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The first full-scale Duke Ellington Study Group Conference was organized in May (5-7) 1983 by Chapter 90 of The Duke Ellington Society Washington D.C. .
Some 90 people took part in the meeting. The program was a mixture of presentations, live music and discussions as would be the case in future Ellington conferences.
The conference has been preserved on tapes. This article makes use of six K7 tapes in the Benny Åslund Collection. He most likely got it from the one who made the recordings – was it Jack Towers? – or possibly from Jerry Valburn. The sound quality is quite good but there are of course some glitches.
Among the presenters and speakers at the two and a half-day conference was Martin Williams, Dan Morgenstern, Bruce Kennan, Patricia Willard, Willis Conover, Jerry Valburn, Eddie Lambert and Sjef Hoefsmit.
The topic of Williams’ presentation was “Ellington, The Composer” and he gave many examples to make his point(s). Apparently, the audience had sheets with the music he played but one can enjoy his talk without them.
Dick Buckley was a well-known radio presenter in Chicago, who for many years hosted ”Jazz With Dick Buckley”. One day in May 1981, he started his program by saying:
What Buckley refers to is a lunch meeting with a small group of eminent American Ellington specialists that took place on a Saturday in May 1981.
It was organized by Donald (Don) Miller – a leading figure on the Ellington scene in Chicago and the founder of the Ray Nance Chapter of the Duke Ellington Society.
He was well connected in the American and international network of Ellington specialists and was very focused on how to preserve the Ellington legacy.
In a report from the meeting published in the DEMS Bulletin 1982/1, Miller sketched the task(s) ahead for what he saw as an Ellington Study Group.
“We are a privileged generation for having personally known and experienced Ellington. This provides us with the opportunity to maximize the record for posterity’s experience of Ellington.”
The guest speaker at the four-hour lunch was the musicologist, composer and author Gunther Schuller.
He was just on his way to start to write the second volume of his work on the history of jazz and it was one of the topics he talked about at the lunch. But he covered many more. Here is one example of what he (and others) said during the lunch.
Miller taped the lunch meeting and in total there are three and a half hour of talks and conversation to listen to. Unfortunately, the recording was not done in the best of ways and the tapes have deteriorated with time. As a result, the sound quality of the tapes varies quite a lot.
However, another 21 minutes of what Schuller and others had to say have been edited together and the result is available in the Ellington Archive.
This time, the website publishes another tidbit from the proceedings of the Ellington Study Group conference in Stockholm May 12-15, 2004. The source is once again the Sven Eriksson’s tape recording of the conference (see article June 1).
It is the second presentation made on the first day of the conference. It was given by Frank Büchmann-Møller, who talked about unpublished 1941 recordings by Ben Webster found in the Ben Webster Collection housed by the University Library of Southern Denmark in Odense.
As Jens Lindgren says in his introduction, Büchmann-Møller was at that time (and still is) responsible for the jazz collection at the music departement of the University Library of Southern Denmark. He is also the author of books on – among others – Lester Young and Ben Webster.
The three recordings in the presentation was issued by the English record label AB Fable on a CD a couple of years after the conference but it is not so easy to find today. Fortunately, the CD is nowadays also available at iTunes.