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Ellington at Gröna Lund June 1963 (2)

There was hardly any reviews of Ellington’s week at Gröna Lund. I remember one in Dagens Nyheter, which I read at the time. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find it for this article.

The DESS member Sven Tollin was working as a journalist at Svenska Dagbladet – the other main morning paper in Stockholm -and he offered an article to cultural section of the newspaper. Unfortunately, the cultural editor was not interested.

So the only main article about the event is the one written by Leif Anderson and published in the June 1963 issue of Orkesterjournalen.

And it is obvious that he liked a lot what he heard during Duke’s week at Gröna Lund. “The nights at Dans In were musical thrills beyond word”, he wrote, “and the band demonstrated a relaxed attitude, which showed that ‘the kids in the band’ love their work”.  LA also thought that “a large benefit hearing Ellington’s orchestra play for dance is that during the span of a night one gets the opportunity to hear many numbers that the band rarely or never plays at concerts.”

The full article is here.

Leif Wigh went into Dans In ready to take more portrait photos of band members. Here are some of his shots.


Also Jim Björk had his camera with him at Dans In and he says that he took a full roll of pictures there. Here are some of them.


Furthermore, Jim brought a new autograph book with him one of the nights and during the breaks, he managed to get the autographs of all the members of the band.

Jim was also present at the informal jamsession at the Arena Theater (Arenateatern), which was advertised in the newspapers.


It took place on Friday night after the end of the performance at Dans In and went on long into Saturday morning. As Jim remembers it, it was Roffe Ericson, Eddie Preston and Paul Gonsalves from the Ellington band,  who took part in the jamsession together with some Swedish muscians, and possibly also Ernie Shepherd and Sam Woodyard.

“In the early morning Paul played an absolutely fantastic version of “I Cover the Waterfront” wearing a hat he had found in the storage room of the theatre. Someone taped it and it was included in a radio program a couple of weeks later.”

Bo Ahnegård was also one of the DESS-members, who went to Gröna Lund to enjoy Ellington. “I got the chance to dance to the band at Dans In”, he says, “and also to enjoy Alice Babs, who was there the same night. Duke invited her on stage and she sung a couple of songs with the orchestra.”

Thanks to Benny Åslund, Ellington’s performances at Gröna Lund were recorded. “I was permitted to record all the outdoor performances, and also, only two days left, the whole evening of 8Jun63.”

So on Saturday June 8, he set up his Tandberg tape recorder on a table next to the stage, gathered some friends around it and started to record when the band kicked-off.

Benny had a good stock of empty tape reels next to him and when one run out, he quickly put in a new one. Unavoidably, this caused some gaps in the recordings but they seems to be quite short and are a very minor nuisance.

As always, Duke’s condition for allowing this was that the recordings would not be issued commercially and for many years copies of the recordings circulated only among Ellington collectors and specialist. However, in 2014 Storyville issued the Dans Inn recordings on a two CD set and included one of the outdoor concerts in the 7 CD box “The Duke Box 2”.


Ellington at Gröna Lund June 1963 (1)

Duke Ellington spent the whole month of June 1963 in Sweden. He arrived at the Stockholm-Arlanda airport on May 31, where Swedish Radio made a short interview with him.

Ellington started his Swedish tour with gigs in the towns of Västerås, Örebro and Karlstad on June 1, 2 and 3.

Then on June 4, Ellington begun his week-long dance date engagement at the Gröna Lund amusement park in the center of Stockholm.

In his book “Gröna Lund – Stora scenen kl. 20.00”, Ove Hahn – the artistic director at the time – says that it was a dream come true to have Ellington to play for dance at the park.

Every night, the Duke and his orchestra, started the evening by playing a half an hour concert at 8 pm on the main outdoor stage in  the middle of the park in front of a big audience.

The full outdoor concert on June 8 is available in the “Goodie of the Month” section of the website

Many had brought their photo cameras to the concert. One of them was the photographer and photo historian Leif Wigh. Here are his close-up photos of Duke, Russell Procope and Harry Carney on the outdoor stage.


Also DESS member Jim Björk was in the audience and clicked with his camera. “I was there every night”, he says. “I first listened to the concert on Stora scenen, which was about 30 minutes long. Then I went to Dans In to be able to sit close to the orchestra and enjoy the music.”

At the Ellington conference in Stockholm in May 1994, Ove Hahn talked about Ellington’s week at Gröna Lund.

He said that when it was announced that Ellington and his orchestra was going to play for dance at Gröna Lund, there was a lot of articles in the newspapers saying that it was wrong to use art as dance music. Therefore, Hahn was very happy when he already on the first night discovered that the band loved to play for dance.

He had of course a lot of contacts not only with Ellington, but also with the members of the band. He got to know most of them by their first names, but learned quickly that Johnny Hodges should be addressed as Mr. Hodges.

He liked Paul Gonsalves a lot – “the most wonderful man I ever met” – but did not go along with Sam Woodyard. “I found him most arrogant. We never quarreled but we simply did not like each other.”

In his presentation, Hahn also claims that Ellington approached him at the end of the week and asked if the engagement could be prolonged. Possibly he did this but it is a little bit surprising since Ellington was contracted to play in many places all over Sweden after the week at Gröna Lund.

At the end of the presentation, Hahn played some of the music recorded by Benny Åslund at Dans In during Ellington’s engagement.


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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Duke i Borlänge 12 juni 1963


Borlänge in the center of Sweden was one of the stops during Ellington’s long tour of Sweden in June 1963. On the 12th June, the band played in the amusement park there. The day before it had performed in Gävle and the night thereafter it was going to be in Norrköping. A local Ellington fan, Olle Lindholm, was busy with his camera and here are four of his photos from the evening.

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In Borlänge, Duke also handed out a prize. Here is the story behind this (as told by DESS-member Villy Bergström almost 50 years later). (more…)

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