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The Duke and The Tiger

Duke Ellington recorded Tiger Rag for the first time on January 8, 1929 for Brunswick. It was an extended version, which was issued on a 12 inch 78 (Brunswick 6510)

At the Ellington ’92 conference in Copenhagen, Dan Morgenstein – Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University for more than 30 years – spoke about Ellington’s performances of Tiger Rag and how he used the Tiger Rag themes in many imagitative ways.

He had spoken on this topic already at the Ellington ’83 conference in Washington D.C. but only a very short excerpt of that presentation has been preserved.

The Mercer Ellington donation

The program of the Ellington ’92 conference also included a presentation on the Mercer Ellington donation to Danish Radio. It was delivered by Erik Wiedemann, Bjarne Busk and Flemming Sjølund Jensen.

Photo: Bjarne Busk

First Erik Wiedemann spoke about Mercer Ellington’s donation of 781 Ellington tapes to Danish Radio on the condition that it would properly mixed onto new tapes.

Then Bjarne Busk and Flemming Sjølund Jensen followed up by letting the audience listen to examples from the archive.

Busk talked among other things about his excitement when he listened to the first tape, which started with what turned out to be Pastel from the Degas Suite. He also gave some figures on the donation. 443 tapes were studio recordings from 128 dates. There was also 69 tapes with live recordings from 35 occasions and 53 tapes with interviews of Ellington.

Photo: Bjarne Busk

Busk finished his presentation by playing a recording from the Aug. 18, 1966 session ”which will never be issued” but also other examples from the tapes were included in it.

Sjølund Jensen focused his presentation on an untitled blues recorded on Nov. 23, 1968 and used it to demonstrate ”how Ellington and the band developed their material”. He very much featured Lawrence Brown in his clips.

Ellington ’92 in Copenhagen (3)

Another theme of the Copenhagen conference was ”Remembering Duke”, which allowed speakers to share the memories of Duke and experiences from working with him.

The first speaker on this theme was Leonard Feather, who of course had a lot to tell about his memories of Duke but also about himself.

Feather’s presentation also gave those, who has never heard Ellington sing, the opportunity to do so and also to hear Cootie Williams play trombone.

After his presentation, Feather called Clark Terry and Rolf Ericson onto stage to be interviewed about their times in the Ellington orchestra. It is a relaxed interview which gave the audience many laughs.

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The presentation of the Ellington biographer Austin H. Lawrence on Ellington’s England 1933 tour also falls in the category of ”remembering”.

At one point  Luis Russell – the small big band leader – had told him that one of the most important things that happened to Duke was when he went to England. ”He was a different man when he came back”, Russel said.

So for Lawrence ”the trip to England helped Ellington grow” and this is the focus of his presentation.

 

 

Ellington ’92 in Copenhagen (2)

The Danish bass player and radioman Erik Moseholm was another speaker on this theme. His topic was the Danish bass tradition and the inspiration of Ellington’s basists on it. He talked about the guitarist/basist Niels Foss the first major Danish bass player, Oscar Pettiford, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and of course about himself. The classical bass teacher Oscar Hegner and his 4-finger-technique features also prominently in the presentation.

Moseholm’s presentation was followed by a live demonstration by two – at that time – young Danish bass players, Jesper Lundgaard and Mads Vinding. Unfortunately, the performance was not recorded, presumably for copyright reasons.

Another major theme for the conference was ”The Passing on of The Ellington Tradition”.

Stanley Crouch was the first speaker on this theme. In his presentation ”The Temporary Significance of Duke Ellington” he talked a lot about the early roots of jazz and placed Ellington in this context.

It was followed by a panel discussion, in which Crouch participated together with Andrew Homzy, Peter Watrous and Erik Wiedeman. The topic of the panel was Recreating Ellington – Problems and Rewards.

The chairman of the panel, Dan Morgenstern, asked it to focus on ”to what extent is it possible to create/recreate Ellington’s music”. He also brought in the issue: ”How can Ellington’s legacy  best be used in today’s jazz”.

This led to an interesting discussion with comments with relevance also today.

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