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Duke Ellington spent the whole month of June 1963 in Sweden. He arrived at the Stockholm-Arlanda airport on May 31, where Swedish Radio made a short interview with him.
Ellington started his Swedish tour with gigs in the towns of Västerås, Örebro and Karlstad on June 1, 2 and 3.
Then on June 4, Ellington begun his week-long dance date engagement at the Gröna Lund amusement park in the center of Stockholm.
In his book “Gröna Lund – Stora scenen kl. 20.00”, Ove Hahn – the artistic director at the time – says that it was a dream come true to have Ellington to play for dance at the park.
Every night, the Duke and his orchestra, started the evening by playing a half an hour concert at 8 pm on the main outdoor stage in the middle of the park in front of a big audience.
The full outdoor concert on June 8 is available in the “Goodie of the Month” section of the website
Many had brought their photo cameras to the concert. One of them was the photographer and photo historian Leif Wigh. Here are his close-up photos of Duke, Russell Procope and Harry Carney on the outdoor stage.
Also DESS member Jim Björk was in the audience and clicked with his camera. “I was there every night”, he says. “I first listened to the concert on Stora scenen, which was about 30 minutes long. Then I went to Dans In to be able to sit close to the orchestra and enjoy the music.”
At the Ellington conference in Stockholm in May 1994, Ove Hahn talked about Ellington’s week at Gröna Lund.
He said that when it was announced that Ellington and his orchestra was going to play for dance at Gröna Lund, there was a lot of articles in the newspapers saying that it was wrong to use art as dance music. Therefore, Hahn was very happy when he already on the first night discovered that the band loved to play for dance.
He had of course a lot of contacts not only with Ellington, but also with the members of the band. He got to know most of them by their first names, but learned quickly that Johnny Hodges should be addressed as Mr. Hodges.
He liked Paul Gonsalves a lot – “the most wonderful man I ever met” – but did not go along with Sam Woodyard. “I found him most arrogant. We never quarreled but we simply did not like each other.”
In his presentation, Hahn also claims that Ellington approached him at the end of the week and asked if the engagement could be prolonged. Possibly he did this but it is a little bit surprising since Ellington was contracted to play in many places all over Sweden after the week at Gröna Lund.
At the end of the presentation, Hahn played some of the music recorded by Benny Åslund at Dans In during Ellington’s engagement.