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We start by joining the crowd in the Cotton Club to listen to the second part of the concert by Bob Wilber and the Ellington ’88 Orchestra, which ended the second day of the conference. Among other songs, the audience enjoyed Midriff, Passion Flower and Lush Life.
As said in the previous article on Ellington ’88, a feature in the conference program was to let the Ellington alumnies share their memories of Ellington and their time with him in different panels.
In line with this, the English jazz journalist and Ellington specialist Steven Voce had a spot in the conference to share with the attendees recorded interviews with musicians talking about the Ellington orchestra.
After Voce’s presentation, it was time to listen to what Sam Woodyard, Jimmy Woode and Gloria Nance (wife of Ray Nance) have to say about their time with Ellington. Patricia Willard moderated the panel and has also some words of her own to say.
Earlier in the conference, Patricia Willard had made a very interesting presentation about “Dance – The Unsung Element of Ellingtonia”.
Just before the panel started, Sam Woodyard had been given a special present. Having learnt that Woodyard’s drumset had been stolen in Paris, the participants decided give him a new one. We will return to this in another article.
The report from Ellington ’89 that appeared in the 1989-3 issue of the DEMS Bulletin, says “that visitors from abroad appreciated the Smithsonian all-day as ideal”.
For most of them, it was the first visit to the Smithsonian Institution and its National Museum of American History and they got treated to a full day of presentations on the Ellington Collection established the year before.
The Director of the National Museum of American history, Robert G. Kennedy, welcomed the conference participants to the museum and introduced the Ellington Collection together with John E. Hasse, Curator of American Music since 1984.
Hasse also spoke about the museum’s collection on “Development of Jazz” more generally.
Mark Tucker, who had been among the first to make use of the Ellington Collection for his research, followed Hasse and spoke about the music in the Collection
In the afternoon session, there were presentations by, among others, Martin Williams and Patricia Willard.
Williams, the author of many book on jazz, presented his work for the Smithsonian on an upcoming book-and-record-set to be called “Duke Ellington: Masterpieces 1926-1968“.
Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, the album never appeared.
However, in 1994 John E. Hasse produced for the Smithsonian Collection of Recordings a two-CD set with a 28-page booklet. Slightly paraphrasing the title of his book on Ellington published the year before, It was called “Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington“.
The topic for Willard’s presentation was “Billy Strayhorn and the Ellington Collection”. She really foreshadows the importance of the Ellington Collection to ensure Strayhorn’s proper place in the Ellington legacy.
Other presentations on the Ellington Collection during the day – like the one by Marcia Greenlee on “The Smithsonian’s Oral History Project On Duke Ellington” – can be found in the Ellington Archive.
Congressman John Conyers, who had been instrumental in securing Congressional funding for the Ellington Collection, and Mercer Ellington were honored guests at the opening. Their speeches are also in the website’s Ellington Archive.
Finally, after a long day, it was time to summarize and thank everybody. John Hasse did this.