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Duke at The Hollywood Empire in 1949
The 1949 band
Harlem Air Shaft
Due to the 1948 recording ban in USA, there is not much of recorded material by Ellington and his orchestra from 1948. In fact, Ellington did not go into a recording studio until September 1, 1949.
Fortunately, some concerts and broadcasts have survived allowing us to hear how the Ellington band sounded in 1948 and early 1949.
In late November 1948, the band played at the Click Restaurant in Philadelphia and material from six different NBC broadcasts from there has survived.
At the end of January 1949, Ellington started to tour the West Coast where he had a three-week engagement from February 1 at The Hollywood Empire located at 1539 Vine Street in Hollywood.
Gene Norman, well-known disc-jockey and impresario, had opened it in December 1948. One reason seems to have been that “the Woody Herman band had no place to work”. Herman was followed by Billy Eckstine at the club
The Hollywood Empire was in an area that in the 1930s and 1940s was known as Radio City due to all the radio studios and radio-themed bars and restaurants located there.
During Ellington’s stay at The Hollywood Empire, American Field Radio Service (AFRS) recorded nine broadcasts from club. Some of them were aired in the Jubilee series and others in the Just Jazz series.
In the Ellington discographies, three of broadcasts have specific recording dates while the others are identified as having been recorded in February. Seven of the broadcasts were originally issued on AFRS records but two have remained unissued. Approximately 50% of the surviving material has been issued commercially, albeit on rather unusual labels.
This time, DESS members is given the opportunity to listen to one of the unissued broadcasts in the Goodies section of the website.
It is the one identified as DE4909 in NDESOR. (Since the main part of these broadcasts were dated February 1949, the NDESOR number is a perhaps the best way to distinguish them from each other).