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The decision by the Pulitzer Prize Advisory Board in May 1965 to reject the recommendation by its Music Jury that Duke Ellington should be awarded a Special Citation created an outcry in the music community and in civil rights circles.
In the aftermath of this, the City of New York decided to confer on him its Bronze Medallion – the highest award it can give a civilian.
Ellington received the award on August 2, 1965 at a reception in front of the New York City Hall.
In an one and a half page article in the August 14 issue of The New Yorker, its jazz critic and columnist Whitney Balliett tells about the event.
”Many people of the jazz world and many city officials were on hand for the presentation.” Willis Conover, Nesuhi Ertegun (of Atlantic Records), Arthur Spingarn (President of the NAACP) were among them. Duke arrived with ”his wife, his sister Ruth and his nephew Stephen”.
At the end of the ceremony acting New York Mayor Paul Screvane presented the award and read the inscription on the medal: ”Presented in appreciation to Edward Kennedy Ellington, Known as Duke–‘Musician of Every Year’–distinguished composer and worldwide Ambassador of Good Will–By Robert F. Wagner, Mayor of the City of New York, by the hand of the Acting Mayor, on this 2nd day of August, 1965.”
Before this Duke’s personal physician, Dr. Arthur Logan and the pianist Billy Taylor had made personal laudatory remarks and a band including Clark Terry, Billy Taylor, Jerome Richardson, Ben Tucker and Joe Benjamin had played some Ellington music. A five-piece Departement of Sanitation band had done this as well.
The whole ceremony was recorded and can be heard below.
25 years later, in 1999, Ellington was posthumously awarded a special Pulitzer Prize ”commemorating the centennial year of his birth, in recognition of his musical genius, which evoked aesthetically the principles of democracy through the medium of jazz and thus made an indelible contribution to art and culture.”
Was it ”better late than never”?
In a post on April 20, the website published some photos from Ellington’s concert in Stockholm on February 2, 1965 taken by the film photographer (and much more) Roland Sterner.
Here are some more of his photos.
A short bio of Sterner is available on the website here.
Roland Sterner lyckades få många bra bilder på Konserthuset den 2 februari 1965. Det är inte så konstigt med tanke på hans bakgrund. Utbildad hos Christer Strömholm, filmfotograf under många år, filmlärare på Dramatiska Institutet m.m. En kort biografi finns på webbplatsen här.
Idag blir det Sterners bilder på saxarna. Foton på andra delar av bandet dyker upp i en senare artikel.
Klicka på bilderna så visas de i större format.
Ellington’s 1965 European tour lasted from January 25 to February 28. It started in France where Duke and the orchestra performed in Paris, and Lyon. They then went north, first to Copenhagen (Denmark) and then to Sweden for concerts in Lund, Malmö and Stockholm. After stops in Germany and Switzerland, the tour ended with two weeks of concerts (and a telecast) in England from February 13 to February 28
Ellington’s concerts in Stockholm took place on February 2 and the venue was Konserthuset (Stockholm Concert Hall).
Photo and copyright: Roland Sterner
The two concerts – one at 7 pm and one at 9pm – were well attended but the critics were rather negativ.
Orkesterjounalen’s Bertil Sundin seems to have had his opinion formed already before the concerts started. ”One can not expect that this group of older gentlemen will sound particularly inspired and in Stockholm on February 2 they didn’t ” he wrote. Sundin only had positiv comments on Johnny Hodge’s performance of ”Come Sunday” and Paul Gonsalves’ of Chelsea Bridge. However, Leif Anderson reviewing the Ellington concerts in Copenhagen, Lund and Malmö also in Orkesterjournalen was much more positiv.
The two reviews are available in the Ellington Archive
One of the concerts were broadcasted by Swedish Radio, most likely the second one, and DESS members can listen to it and download it in the Goodies Room. Here is a short excerpt from the broadcast.