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A highlight of the second day was another nightly concert.
This time it was Bob Wilber and the Ellington ’88 Orchestra that took the stage and they did so to honor Billy Strayhorn.
The Ellington alumnies Bill Berry, Buster Cooper, Jimmy Woode and Sam Woodyard were part of the band on and off during the evening. They appeared particularily in the rendition of the small group band “The Coronets” known from recordings on the Mercer label.
A recurring feature in the conference program was to let the Ellington alumnies share their memories of Ellington and their time with him in different panels.
The first one took place on the second day when the doyen of British jazz critics and the author of important books on jazz in the 1950’s and 1960’s interviewed Bill Berry and Buster Cooper “about their times with the maestro”.
It was followed up later in the day when Herb Jeffries and Sjef Hoefsmit sat down together to talk about Ellington and the orchestra in the early 1940’s and about “Ellington the man”. Don’t miss the end of this video! It got the conference crowd on its feet.
More from Ellington ’88 will follow! But in between comes Ellington ’18 in Birmingham from which the website also will report.
The Ellington Study Group Conference in Oldham, England in 1985 was apparently very special. Roger Boyes was there and he says that “the spirit it generated was quite magical”.
As a result, the organizers took the decision “there and then” to do it again. However, planning for Newark ’86 was already well in hand by then, and Toronto was penciled in for ’87. So 1988 was the next year available.
Once the conference was announced, the registrations for participation started to come in quickly and Roger Boyes was one who registered early.
Also Bo Haufman, Deputy Chair of DESS and the editor of the DESS Bulletin, took part in the conference and he remembers it very well.
“It was my first Ellington Study Group Conference and it was a very good experience, which triggered me to go to many more, including Birmingham 2018 in two weeks. It took place in the same venue as the 1985 conference – Birch Hall in Oldham – and was run in a very capable way by Mike Hazeldine after the sad passing away of Eddie Lambert about a year before the conference.
Almost all of the presentations were very interesting. I remember in particular the ones by Loren Schoenberg, who talked about “Midriff”, and by Bob Wilber, who made a very knowledgeable presentation of Johnny Hodges and his development over the years.
Jerry Valburn talked about both common and odd 78 rpm Ellington records in his extensive collection of records and Klaus Stratemann about his “Day by Day” project.
In the many panels, that discussed various aspects of Duke Ellington and his music, we could hear Sjef Hoefsmit, Patricia Willard, Andrew Homzy, Jack Towers, Alice Babs, Herb Jeffries and several others.
The evening concerts were presented by a fantastic band put together and led by Bob Wilber. Guest performer was Bill Berry and of course Herb Jeffries and Alice Babs appeared with the band. In it were such names as Jimmie Woode, Buster Cooper, Danny Moss and Anti Sarpila. Afterwards Herb Jeffries gave us a wonderful show ending with “Flamingo”.
The Swedes, who attended the Conference, were Carl-Erik Carlsson, Peter Lee and myself and then of coursefor Alice Babs and Nils Sjöblom.”
The organizing committee had worked hard for almost two years to get everything in place and the day before the conference some of its members made sure that the conference attendees would easily find their way to the conference venue.
Bob Wilber followed in their steps and brought together the band for an two and a half hour rehearsal before the start of the conference.
And then finally, in the morning of May 26, 1988, it was time to open the conference.
The opening ceremony ended with Hazeldine inviting Herb Jeffries to the podium to say a few words. “It is all for the love of Duke” was Jeffries credo.
In mid-October last year, the DESS website presented the first Ellington Study Group Conference, which took place in Washington D.C. in May 1983.
Six years later the conference was back in Washington D.C. – this time on the occasion of Ellington’s 90th birthday.
Early next month. we will publish some articles about the conference. We have quite a lot of video tapes with presentations as a basis for this, but we are still looking for photos, personal memories etc, to give a more full picture. Please contact the web editor if you have material to contribute.
However, to give you a taste of the conference, we already publish today some excerpts from the conference proceedings.
Herb Jeffries was one of the invited guest to perform at the conference and tell about his time with Ellington. He got a very special honor.
On two nights of the conference, Doug Richard’s and his Great American Music Ensemble presented Ellington’s music from the 1920’s to the 1950’s.
One of the presenter’s the last day was Sjef Hoefsmit and his lecture on “Ellington’s Trains” should not be missed.