”.
”On the first day of the conference, nine jazzclubs in Copenhagen had organized concerts and sessions linked to the conference and the conference participants had got 2 tickets to use how they liked.
At one of the places Mercer Ellington conducted a fine Danish big band. I also remember the closing dance with groups of musicians, including Buster Cooper and Clark Terry, and some with the great swedes Rolf Billberg, Arne Domnerus and Rolf Ericson.”
Bo Haufman was another participants. He was one of the first to register for the conference. ”I was actually the third one to do so”, he says. ”The Falconer Center in Copenhagen was the conference venue and it was absolutely perfect for this.
Leonard Feather is one of the presenters Bo remembers particularly well. ”He started his presentation by saying ”Duke is not dead”
”It was also very interesting to hear Erik Moseholm presentation about the inspiration of Ellington’s bass player to the Danish Bass Tradition bearing in mind that Denmark is known for its excellent bass player.”
”Among the many musical events, I remember in particular a concert by Arne Domnérus och Bengt Hallberg, says Bo also. ”They had composed a special number called ”Jazz Å Du”.
Arnvid Meyer chaired the first session of the conference.
One angle in the program was Ellington in Denmark. Erik Wiedemann – Mr. Jazz in Denmark – was the first presenter on this theme. He talked about four Danish jazz recording with a strong Ellington influence.
The first one was Copenhagen Rhapsody played by the leading Danish big band in the early 30’s led by Erik Tuxen. Then Wiedemann gave the audience first a recording by a piano-bass combo with Borge Roger Henrichsen and Niels Foss, which played Preludium in C followed by Donkey Party played by a band led by Leo Mathisen. Both of them from the early 1940’s when Denmark was under occupation.
Wiedeman’s last example was actually a 1990 recording of an Ellington composition – The Mooche – but played in avant-guard way by Pierre Dørge & New Jungle Orchestra.