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Blue Note , Chicago, 31 December 1956


Blue Skies


The Blue Note, one of Chicago’s premiere jazz clubs during the 1950s, showcased nationally renowned musicians as regular acts, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman. Duke Ellington and his orchestra played there many times during the 1950’ies and it seems they were a very popular choice for New Year’s celebrations. We wish the DESS members a Happy New Year by uploading a CBS broadcast with Duke and the boys from 31 December 1956 which you’ll find  in the Goodies Room. When you play this music on New Year’s Eve, 60 years have passed since it was recorded, but it still feels surprisingly fresh. The repertoire played here is probably typical for an event like this.

After the Theme & intro, Blue Skies is played, and Ellington’s version of this ever-green is also known as Trumpet No End, originally arranged by Mary-Lou Williams. This is one of the last known recordings of this tune, which was often played throughout the 1940’ies. In quick succession, we hear Sophisticated Lady, Caravan, Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me and Things Ain’t What They Used To Be, before the broadcast ends with Mood Indigo.

We hope you enjoy the music and wish you a Happy New Year!

Anders & Ulf



Duke Ellington in 1956 – the Month of October

Ellington’s whereabouts during the first part of October 1956 is quite undocumented. He might have done a tour of the southern part of the east coast in the first part of the month but specifics exist only for two dates – Tampa, Florida on October 5 (Fort Homer Hestory Armory) and Charlotte, North Carolina on October 11 (Ovens Auditorium).

Thereafter, he seems to have made a short stopover in New York and then continued with a short tour  of Ohio, West Virginia and New Hampshire in the third week of October. While in New York, Ellington signed a contract for three weeks of performances at the Blue Note in Chicago at the end of December and beginning of January.

By the fourth week of October, Ellington was back in New York and went into the Columbia Studios on October 22 and 23 to record the remaining parts of ”A Drum Is A Woman”. This time he recorded Rhythm Pum Te Dum (Carribee Sequence), Madam Zajj (Carribee Sequence), Ballet Of The Flying Saucers, Congo Square and Zajj’s Dream. On October 23, the recordings were made in Columbia’s famous 30th Street studio.


Ellington then remained in New York until the end of the month except for appearances in Washington D.C. (October 25) and Boston (October 28). In New York he seems to have played at a big rally for the Eisenhower-Nixon presidential ticket and at a Republican ”First Voters Ball”.



Duke Ellington in 1956 – the month of September

The recording of ”A Drum Is A Woman” would become a major activity for Ellington in September 1956 but the month started by Ellington winding up his engagement at Blue Note in Chicago.

Then he went on the road again. His immediate whereabouts after Chicago are not known but on September 10 he started a week-long engagement at the Colonial Tavern in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The club was one of the most famous jazz venues in Canada at the time.


Before arriving in New York City in the early morning of September 17, the Ellington orchestra played at the Town Casino in Buffalo, New York on September 16. A recording of a broadcast from the club exists.

The recording session for ”A Drum Is A Woman” was supposed to start in the mid-afternoon but apparently it took some time before everybody was in place in the studio – Ellington included.

According to Irving Townsend, the band members arrived one by one but once everybody was in place they ”began to complain loudly about wasting all night just sitting around. At that moment Ellington walked into the room, stopping to kiss his female visitors, chatting with everybody as he worked his way slowly toward the piano. Then, with a bow toward the control room, he asked, ”Am I late? Oh, dear. What time is it anyway?”

Carribee Joe, Congo Square, A Drum Is A Woman and Rumbop was recorded.

The following day Ellington and the band started a week-long engagement at the Red Hill Inn in Pennsauken, New Jersey – another well-known jazz venue in the 50s and early 60s.


MBS made a remote broadcast from the club for its ”Bandstand U.S.A.” program during Ellington’s appearance there.

Having ended the engagement at Red Hill Inn on September 24, Ellington and the members of the orchestra rushed back for another recording session of ”A Drum Is A Woman”. It started just before midnight on September 24 and run all night of September 25th into the wee hours of the morning.

One or more takes of Rhythm Pum Te Dum, Caribee Joe, What Else Can You Do With A Drum, A Drum Is A Woman, Hey Buddy Bolden, Congo Square (Matumbe), Madam Zajj were recorded during this long session.

After a two day break, which included a performance at the Sports Arena at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Ellington and the orchestra was back in the Columbia recording studio for another ”A Drum Is A Woman” session. This time New Orleans (Sunrise Act 1), New Orleans (Sunrise Act 2), New Orleans (Parade), Rhumbop, Hey Buddy Bolden, Zajj’s Dream (Carribee Interlude), The Greatest Thing There Is, Congo Square and A Drum Is A Woman were recorded.

The recording session more or less ended the month for Ellington. If there were other engagements in the last couple of days of the months, they are not known.

This post has been written using information from http://www.tdwaw.ca and http://www.ellingtonia.com – two absolutely invaluable sources of information on Ellington’s whereabouts and activities.











Duke Ellington in 1956 – August

The month of August 1956 started with Ellington being a guest in a Frankie Laine CBS telecast. He played “Dancers in Love” and then joined Frankie Laine and the Mellowlarks in the “Tomorrow Mountain” song. The telecast was a CBS-TV summer replacement show featuring Frankie Laine and guest artists.

The next day, he and the band went from New York to Ellenville, New York to appear at the Empire State Jazz Festival, which took place on August 2-4. It brought together several big names in jazz. In addition to Ellington, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Sarah Vaughan, George Shearing Quintet and the Erroll Garner Trio appeared, among others.

From Ellenville he went to New London, Connecticut for a dance date on August 5 and then back to New York for a Columbia recording session on August 7.

It was the first recording session for the Such Sweet Thunder album with “Half the Fun and Suburban Beauty” recorded on this occasion together with “A Flat Minor” (mer…)

Time Magazine Cover


Tomorrow, it is 60 years since Duke Ellington appeared on the cover of the Time Magazine and was featured in a five-page article.


He himself said that it was “the epic ride of Paul Gonsalves, which brought us on the cover of Time Magazine” (Music Is My Mistress page 191) but the true story is a little bit more complicated.

Back in the early 1990s, Charles H. Waters – the Ellington scholar and a DESOK member – stumbled upon the information that the portrait of Ellington, which appeared on the Time Magazine cover and was done by the Western artist Peter Hurd, had been done already in early June (between June 8 and 17), i.e. almost a month before the Newport Festival.

Ellington Time Life

This triggered Waters to look into the story of the cover and he published an extensive article in Annual Review of Jazz Studies 6 (1993) based on thorough research.

He unfolded that the decision to write a cover story had been taken long before Newport – most likely in the late spring of 1956. The writer of the story, Carter Harman, interviewed Ellington in parallel to the painting of the project and at that time Ellington himself proposed that the peg for the article should be his appearance with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra in New Haven, Connecticut on July 12, 1956.

Harman was of course also present at the Newport Jazz Festival and he must have sensed the excitement that the performance(s) of Ellington (and Gonsalves) on the last night of the Festival created.

However, it was apparently Ellington’s press agent, Joe Morgan, who pitched the idea that Harman should use the Newport Festival as the hook to get his bosses to publish an Ellington cover story.

Harman took this to the assistant managing editor, Otto Fuerbringer – responsible for Time Magazine’s cover stories – and finally he agreed to run the story in the August 20, 1956 issue of the magazine.

In August 1956, Time Magazine ran cover stories also on the shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos, former U.S. President Harry Truman and the Egyptian President Nasser.

For Columbia Records and for Ellington, the timing of the article was perfect. The Newport Festival recordings including those of Ellington were going to be issued in September so Time provided some good promotion.

This was also done by Down Beat. It published its report on the Newport Festival also in the August 20, 1956 issue where Leonard Feather wrote the story on Ellington.

Members of DESS can read the full article in the Ellington Archive / Articles https://ellington.se/marknadsplatsen/ellington-arkivet/articles-and-documents/

Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, 2 juli, 1956


Duke Ellington framträdde vid åtminstone tre olika tillfällen i Ann Arbor, Michigan. Första gången var den 15 november 1951, då han uppträdde tillsammans med Sarah Vaughan och Nat King Cole i en radiosänd show. Senaste gången var den den 16 januari 1974 då han framträdde vid en presskonferens vid University of Michigan.

Det enda kända tillfället då han uppträdde med hela orkestern var den 2 juli 1956, endast några dagar före det epokgörande framträdandet vid Newportfestivalen.Konserten ägde rum i Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan.

Hill Auditorium

Med tanke på hur Ellington och Strayhorn arbetade, och med den uppgift de hade att komma med något nytt till Newport, skulle man lätt kunna tänka sig att man här skulle ha någon slags generalrepetition av materialet för festivalen, men så icke! En del alster blev inte klara förrän efteråt!

Första halvan av konserten den 2 juli var inkluderad i arikeln ”Heading for Newport” den 3 juli 2016. Men nu finns den också som Månadsgodis i Ellingtonrummet för att underlätta nedladdning.

Innehållet består av Ellington-standards varvade med några mera sällan spelade nummer, som t. ex. Clarinet Melodrama, Theme For Trambeam, La Virgen De Macarena och Day In, Day Out.

Författare: Anders Asplund

Duke Ellington in 1956 – July

Ellington’s Newport Festival concert finished well after midnight. When he and the band left the following morning, they were faced with a full set of road bookings.

“As it had been for decades, it was a nonstop summer …. Newport had been only one gig among others” (John Fass Morton Backstory in Blue – Ellington at Newport ’56).

However, it was a little bit different than previous summers. The summer music festivals had entered the scene in full strength and the core of Ellington’s appearances in July were at such festivals. They had large audiences so Ellington managed to reach out quite well in addition to the success at Newport. Several of them was also recorded in one way or the other or broadcasted.

Ellington played the key pieces from the Newport concert quite a lot, particularily ”Newport Jazz Festival Suite”. Surprisingly, ”Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue” was played less frequently.

After Newport Ellington and the band played at the Danceland Ocean Park in New London, Connecticut and then returned to New York.

Duke and Billy Strayhorn spent most of the morning of July 9 with George Avakian and his team in Columbia’s Studio D going over the tapes from Newport and in the afternoon the full orchestra joined them for the recording session, which was already  agreed before the actual concert in Newport. The focus was “Newport Jazz Festival Suite” but also “Jeep’s Blues” was recorded. Fortunately, the initial idea to redo also “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” was skipped.

Amazingly, Ellington managed to squeeze two other events into his calendar on July 9. He participated in a panel with other prominent jazz colleagues and recorded a promotional short film for Time-Life.

The following day, the tour of New England and Canada started. The first stop was New Haven, Connecticut, where Ellington participated in the Bowls Pop together with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

July56 2

The next major stop was the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox, Massachusetts on July 15 and from there Ellington and the orchestra went to Ontario, Canada to perform at the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario.

There they gave two concerts – July 18 and July 20. In between and after, Ellington performed in Burlington, Ontario and both concerts were broadcasted by CBC Radio.

Following this, Duke and the band returned to the U.S.A. to perform in Cleveland, Ohio with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra on July 25 after having given a concert in Buffalo, New York the day before.

The next major destination was Fairfield, Connecticut where Ellington and the orchestra appeared at the First Connecticut Jazz Festival on July 28. This was major event and Ellington shared the stage with Willie ”The Lion” Smith, Chico Hamilton, Buck Clayton and others.

Connecticut Jazz Festival CD

On July 29, they were back in New York and Ellington appeared on the Woolworth Hour playing a medley with the house band.

This post has been written using information from http://www.tdwaw.ca and http://www.ellingtonia.com – two absolutely invaluable sources of information on Ellington’s whereabouts and activities.

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