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Smått & Gott/Bits & Pieces Dec 2021-2
Before the summer, DESUK distributed to its members the CD Who Knows with Brian Priestley and a small group playing “least studied and least ‘covered’ pieces” of Ellington music. It was originally issued in 2003 on the English 33 Jazz label (33jazz184).
The CD was recorded on 21 July and 8 October, 2003 when Brian gathered Bruce Adams trumpet, Frank Griffith saxophone and clarinet, Simon Woolf bass and Steve Brown drums in Clown’s Pocket, Bexley to record 16 Ellington songs in different constellations – solo, trio, quartet and quintet.
Fellow musician Derek Nash was responsible for recording, mixing, editing and mastering and he did an excellent job.
It seems that the solo, trio and quartet with Frank Griffith tracks were recorded on 21 July and the rest on 8 October when Bruce Adams was added to the group.
The music selected for the CD is a mix of fairly well-known Ellington compositions and songs played by Ellington and/or the band only once or a couple of times.
What Are You Gonna Do (1915), Who Knows (1953) and Blue Pepper (1966) belongs to this category. East, East By East could be added to it because it is of Ellington’s hand but never performed by him.
Among the more well-known Azure, Don’t You Know I Care, Johnny Come Lately and Lotus Blossom.
Common to all songs is that Brian with his arrangements has given them new life. Ellington’s (or Strayhorn’s) music has rarely been heard like this.
Three of the tracks are solos by Brian (Azure, After All, Lotus Blossom), 4 are trios (Who Knows, Johnny Come Lately, Searchin’, What Are You Gonna Do), three are quartets (Don’t You Know Are Care, Almost Cried, Perdido) and the rest quintets (Blue Pepper, Hand Me Down Love, My Love, East, East By East, That’s What He Says).
Here is my 25 minutes interview of Brian about the CD. In it, you can hear Who Knows and East, East By East with Brian’s comments on them.
To get the CD, one has to be a member of DESUK but it might have run out of CDs by now. Please contact Gareth Evans (email@example.com), the new Blue Light, and ask about this.
Steven Bowie’s Ellington Reflections (https://ellingtonreflections.com) is one of the indispensable websites for anyone interested in Duke Ellington. Steven himself says that it is a celebration of the World of Ellingtonia and all of its many facets.
The website with blogs about Ellington’s music, his orchestra and its band members was launched back in 2017 and has a large number of followers from all over the world.
So far, Steven has produced 65 blogs. The latest one is about Ellingtonian’s Playing Ellington.
Thanks to the work of DESS member Göran Axelsson, the website recently got an index with direct links to the blogs. Actually, there are two indexes, one chronological and one alphabetical by title.
In addition to the blogs, the website also has three lists of recommendations – Books, Recordings and Videos.
The format of the posts is more or less all the same. First comes the blog (i.e the audiofile), then a text about the topic with photos and scores, and finally a list of the albums played in the blog.
I recently interviewed Steven about his work with the website and what he wants to achieve with it.
In addition to Ellington Reflections, Steven is also working on a biography on Cootie Williams. “Williams was an giant of the trumpet; yet despite his stature in the jazz world, no one has previously written a full length biography.” So Steve has taken on the task to write one.
This is reflected in his presence on Facebook where he runs a Cootie Williams group. Steven also contributed to the Ellington Meeting 2021 with a presentation on Williams.
During his college years, he was teaching assistant for the legendary guitarist Kenny Burrell’s class on Duke Ellington
The Duke Book
Looking for some good “hi-res” DSD recordings of jazz for the holiday season, I came across The Duke Book recorded by the Dutch trumpeter/flugelhorn player Angelo Verploegen and drummer Jasper van Hulten.
The album was issued already in 2019 by Just Listen Records but it seems to be fairly unknown to the Ellington community.
It is a pity because listening to it is really worthwhile.. What Verploegen and van Hulten provide with the album is certainly not the most common interpretations of Ellington standards but very creative and interesting. Start by listening to Blues In Blueprint.
There is a lot of truth in what a writer wrote in a promotional text on the Just Listen Records’ website: “As a listener you are encouraged to play an active role: unnoticed you give your own musicality a place in between the game of the flugelhorn and the drums. Free as a bird you can spontaneously fantasize your own melodic lines.”
Once I had listened to the CD a couple of times and digested this way of playing Ellington, I come to think of the Calefax Reed Quintet, which I heard at the Ellington 2014 conference in Amsterdam. It also demonstrated how to interpret Ellington in a new way and widen the perspectives of the Maestro’s music?
Why is it only Dutch groups interpreting Ellington is this way?
Anyhow, let’s listen to what Verploegen and van Hulten have to say about the album.
The album exists in different versions The best is to go to the website of Native DSD (https://www.nativedsd.com), which sells it in different versions.. If one has a setup to play DSD files, one should really buy the DSD 256 version. The sound is magnificent!
However, the album is also available in traditional CD format from NativeDSD and on Spotify and other streaming sites.
Brian Priestly on Duke – The Pianist
Brian Priestly was also one of the speakers at the Ellington ’92 conference in Copenhagen.
Photo Bjarne Busk
He talked about “Ellington The Pianist”.
During the 45 minutes presentation, Priestly played eight Ellington recordings with the piano at the centre and used them to highlight different aspects of Ellington’s piano playing. From time to time, he also sat down at the piano to give emphasis to his comments.
The music played in the program was Rockin’ in Rhythm (1937), Melancholia (1953), See See Rider (1972), (I’m Riding On the Moon and) Dancing on the Stars (1938), Band Call (1954), The Clothed Woman(1947), Bang Up Blues(1950) and Body and Soul (1961)
Brian Priestly on BB&B
In 1974, Brian Priestly – jazz writer and pianist among other things – and the arranger and composer Alan Cohen wrote what Mark Tucker has labelled “the first serious analytical article on Black, Brown and Beige”.
In the early 1970’s, they spent considerable time listening to and transcribing several recordings of the suite and they also studied a score published by Tempo Music.
Their work was the basis for the recording of BB&B, which Alan Cohen did with his orchestra in 1972.
Having acquired a very detailed knowledge of the suite, they were able to write an article which Tucker has characterized as a “densely detailed, section-by section discussion” with “special attention to Ellington’s thematic treatment and unifying techniques”.
The article was originally commissioned by the British “Jazz & Blues” magazine but finally published in “Composer” – the bulletin of the Composers Guild of Great Britain. A reprint of it is included in The Duke Ellington Reader.
At the Ellington ’88 conference in Oldham, Brian Priestly revisited Black, Brown and Beige.
The Ellington Orchestra ended its “Extended Ellington” concert on the third day of the conference with a performance of the work. For the occasion, Alan Cohen took over as guest conductor and he brought in Brian Priestly to play the piano as he had done when Cohen recorded the suite in 1972.
In the afternoon before the concert, Priestly shared his analysis of and view on the work with the conference participants. It is a presentation not to be missed.
The performance of the BB&B at Ellington ’88 will be available on the website on September 28.