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”Strange Visitor” is one of the songs in the ”Serenade To Sweden” album. It is a song that Alice Babs herself wrote (”possibly already in the early 50’s”, she have said) and Babs used it, among others, for improvising at the piano when she had her first rehearsal with Duke after arriving in Paris.
Apparently, Ellington liked it a lot and he insisted that it should be included in the recording and that Babs should not only sing it but also play the piano.
However, both Ellington and Strayhorn gave it a try before the final take with Alice alone with the piano was recorded.
At one point, Duke asks ”You are tired. Wanna go home?” Yes, Babs was tired but she wanted to finish the job and gave us a wonderful rendition of the song.
The visitors of the website now get the opportunity to listen to the different takes of ”Strange Visitor” recorded in the early morning of March 2, 1963 in the Hoche Studio in Paris.
In the first one, Duke plays the piano and it is as if he tries out the piece; then comes two takes with Billy Strayhorn at the piano accompanied by Gilbert Rovere (b) and Peter Giger or Kenny Clarke (dr). He plays it in a more elaborate way than Duke.
Finally, there is the take with Alice alone. This is the one included in the LP.
In-between the full takes, there are some incomplete ones. This is why the discographies list a total of seven takes – two with Ellington and Babs, four with Strayhorn and Babs and one with Babs alone.
The heritage of radio broadcasts from the late 1930s and early 1940s by Ellington and other black bands is quite small. So whatever there is, it is very valuable and we should be deeply grateful to those who have made at least a part of them available to us.
One example is the one that survives from Ellington’s engagement at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Boston in July-August 1939.
Ellington scholar Ken Steiner has given a very detailed account of this engagement it in the DEMS Bulletin 2003:2 and it has been used for this article.
The surviving broadcast is from July 27, 1939 and it has been issued on both LP and CD (see below).
However, recently it also became available online in mp3 format thanks to the Star-Spangled Radio Hour (SSRH) radio program. It featured it in its July 16, 2016 program together with two broadcasts by Woody Herman from Glen Island Casino in August and September 1939.
The program can be downloaded here: http://www.cruisin1430.com/media/audio-channel/star-spangled-radio-hour-71616. (mer…)