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New CD from Maison de Duke

Ellington spent a lot of time in Europe in 1963, both in the early Spring and in the summer. It is well-documented both by CDs and on tapes circulating among collectors. In November, the website added to this by making available to DESS-members both the Indigo telecast with Ellington and Alice Babs and the alternative takes from Duke’s recording session for Reprise with Babs  in Paris.

After having started the European tour in United Kingdom, Ellington and band went to Paris for a recording session and three concerts at Olympia in Paris on February 1 and 2. At the end of the tour, he was back in Paris for, among other things, another two concerts at Olympia on February 23. The ”Great Paris Concert” album originally issued on Atlantic extracted from concerts on the three dates.


The French Ellington society – Maison de Duke – has added to this by issuing a CD with selections from both the concerts on February 23. It includes 6 tracks from the first concert and 7 from the second and most of them are true highlights.. Some of them are alternative takes to those available on ”Great Paris Concert” like ””A Tone Parallell to Harlem” and ”New Concerto for Cootie”.

The CD comes with a booklet written by Claude Carrière, which is thorough and enlightening in his usual detailed style. And with CD, the liner notes are available in English as well.

Serenade To Sweden – alternativa tagningar


Serenade To Sweden take 7


Det skulle dröja ända tills 1966 innan inspelningarna från Studio Hoche i Paris den 28 februari och 1 mars 1963 gavs ut av Reprise. Albumet fick namnet ”Alice Babs & Duke Ellington – Serenade To Sweden” och har skivnummer RS 5024. Skivetikett ses ovan. Av outgrundliga skäl skeddeutgivningen bara i Europa.

Det svenska skivbolaget Telestar, som var Alice Babs’ skivbolag vid den tiden, skaffade sig också rättigheter att ge ut skivan och det skedde på Telestar TRS 11 100.

De båda utgåvorna är identiska till innehåll och omslag och har samma informationsrika baksidestext skriven av Ragnvi Gylder.

Nu 40 år senare har det också dykt upp en CD-version på skivmärket Real Gone Music men innehållet är detsamma som på LP-skivorna.

Under hektiska kvällar och nätter i Paris gjorde man en stor mängd upptagningar av de olika melodierna, men alla tagningar är förstås inte fullständiga.

Av de sexton melodier som spelades in fann femton vägen till skivan. Things Ain’t What They Used To Be lämnades utanför.


Strange Visitor

”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.






Serenade to Sweden in Paris 1963


Tillsammans med TV-programmet Indigo markerar skivan ”Serenade To Sweden” början på samarbetet mellan Alice Babs och Ellington.

Den spelades in i Paris i slutet av februari och början av mars 1963.


Tanken på att göra en skiva med Babs dök uppenbarligen upp i Ellingtons huvud under repetitionerna och inspelningen av Indigo-programmet. ”Duke sa att han att han gärna ville göra en platta med mig … men jag trodde aldrig att det skulle bli av” har Babs berättat.

Men hon hade fel. Ellington hade bokat in en vecka i slutet av sin Europaturné 1963 för att göra inspelningar i Paris för skivbolaget Reprise – startat av Frank Sinatra (tillsammans med bl.a. Dean Martin) 1960 – och Babs var uppenbarligen en av de artister han ville spela in.

Men som ofta var fallet med Ellington skedde allting i sista minuten och det verkar inte ha funnits mycket av förhandsplanering för inspelningsveckan.

Den sydafrikanska sångerskan Sathima ”Bea” Benjamin har berättat hur hon lyckade ta sig in i Ellingtons loge efter konserten i Zürich ett par dagar före inspelningsveckan i Paris och övertala honom att komma och lyssna på henne på klubben där hon spelade tillsammans med Dollar Brand.

Ellington gillade uppenbarligen vad han hörde och arrangerade för Benjamin och Brand att vara i Paris i början av veckan därpå för att spela in tillsammans med honom.

Något liknande hände för Alice Babs. På söndagskvällen den 22 februari fick hon ett telefonsamtal från Ellington. ”Kan du komma ner i morgon för en inspelning? Det var lite för kort varsel för mig så vi bestämde tre dagar senare”, har Alice berättat.


Indigo 1963



This very word makes you think about Duke Ellington’s music.

It has been used in some of his song-titles but in 1963, Swedish Television used this word as a title of a telecast from the famous concert venue in Stockholm, Cirkus. It was to be Alice Babs’ first appearance and collaboration with Duke Ellington and his orchestra.

The telecast was the brain-child of program producer Arne Arnbom, one of the creative and innovative producers at Swedish Television at that time.

He had a strong interest in ballet and jazz and had already produced some program merging them together like “Sax Appeal” from 1960 with music by the pianist/composet Nils Lindberg. Arnbom had also produced TV programs for Swedish Television with the Swe-Danes. Arne Arnbom was also a child-hood friend of Alice Babs.

Towards the end of 1962, Arnbom went to New York to present the project to Duke’s organization. He told them that he wanted to have a Swedish singer included in the program and that this singer should be Alice Babs.

To give a sense of her singing to his Ellington counterparts, he presented them with the LP album “Alice & Wonderband”, which Babs had recorded with Arne Domnérus’ orchestra in mid-1959 and which included three Ellington songs – “Prelude To A Kiss among them.

The project and Babs were accepted and the program was recorded on February 7, 1963 following Ellington’s concert at the Stockholm Concert Hall the night before. It was broadcasted on April 6, 1963.

“Indigo” is undoubtedly one of the best telecasts with Ellington and his band. Bringing in Alice Babs to sing and adding ballet performances choreograph by the famous Swedish choreographer Birgit Cullberg makes it very special. Arne Arnbom’s direct and almost ascetic pictorial language contributes also a lot to this.

It is a great pleasure to be able to offer our members to share it by viewing and downloading it its totality in the Goodies Room. A clip from the show can be seen below:


New CD from Maison de Duke

Ellington ended the extensive European tour in January-February 1963 with taking on his role as artistic director of Reprise Records. He did so by supervising five recording sessions in Paris. One of them featured Svend Asmussen together with Stephan Grappeli and Ray Nance.

The result was only issued in 1976 by Atlantic Records. There are also some CD issues and the best in terms of sound is the one issued by Mosaic Records.

violin sessions

Tapes with the complete recording session, which took place February 22, 1963, has long circulated between collectors but now La Maison de Duke has taken the step to issue a CD with almost all the takes of the session.

Complete jazz violin session

Thanks to this, one can both enjoy the music on the original LP and get an insight into the creative process between an extraordinary group of musicians and how Ellington guided them to get the result he wanted. Asmussen is of course at the center but there is also good playing by in particular Stephan Grappelli.

The CD comes with a booklet written by Claude Carrière, which is thorough and enlightening in his usual detailed style. Unfortunately it is only in French.

The CD is a must for friends of Ellington, Svend Asmussen and violin jazz. However, it is only available to members of La Maison de Duke but a membership is equal to the price of a quality CD.

Johnny Hodges med Ellington i Borlänge 12 juni 1963

Den 8 april 2016 publicerade vi en artikel om Ellingtons framträdande i Borlänge Folkets Park den 12 juni 1963. Artikeln illustrerades med fyra foton från tillfället tagna av Olle Lindholm.

Här är ytterligare fyra foton från Olle Lindholms kamera – den här gången med Johnny Hodges och saxsektionen i centrum.

On April 8 2016, we published a post on Ellington’s appearance in Borlänge Folkets Park June 12 1963. The post was illustrated by four photos taken by Olle Lindholm, then a local Ellington fan.

He was very busy with his camera that night more than 50 years ago and here are four other photos from the evening. They feature Johnny Hodges and the sax section.

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