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In their conference folders, the participants in Ellington ’89 found an invitation to a very special event.
The Washington jazz broadcaster and Ellington aficionado Felix Grant had spent a lot of time and energy to find Ellington’s birthplace in Washington D.C. Once he had found it, he lobbied hard the U.S. Congress and local authorities to have a memorial plaque installed on the site.
Finally, he got what he had strived for and on the last day of the conference, the plaque was unveiled.
Despite some cancellations, the conference participants could also enjoy presentations and music during the last day of the conference.
The first speaker of the day was Dr. Jerome Sashen, who provided a ”Psychoanalysis of Ellington’s Music”.
In the afternoon, Sjef Hoefsmit did a presentation on ”Ellington’s Train” A soundfile of the presentation was included in the first article on the conference. Here is the video version.
He was followed by Don Miller, President of the Chicago Chapter of the Duke Ellington Society and one of the instagators of the Ellington conferences. He gave a brief presentation on what was available at that time of Ellington’s music on CD. He had found that some 75 CDs of this kind had been issued at the time!
The Danish jazz researcher and jazz critic Erik Wiedeman was the last speaker at the conference. His topic was ”Ellington in Denmark” and the presentation included a lot of musical examples.
Part of the afternoon was also a concert – ”Program of Ellington’s Music” – with Ronnie Wells and her students from the University of Maryland.
The DESS member Peter Lee was the only Swedish participant at the conference. Also Alice Babs and her husband Nils were there but they were considered as Spanish.
Peter remembers that he thought that the organization of the conference could have been better since almost a quater of the scheduled speakers never appeared. But there were a lot of good things and Peter remembers particularily
- The day at the Smithsonian. Besides the presentations, he was happy to be able to see the documentation on Ellington’s Honorary Membership of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music.
- Among the presentations, Peter rembers the one by Sjef Hoefsmit’s on ”Ellington´s Trains” as the best. ”It was very well structed and very thourough”, he says.
- The unveiling of the Memorial Plaque on the site where Ellington was also ”quite special” and so was the ”lunch afterwards with only me and Alice Babs. She wanted to have the opportunity to speak some Swedish”.
- The big band concert with Jimmy Hamilton and Herb Jeffries.
The full text of Peter’s comments in Swedish is in the Washington 1989 part of the Ellington Archive.
This is the last article in the Ellington ’89 series. The DESS website likes to thank in particular Ted Hudson and Peter Lee for help with photos and Ted and Bob Reny for help with contacts in Washington D.C.
The second day of the conference ended with a concert by Doug Richard’s Great American Music Ensemble. It provided the audience with ”A Panorama of Ellington’s Music From The Late 20’s To The Late 50’s”. As an extra bonus, Jimmy Hamilton and Herb Jeffries appeared as guest artists and made the concert a very special and memorable event of the conference.
The orchestra, also known under its acronym GAME, was formed in the mid-80s when Richards was director of Jazz Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. It made a recording of standards from the Great American Songbook in 2001 but it was only released in 2016 on the Jazzed Media label.
Here is the full two-and-a-half hour concert (except for the very end, which will be published on April 29).
Besides the presentations included in the previous article on the conference, there were two more on the second day.
Dr. Ted Hudson – active member of Chapter 90 and much more – gave a presentation on ”Literary Sources For Ellington’s Music”.
It ends with a filmed performance of a song – ”Heart of Harlem” – that Ellington and Langston Hughes apparently wrote together. Ellington copyrighted it in 1945.
And Dr. Joseph McLaren talked about ”Ellington’s Afro-American Heritage”.
The second day of the conference also had a very full program.
and the President of Chapter 90 of the Ellington Society, Terrell Allen, guided the audience through it with firm hands but also with a lot of jokes.
It started with the handing over of the Eddie Lambert gavel and some welcoming words.
Then Jerry Valburn asked Sjef Hoefsmit, Klaus Strateman, Gordon Ewing and ”the young man” Steven Lasker to join him at the podium for a discussion on ongoing research about Ellington.
The full video of the panel discussion is in Ellington Archive
Kurt Dietrich from Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin then took the floor. He came to the conference to tell about his PhD work on Lawrence Brown and to get some feed-back from the Ellington specialists gathered at the conference.
Follwing his doctoral dissertation and a number of journal articles, he published in 1999 his book, Duke’s ’Bones: Ellington’s Great Trombonists. It was follwed 10 years later by another book on a similar topic Jazz ’Bones: The World of Jazz Trombone. Both are highly recommended!
Another speaker during the second day was Andrew Homzy from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada – musicologist, arranger, big band leader, Duke Ellington as well as Charlie Mingus specialist and much more. He was a well-known profile at many Ellington Study Group conferences and is still an important part of the international network of Ellington aficionados and specialists.
This time he talked about Ellington’s La Plus Belle Africane.
Two other speakers during the second day were Bruce Kennan, member of the New York Chapter of the Duke Ellington Society, and Martin Williams.
The topic for Kennan’s presentation was ”Spoken Ellington” and he let the the audience listen to excerpts from a number of Ellington interviews.
Martin Williams spoke about ”Stealing from the Duke” and made his point with musical examples.
The other presentations from the second day of the Washington ’89 conference will be included in a later article together with some from the third day.
The day ended with a concert by Doug Richard’s The Great Americ Music Ensemble, which gave a panorama of Ellington’s music from the late 20’s to the late 50’s. Here is a tidbit from the concert. The full one will be included in the next article.
This is the final part of videos from the Ellington ’94 conference in Stockholm.
At the end of the first day, Professor Ted Hudson, at that time vice-president of the Washington D.C. Chapter of Duke Ellington Society, gave a presentation on Ellington’s childhood in Washington D.C. In it, he depicted the cultural, religious and racial environment, in which Ellington grew up.
On the last day, Walter van de Leur – the Billy Strayhorn specialist and nowadays professor Jazz and Improvised Music at the University of Amsterdam – gave his first Ellington conference presentation on his research work on Billy Strayhorn. He would give presentations on this topic at many other Ellington conferences and academic musicologist gatherings.
Also Dr. John Edward Hasse, Curator of American Music at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., took the stage the last day. His topic was ”Ellington Storms Sweden” and he presented press and and public reactions to Ellington’s Swedish and European tour in 1939. He also talked about the work of his department at the Smithsonian to preserve the legacy of Ellington and sold many copies of his book ”Beyond Categories – The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington”, which had been published in 1993.
And then, after three full days of presentations, concerts and social mingling, it was time to thank the organizers, say good-bye and announce Ellington ’95.
Richard Wang, director of the jazz ensemble at the University of Illinois, gave the last presentation of the first day. He talked about the 1994 revival in Chicago of Ellington’s Beggar’s Opera.
The second day of the conference included a presentation by the English trumpeter and musicologist, Ken Rattenbury, on Ellington’s method of composition. The result of his research work was later publish in the book, ”Duke Ellington, Jazz Composer”.
In the afternoon, Lawrence H. Lawrence talked about Bubber Miley. Unfortunately, only about 30 minutes of his presentation was taped. The beginning part is missing.
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.