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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.
On March 3, 1965, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) aired an one-hour long television program with Duke Ellington. It included sections of an interview made on September 2, 1994 and of performances of the Ellington orchestra and dancer Bunny Briggs recorded on September 3 and 4. The interview was made by Byng Whittaker – a famous CBC announcer and interviewer – and he got Ellington to relax and open up to his questions.
One of his questions were: “Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?” and here is what Duke answered.
The tune on which Ellington improvises is “Blue Tune” from 1932.
Whittaker asked of course many more questions. Duke’s answers to them and the music he played to illustrate them further can be heard on a tape, which will be available on the website in a couple of days. It will be accompanied by comments by the Ellington scholar Louis Tavecchio, who presented the program and the recordings to the 21st Study Group Conference in Woking, England in 2012.