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Ellington News-Nyheter Jan. 2022

I used to call this type of articles “Smått och gott / Bits and Pieces” but I think “Ellington News-Nyheter” is more relevant and I will call them this from now on.

DESS Bulletin 2022-1

The new issue offers – as usual – a lot of interesting reading both in Swedish and in English.

This time, the major article is about Lil Greenwood – “Duke’s Blues Belter” – who sung with the Ellington band for 30 months in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

This seven-page piece is written by DESS member Sven-Erik Baun Christensen and it gives the reader everything there is to know about Greenwood. He writes about her early career as gospel and R&B singer, her early records, her meeting and 30 months with the Ellington Orchestra and her years and appearances on the West Cost thereafter.

It is obvious that Sven-Erik has an affection for her and would like the Ellington community to learn more about her than what one finds in Ellington discographies.

In his view, her main contribution during the two and a half years with Ellington “was to bring to the band a new vocal earthiness, based in her gospel and blues background, that aroused the band and exited audiences”… “The studio recording of Walkin’ and Singin’ the Blues and the best of the concert performances released in later years are evidence that she was worthy of the distinction of being, if only for a short period, Duke Ellington’s female vocalist”.

The Bulletin has this time two more articles in English.

One is a reprint of an article in the souvenir program for Ellington’s 1958 European tour titled The Future of Jazz. It does not read like a true article written by Ellington but rather a text versioin of an interview. But who knows? Anyhow, it is interesting to read as are the comments by Bo Haufman.

The other is a contribution by Mike Zirpolo about Billy Strayhorn or more specifically about The Peaceful Side of Billy Strayhorn album. He tells how the album came about – Strayhorn was in Paris with Ellington for the Paris Blues film and one day a young American record producer approached him in a café about making a recording of his own compositions and Strayhorn said “Why not” and two days later the recording session took place – look closely into A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing.

The article originates from a blog post on Zirpolo’s blog Swing & Beyond.

In the issue, Bo Haufman himself has contributed two interesting articles in Swedish. One is about Ellington’s performances at Carnegie Hall and the other about the song Wanderlust which Hodges recorded with a small group on 20 December 1938.

It is most likely a Hodges composition but it is officially attributed to both Hodges and Ellington.  It also appears on Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins and the Pablo album Up in Duke’s Workshop. There is also a stockpile recording of the piece from 23 May 1969.

Blue Light Winter 2021-22

Whether it is the third issue for 2021 or the first for 2022 one can discuss, but in any case it is – as Blue Light’s new editor Gareth Evans has said – “a bumper issue”. It is expanded from the usual 22 pages to 30 pages and Evans has managed to use the extra space very well.

The new issue is dominated by two major articles, which take up almost half of the 30 pages.

The first one is Roger Boyes’ A Month At The Capitol. It is another one in his very valuable and impressive series on Ellington in the 1940’s. This time, he “looks at the Ellington Orchestra’s 1943 activities in the weeks following the 30 September Philadelphia concert and it follows straight on from Stability and Change in BL 28/2.”

In the first part of the article, Boyes deals with Ellington’s month-long engagement at the Capitol Theatre on Broadway and 51st Street in October 1943.

It was apparently a very succesful engagement both artistically and financially, which is detailed in the article.

Since Shorty Baker, Nar Jones and Junior Raglin were not members of New York’s Local 802 of the Musicians’ Union, Ellington had to use temporary stand-ins during the engagement. As a result, Otto Hardwicke came back to the orchestra and Dizzy Gillespie had a brief tenure in it. There were several stand-ins for Junior Raglin but Wilson Meyers seems to have done “over half” of the subbings.

As regards Gillespie, Boyes does not only state that “Dizzy Gillespie substitued for Shorty Baker” but uses the statement as the starting point for a mini essay on the impact of Gillespie’s four weeks with Ellington on himself and on the orchestra. There are many other examples in article of this style of essay writing and they makes it even more enjoyable to read it.

The article’s second part is devoted to Ellington’s recordings of transcriptions for World Broadcasting System. They took place in two sessions in November and in December. Boyes goes through them in detail and expands particularly on new soloists and new compositions. There will be reasons to come back to this.

The second major article – The Race for Space  – is written by Gareth Evans himself and is about Ellington recordings connected with the cosmic scene. The title is from an article Ellington presumably wrote  in late 1957 but which was never published. It is a kind of springboard for Evans’ look at seven Ellington/Strayhorn pieces with titles associated to space or cosmos.

The first five are from Colmbia 1957-1959 albums – Ballet of the Flying Saucers (A Drum is a Woman) , Spacemen (The Cosmic Scene), Launching Pad and Duel Fuel (Festival Session) and Blues In Orbit (Blues In Orbit). The sixth one is Telstar – a stock pile recording in 1962 and the last one Moon Maiden – the result of a commission from ABC-TV.

Evans has interesting things to say about all of them and it is refreshing to get the perspectives of a younger generation of Ellington experts. I don’t think I have seen Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pink Floyd and similar artists mentioned in articles about Ellington before. Or am I wrong?

The article is accompanied by a playlist on Spotify, which includes not only the Ellington recordings but also a recording of Peter Long’s reworking of Gustav Holst’s The Planet by the Echoes of Ellington Jazz Orchestra. A nice widening of perspectives!

Among other things in the new issue I particularly recommend Fred Glueckstein’s article about the relationship between Tony Bennett and the obituary on Charlie Watts. It was very good to learn that my image of the Rolling Stones’ drummer has been totally wrong all those years. Now I know better!

Tone Parallel

Ian Bradley published the second issue of Tone Parallel some weeks ago. It is available at https://toneparallel.substack.com/p/tone-parallel-5ad.

The issue is about singer, dancer, composer Ann Henry and her composition Pockets, the dedication of the new Alvar Aalto Library at Mount Angel Abbey, a Benedictine community, near Portland in Oregon in May 1970 and Duke Ellington’s appearance there with his orchestra.

Bradley wrote about this subject about two years on his blog Ellington Live  http://ellingtonlive.blogspot.com/2020/05/ but since then he has done a lot of work to find out more about Ann Henry and to improve the sound of the Vimeo video and the reel-to-reel tape which have the music from the event.

It seems fair to presume that Pockets: It’s Amazing When Love Goes On Parade was composed with the dedication of Alvar Aalto Library in mind but Bradley does not go into this, he rather focus on the work itself.

It is written in three movements. The first one is a waltz, the second one a march and the last one “meditative. Based on musical notation by Henry, Ron Collier did the orchestration and conducted the Ellington orchestra in the performance of the work on 29 May 1970. Henry herself sings the lyrical parts.

The Vimeo video with the first hour of the concert is an integral part of Bradley’s video together with an 8 minutes excerpt from a professionally restored sound track of the video and a clip from the reel-to-reel tape with Don’t Get Down On Your Knees To Pray Until You Have Forgiven Everyone sung by Tony Watkins. It is not clear if Bradley intends to share the full Ellington part with other Ellington collectors.

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