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The third ”goodie” in December is program 31 in the Duke Ellington series broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the ”Goodies” section of the website.
This program was broadcasted on August 23, 1985 and the presenter is Erik V. Krustrup.
It is totally focused on the music that Ellington wrote for the film Racing World or The Impressionists At The Racetrack). However, the musical part is most commonly known as The Degas Suite.
The film was to be a 30 minutes documentary about paintings and sketches of race courses by foremost Degas but also other impressionist painters like Forain and Dufy. Unfortunately, the project run out of money before the film was finished so it was never released.
Using the many pieces of music recorded for the film found in Mercer Ellington’s donation, Krustrup tries to bring The Degas Suite to the listerners in a form close to what it was meant to be.
As an appetizer, the broadcast start with one of the takes of Race. This one is played by Paul Gonsalves. Then the program continues with some examples of recorded snippets and how they were used to build larger musical blocks like for the opening squence of the film.
Four takes of Race comes next – two with Johnny Hodges and two with Ellington. They are followed by Promenade (aka Red Circle), COPA II, Racing, Trump, Sonnet and Daily Double.
The broadcast ends with a piece called Improvisation and another take of Race.
Improvisation was later used in The River and then called The Run. It is the same theme as The Queen’s Guard, which Ellington played on piano at the rehearsal for the telecast from Cirkus in Stockholm on February 8, 1966.
More of The Degas Suite is in the next broadcast.
The second ”goodie” in December is program 28 in the Duke Ellington series broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the ”Goodies” section of the website.
This program was broadcasted on August 2, 1985 and the presenter is Knud Sörensen.
The first 1/3 of the broadcast let us listen to 16 very short snippets of music Ellington composed for the film Change of Mind, which was released in October 1969. The snippets in the broadcast were recorded on April 25, 1969 but music for the film was also recorded in two sessions in May and one in June 1969.
This part of the broadcast ends with a longer piece – Neo-Creole – played by Ellington on electric piano. It’s a rock adaptation of the main theme from Creole Rhapsody.
Those interested in how the music was used in the film can find part of it on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfIVJ50357I). At 8:53 there is a segment with Ellington’s music. Thank you to Brian Koller for the link.
From ”Change of Mind”, the broadcast moves on the May 24, 1962 stockpile session. The selection in the program has Ray Nance in the lead role. We hear him play Flirtibird and Smada. The recording engineer announces Flirtibird as take -3 which means that it is different from the take used for the issues on LP and CD.
Sörensen then brings the listener The Feeling of Jazz recorded on May 25, 1962. It is sung by Milt Grayson accompanied by Ellington at the piano.
Next in the broadcast comes a small jewel, We hear Ellington sitting down alone at the piano in Paris March 10, 1967 playing Meditation, T.G.T.T. and Little Purple Flower. The circumstances surrounding this session is not known to us. Was it recorded in a rehearsal room at Theatre Des Champs Elysée before the concert there started? Anyone knows?
The broadcast ends with an excerpt from the recording session November 23, 1968 in which Harold Ashby in a tribute to Ben Webster plays I Can’t Get Started accompanied only by trio.
The first ”goodie” in December is program 27 in the Duke Ellington series broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the ”Goodies” section of the website.
This program was broadcasted on July 26, 1985 and the presenter is Fleming Jensen.
He starts the program with Feeling of Jazz from the July 3, 1962 stockpile session. First we hear take -8, which has been issued on both LP and CD, and then the short take -2.
The next feature in the program is three selections from March 29, 1962 – Things Ain’t What They Used To Be, I Got It Bad and Jam In C (Circle Blues in NDESOR). Jensen thinks that in this small group session Sonny Greer replaces Sam Woodyard on drums. The ellingtonia.com discography agrees with this but only as regards Jam In C.
Three numbers from the stockpile session March 15, 1967 bring the broadcast to the end. Apparently, there were no names on the score sheets They when they were recorded but were only identified by numbers – No. 3, No. 5, No. 4 and No. 6.
However, They have been given names both in the Ellington discographies and in the album texts to the LP and CD issues of them.
No. 3 is Tell Me ‘Bout My Baby, no. 5 is Kentucky Ave, AC, No. 4 Near North and No. 6 Soul Country
By including six takes of No. 6, Fleming Jensen gives the listener an opportunity to follow the creative when a new melody is born.
On June 26-27 1959, Duke Ellington appeared at a four-day jazz festival in Tamiment-In-The-Poconos, Pennsylania. Here he presented a new fourteen-minute work called Idiom ’59.
One week later, on July 4 1959, he played it again (in a slightly different version) at the Newport Jazz Festival and possibly at other festivals during the summer.
On September 8, Ellington and the band went into Columbia’s 30th Street Studios to record Idiom ’59 and other highlights of the summer tour. Ten of them – including Idiom ’59 – were issued on the Festival Session album in 1960. The original version – Columbia CL 1400 – was in mono but a stereo version was issued later in the year by CBS France.
After the Columbia recording, Idiom ’59 disappeared from the Ellington repertoire and went into a kind of shadow land. It ”attracted little critical attention” (Boyes) and did not create much enthusiasm among Ellington experts and aficionados. When Eddie Lambert wrote about the work in his Listerner’s Guide, he says that ”neglect and obscurity have been its lot” even if he considers that there is ”enough of fine music to deserve more”.
With this background, it was very welcome that the Ellington ’88 conference in Oldham allowed Idiom ’59 to have a little bit of a comeback.
The Ellington ’88 Orchestra featured it in its ”Extended Ellington” concerts and this was preceded by an outstanding presentation of the work by Andrew Homzy – Professor of Jazz Studies at Concordia University in Toronto at the time and a specialist in extended jazz works.
Before coming to Oldham, Homzy had transcribed and analyzed Idiom ’59 in detail. For this he had used three different issues of the Festival Session LP (see below). To the benefit of the conference participants (and now also the readers of this article), he had summarized his work in an eleven-page handout. It goes through the work bar-by-bar and gives a number of examples, which illustrate the work’s motifs and their development.
It is highly recommended to digest it before listening to the presentation. It can be downloaded here.
With the lecture, Homzy wanted to take the listeners through Idiom ’59 to present some of the things he had ”discovered in this piece of music to show the strength, the intelligence, the soul, the beauty of Duke Ellington’s work as a composer”.
Roger Boyes was in the audience and got very enthusiastic about Homzy’s presentation. An article he published in Blue Light in 2010 reflects this. ”A fascinating paper” he says. Boyes’ full article is available here and we are grateful to Roger to have been allowed to draw from it for this article.
Jack Chambers – member of the Toronto Chapter of the Duke Ellington Society – has contributed this article about Ellington’s stockpile session in Toronto in 1972 to the DESS website.
In addition to being a distinguished Professor of Linguistics, Jack is the author of books and articles on jazz.
In 1983 and 1985 he published his two volume groundbreaking biography on Miles Davis. It is now available in a single volume paperback (Da Capo 1998). In 2008 he published a biography of the pianist Richard Twardzik called ”Bouncing with Bartok”.
Jack was a frequent contributor to the Canadian Coda magazine until it disappeared in 2009. Recent articles of him include “Ellington’s Three Steps into The River” (IAJRC 2017) and “Panther Patter: Ellington at the Piano” (Blue Light 2017).
At the Ellington conference at the Royal Conservatoire in Birmingham, England he presented “Celebration— Duke Ellington’s lost symphony”. A pdf version of his presentation is available for download at the Toronto Duke Ellington Society website in its “Archives”.
”Duke Ellington’s private recording session in Toronto in 1972 has been fraught with misinformation.
I have recently come upon a reminiscence by the recording engineer at that session that leads to a few more corrections. Bill King, the redoubtable jazz pianist and promoter, published an interview with George Simkiw, the recording engineer and producer, by way of commemorating George’s death in June 2018. I cite the excerpt from Bill’s interview involving Ellington, with Bill’s permission. The entire interview may be found at:
Following the excerpt below from Bill’s interview, I point out the ways in which this interview and other sources clarify this recording session.
Bill King: When you were there [at RCA Studio, Toronto], you did a recording with Duke Ellington.
George Simkiw: The Duke Ellington thing was like a crime mystery. I get a call during the day. It was on a Saturday or Sunday and I get a call saying, listen we need to do a session at 7 o’clock this evening. Can you be there? He said, ‘set up’ for about 25 pieces. I said give me a rough idea. He says, four trumpets – I say just give me a rough sketch, so I did a rough set up for them. Around a quarter to seven, musicians crept in. I didn’t recognize any of them. I usually know every musician in town. Then Duke Ellington walks in. They are doing this secret session. I remember Ron Rully was there. He was part of that whole thing; the jazz drummer. There were some heavyweight people there and my jaw dropped. I actually went out and talked to the Duke as he was having some problems with his music stand. I helped adjust it for him. He thanked me, broke another pencil and never used the same pencil twice. It was like surreal.
BK: What was the session all about?
GS: I never heard anything more about it.
BK: Did it sound good?
GS: I thought it did. I think the music was something Ron Rully wrote, or a local guy wrote.
Two of the charts played on that day were by Ron Collier (not Ron Rully).
Ron Collier was indeed a “local guy,” a trombone player, bandleader and composer based in Toronto. From 1969 until 1972, after Billy Strayhorn’s death, Ellington hired Collier for several projects: in 1969, Collier wrote two charts for Duke Ellington’s Reader’s Digest commission (“Mañha de carnaval,” “A Taste of Honey”); in 1970, Collier orchestrated The River, Ellington’s masterwork of his last years, premiered by the American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Centre; in 1972, besides arranging for this “secret session,” he orchestrated Ellington’s symphony, Celebration, premiered that year by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
It is not surprising that George Simkiw recognized Ron Rully. As he said, “I usually know every musician in town,” and Rully was a prominent drummer in Toronto jazz circles. He was, for instance, the drummer in Ron Collier’s quintet for the two decades of its existence, and his close friend. He was in the studio that night, beyond a doubt, at Collier’s invitation. Ellington, as is well known, enjoyed having a crowd at his recording sessions, and it would not be surprising if Collier had invited other musicians as well.
It is surprising that Simkiw did not remember Collier and confused him with Rully (though we should keep in mind that he was recalling one evening more than 45 years earlier). The phone call asking him to set up the studio must have come from Collier. In his presentation at the Duke Ellington conference in Toronto in 1996, Collier recalled, “Ellington’s sister Ruth called [from New York], ‘Book a studio and bring some charts’.” It was almost certainly Collier, who called Simkiw to book the studio and give him the set-up.
A few tracks from this Toronto session were released on a cut-rate Laserlight CD in 1992 (Cool Rock). Stanley Dance wrote the liner notes and probably selected the tracks, which come from two different stockpile recordings made in different cities. Dance is presumably the source for the discographic details. He was probably working with frugal documentation, but in any event they are mainly wrong.
The studio was originally listed as “Toronto Sound Studio” and the recording engineer Phil Sheridan; Sheridan’s studio was actually called Thunder Sound. Sheridan was the leading jazz producer in Toronto, and if you were guessing where this session took place, he would be the best guess. But it turns out that the studio was RCA Toronto, and that the engineer was George Simkiw.
Fred Stone, the Toronto flugelhorn player who was in Ellington’s orchestra in the first half of 1970, is listed with the trumpets at this session. Cootie Williams is conspicuously absent in the listing, and it may appear as if Stone was another “local guy” brought in to replace him. However, Cootie Williams was definitely there. In 1996 Collier talked about Cootie as the soloist on one of his charts played that day, “Vancouver Lights,” and remembered a mild rebuff when he started preparing for another take after Cootie announced, “That’s a take.” Collier said, “Duke gets up from the piano and he comes over, puts his arm around me, says, ‘Ron, when Cootie says that’s a take that means he’s not gonna play it any more.’ So that was it for that piece.”
If Stone was also there, that makes five trumpets though Simkiw specifically remembers the set-up called for four.
The date for the session is given as 22 June 1972. That was a Thursday, and Simkiw recalls getting the phone call “on a Saturday or Sunday… for a session at 7 o’clock this evening.” That sets the date at 24 or 25 June.
Finally, only one of Collier’s two charts was released on the Laserlight CD. It is identified as “Vancouver Lights,” but Collier pointed out that it is actually his other chart, “Relaxin’.” “Vancouver Lights” remains unissued. When Collier asked Dance about the mix-up, he said, “When we got the boxes, it was rather confusing.” In more ways than one, apparently.
The discographical listings that rely on Dance’s liner information (Timner and all others I have seen) should be revised as follows:
“Relaxin’” 3:11 RCA Studios, Toronto. 24 or 25 June 1972. George Simkiw engineer
CD: Cool Rock . Laserlight 15 782 .
Money Johnson tp, voc (on “Hello Dolly”), Cootie Williams, perhaps Fred Stone, Johnny Coles, Mercer Ellington tp; Vince Prudente, Chuck Connors, tb; Russell Procope as, clnt; Norris Turney as, fl; Harold Minerve ts cl fl; Harold Ashby ts; Harry Carney bs, cl, bass cl; Duke Ellington, p; Joe Benjamin b; Rufus Jones d, Ron Collier comp, arr;
One of the most emotional events at the Ellington ’88 conference was when Sam Woodyard was presented with a complete new drumset to replace the one that had been stolen from him in Paris.
It all begun at the start of the third day of the conference.
Woodyard did good use of his gift at the gala concert that ended the day.
In the concert, Bob Wilber and The Ellingtonian ’88 Orchestra presented a program of extended works by Ellington.
Here is the first part of the concert. It starts with a longer version of Daybreak Express using the scores from the Cotton Club movie. Then follows Creole Rhapsody transcribed by Brian Priestly and Idiom ’59.
Next a smaller group of the orchestra – The Rugcutters – plays a selection of small band Ellingtonia before the full orchestra is back to give the audience Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.
The second part of the concert will be published in September.
Bob Wilber was not only the musical director of the Ellington ’88 and leader of The Ellington ’88 Orchestra but also one of the presenters. In the first session of the third day of the conference, he presented his perception of Johnny Hodges of which he was a great fan. Wilber writes a lot about him in his autobiography ”Music was not enough”
The third ”goodie” in June is program 25 in the Duke Ellington series broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the ”Goodies” section of the website.
The program was broadcasted on July 12, 1985 and the announcer is Bjarne Busk.
Ellington’s My People is the focus of the broadcast. Busk gives the listerners 11 selections from the musical recorded either on August 20, 1963 or August 21 and August 27 plus a short interview with Mercer Ellington about ”My People”.
The program starts with a ”Piano Blues Ouverture”. It is the non-vocal version of ”Jail Blues” which is not included in the program.
Next comes ”Blues at Sundown”, a long-term feature for Jimmy Grissom.
Joya Sherrill sung ”My Heritage (aka My Mother, My Father and Love)” in the original performance of the musical. Bjarne Busk let us hear it in the broadcast (including the narration) but also a short retake of the ending of the song.
Then follows an incomplete take (-1) ”King” (”aka King Fit The Battle Of Alabam) and the full take-2 of the piece. In the show it was apparently preceeded by a slower version of the same song. The latter is unfortunately not included in the broadcast but available on CD.
The broadcast continues with a rendition of ”The Blues Ain’t” sung by Lee Greenwood. In the show this song was performed by Joya Sherrill just before ”Blues At Sundown”.
A non-complete version of ”Walking And Singin’ The Blues” sung by Lee Greenwood comes next.
Following a short interview with Mercer Ellington, the broadcast ends with ”Strange Feeling” from ”Perfume Suite”sung by Jimmy Grissom and ”After Bird Jungle” with Rudy Powell as clarinet soloist.
From a discographical point of view, it is not easy to decode the broadcast but it seems to be a fair presumption that the dates and takes of the different songs are basically identical to what is included in the Storyville issue of the complete show (Storyville 1018430).