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In the beginning of July, Jack Chambers – professor of Linguistics at the University of Toronto and well-known jazz writer – published a new book. This time it is about Duke Ellington and entitled Sweet Thunder.
It is not a traditional biography but a book, which explores the music of the Maestro by tracing nine themes throughout his 50-year career as composer, orchestrator, pianist and leader.
It brings together into a comprehensive unity articles on Ellington topics that Chambers has published in Coda, IARJC Journal, Blue Light etc. or presentations given by him to the members of the Toronto Duke Ellington Society Chapter 40. They have all been revised and adjusted for the purpose of the book.
Each chapter is really a kaleidoscopically written essay full of information and reflections. Together they give a very rich perspective on Ellington’s music. Some of the themes are Ellington’s Harlem – Lotus Eaters Unite (about Johnny Hodges and Billy Strayhorn) – Bardland (Shakespeare and Ellington) – Afro-Eurasian Ellington – Three Steps Into The River.
The references and playlists at the end of each chapter are also very valuable.
An advantage of Chambers’ approach with themes is that it gives different ways to read the book. It can be read chapter by chapter in chronological order. But the reader can also reshuffle the book and read the chapters in a personalised order.
Which is the targeted audience of the book?
It seems that it is as Chambers says, ”relative newcomers to Ellington’s 50-year creative journey”. This kind of readers should get a lot from reading the book. However, a problem for them might be that the book right from the start gives a lot of names which might not mean anything to them. So they should possibly be advised to read David Bradbury’s Duke Ellington or John E. Hasse’s Beyond Categories before plunging into Sweet Thunder.
Should those, who already know a lot about Ellington read the book? Chambers hopes that ”the organization into themes will bring new insights to listeners who already know Ellington’s music.” It did so for the web editor and this might also be the case also for others with good knowledge about Ellington and his music.
The Toronto Ellington Chapter has sponsored the book with a ”generous grant”.
Also DESS has contributed towards the production cost to show its support for the book. Hopefully this will encourage many DESS members to buy the book.
Sweet Thunder can be bought on Amazon’s sites both in North America and in Europe. The web editor bought his copy on amazon.de for 28 euros (=300 SEK) but in Europe it is also available om amazon.co.uk and amazon.fr. Avoid buying it from Amazon.com. It is much more expensive with shipping and taxes.
This very word makes you think about Duke Ellington’s music.
It has been used in some of his song-titles but in 1963, Swedish Television used this word as a title of a telecast from the famous concert venue in Stockholm, Cirkus. It was to be Alice Babs’ first appearance and collaboration with Duke Ellington and his orchestra.
The telecast was the brain-child of program producer Arne Arnbom, one of the creative and innovative producers at Swedish Television at that time.
He had a strong interest in ballet and jazz and had already produced some program merging them together like “Sax Appeal” from 1960 with music by the pianist/composet Nils Lindberg. Arnbom had also produced TV programs for Swedish Television with the Swe-Danes. Arne Arnbom was also a child-hood friend of Alice Babs.
Towards the end of 1962, Arnbom went to New York to present the project to Duke’s organization. He told them that he wanted to have a Swedish singer included in the program and that this singer should be Alice Babs.
To give a sense of her singing to his Ellington counterparts, he presented them with the LP album “Alice & Wonderband”, which Babs had recorded with Arne Domnérus’ orchestra in mid-1959 and which included three Ellington songs – “Prelude To A Kiss among them.
The project and Babs were accepted and the program was recorded on February 7, 1963 following Ellington’s concert at the Stockholm Concert Hall the night before. It was broadcasted on April 6, 1963.
“Indigo” is undoubtedly one of the best telecasts with Ellington and his band. Bringing in Alice Babs to sing and adding ballet performances choreograph by the famous Swedish choreographer Birgit Cullberg makes it very special. Arne Arnbom’s direct and almost ascetic pictorial language contributes also a lot to this.
It is a great pleasure to be able to offer our members to share it by viewing and downloading it its totality in the Goodies Room. A clip from the show can be seen below:
”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…)
DESS-bulletinen är en guldgruva av information. När man vill fördjupa sig i ett ämne är det ofta bra att börja med att läsa gamla Bulletiner. De är lätt tillgängliga eftersom de alla finns i pdf-format på webbplatsen tillsammans med en kort sammanfattning av innehållet i varje nummer.
Alice Babs har naturligtvis varit ett återkommande ämne och Bulletinen har publicerat fem längre artiklar om henne.
Den första finns i nummer 1999-4 och handlar om DESS-träffen den 9 mars 1999 där hon var huvudattraktionen.
Hon gav glimtar ur sin långa karriär vilka illustrerades med skivexempel. Kvällen avslutades med en visning av TV-programmet ”Indigo” och den fick en extra dimension genom att Babs kommenterade programmet och berättade om inspelningen.
”is to sing with Duke Ellington”.
This was the answer Alice Babs gave to the American journalist Robert ”Bob” Pierpont when he, in an interview for Swedish Radio in 1950, asked her about her greatest ambition.
A 2:44 minutes excerpt from the interview can be heard below.
Her fascination by and interest in Ellington from an early age also comes up in an interview by Ed Bridges – another American journalist and columnist – published in the DESS Bulletin 2002:3
He asked Babs about the first American song she sang and she told him that the first was Sweet Sue and the second “Diga Diga Doo” “I had heard a Duke Ellington recording and I imitated the growl effects, which Ellington had on that recording” she said.
The interview is also available in the Ellington Archive (read)
Given her early interest and familiarity with Ellington’s music, it is a little bit surprising that she did not recorded an Ellington song until 1943
It happened on October 12, 1943 when she recorded ”Don’t Get Around Much Any More” with the Thore Ehrling Orchestra.
Kustbandet has been around for more than 50 years.
They started in 1962 as a seven piece New Orleans jazz group but soon moved on to become a small big band with a repertoire from the 1920s and 1930s inspired by early hot and swing bands lead by jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Duke Ellington or Count Basie
”It is one of the most authentic jazz bands in this category” according to jazz historian and producer Frans Sjöström’s cover notes for Kustbandet’s CD ”The Man From Harlem”.
Over the years jazz legends like Benny Carter, Benny Waters, Maxine Sullivan, Wild Bill Davison and Doc Cheatham have performed and recorded with the band.
Kustbandet have toured extensively in Sweden as well as the rest of the world.
Duke Ellington is featured prominently in the repertoire of Kustbandet and he is well represented in Kustbandet’s concerts and records (like Cotton Club Stomp from 1986).
This will also be the case at Kustbandet’s concert in Stockholm on October 9, 2016. The concert is part of the Stockholm Jazz Festival in co-arrangement with Duke Ellington Society of Sweden.
”Det är svårt att tänka sig vår tids musik utan Duke Ellington. En gigant som för länge sedan växte ur jazzen och intog en plats bland det 20 århundrandets stora musikaliska original. På många sätt var han unik, kanske den mest unika av vår tids musikpersonligheter. Hans arbetssätt och miljö, hans mångsidighet och hans flamboyanta estradmaner ställde honom vid sidan av de flesta konventioner som vanligtvis tillskrivs tonsättare.
I nästan ett halvt århundrande var Duke Ellington i verksamhet i ett nervpåfrestande kaos och skapade mot alla odds en musik som spänner över allt de enklaste småstycken till timslånga kyrkokonserter, allt stämplat med den Dukish touch som han var ensam om.” (mer…)