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The 24 Duke Ellington Study Group conferences have been documented in photos, sound and video recordings, articles in the DEMS Bulletin, the DESS Bulletin, Blue Light and similar publication etc. Except for the articles, this material is not easily accessible for Ellington aficionados and is often buried in archives or personal collection.
The late Sjef Hoefsmit – the eminent Ellington scholar and editor of the DEMS Bulletin – took part in all Study Group conferences from 1982 to 2008 and in 1986 he started to document the proceedings of the conferences with his video camera. He was also given copies of sound recordings of some conferences. After his passing away in 2012, all the tapes has been hidden away in a box in Hoefsmit’s study and later in the basement of his daughter Babette’s basement.
The box with some 140 tapes was recently donated to the DESS website.
The website will do its outmost to convert them to digital format and make them available through it.
A project group composed of Louis Tavecchio, Joe Medjuk, David Palmquist and the editor of the website has been formed. It will oversee and guide the work. The group is an open one so anyone, who would like to be part of it and contribute to its work is welcome.
A list of the tapes is available here.
For almost 35 years, The Duke Ellington Study Group Conferences have brought together Ellington scholars and aficionados to share their thoughts and knowledge about his work, life and music, to learn more about it and to enjoy live performances of all kinds. The 24th one took place in New York last year.
Inspired by Göran Wallén, who has participated in many of the conferences and organized two of them, in 1994 and 2004, the DESS website will publish a series of articles about the conferences. Göran Wallén will be the editor of the series and share memories, photos and documents. He hopes that others will contribute as well.
This first article is about how The Duke Ellington Study Group conferences came about.
”And last let us not overlook the splendid music and inspired invention of the wonderful Alice Babs. Her personality comes across as a sunburst. When all the hoy-hah has finally faded into partial obscurity, her gorgeous happy presence and incomparable vocal virtuosity will remain so clear, so unforgettably vivid. Alice Babs is indeed an Ellingtonian beyond compare.”
These were the words with which the Ellington expert and music researcher Ken Rattenbury concluded his review of the Ellington 1994 conference in the first issue of the DESS Bulletin.
In reports from other Duke Ellington Study Group conferences Babs took part in, one often finds similar feelings. She was a much appreciated contributor to and participant in the conferences.
But perhaps, for Babs the conferences went beyond having fun and making new friends. They were also an opportunity for her to keep the Ellington music and legacy alive. She put in much work to prepare her presentations as conveyed by her papers at the Swedish Jazz Archive.
This article aims to give some snapshots of her participation in Ellington conferences and share some photos from them. (mer…)