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When Duke Ellington and his orchestra embarked on his 1969 tour of Europe, the Second Sacred Concert was set to be performed as well. The first possibility to do so occurred in Stockholm on 6 November 1969, where Alice Babs would be a vital ingredient who was also available to to take part. This memorable occasion took part in one of the churches in central Stockholm, the Gustav Vasa church. Of the band’s ordinary members at the time, Herbie Jones and Buster Cooper stayed behind in the USA, and for this concert they were replaced by the Swedish musicians Rolf Ericson and Gunnar Medberg. British trumpeter Ambrose Jackson was also added to the trumpet section. There were also dancers taking part and last but not the least the show was supported by the Swedish Radio Choir, under the direction Eric Ericson. The scene was thus set for a memorable performance. DESS members will be able to look at or download the first part of the concert in the Goodies Room, as it was televised by Swedish Radio. Above you can enjoy Almighty Good, a duet with Alice Babs and Russell Procope. (mer…)
After the Reprise recordings in Paris, it took four years before Ellington and Alice Babs worked together again and it was only by chance.
In early 1967, Ellington did a European tour together with Ella Fitzgerald. A concert was scheduled for Malmö in the south of Sweden on January 26 but for some reason Fitzgerald had been booked to be also in Berlin that night. So Ellington called Babs and asked if she could step in.
She said yes and arranged to have a piano and a tape recorder available for a rehearsal with Duke when he was in Stockholm some days before. However, in the final end he did not have time so Babs arrived in Malmö totally unprepared.
She remembers: ”When I arrived i Malmö, the Ellington band was not there. The first concert was to start at 19:00 o’clock but the full band was not in place until 19:15. So I had to do two full concerts in front of sold-out houses without any rehearsals.” But Babs managed by getting the band to improvise with her. ”It was actually two quite good performance”, she has said afterwards.
Almost a year later, they got in touch again. ”One night in December he called me from Las Vegas and asked if he could write something for me in the ”Second Sacred Concert”, which he was preparing.” Babs said yes and arrived in New York in early January for rehearsals. But nothing was ready yet.
”I almost had a nervous breakdown”, she had said. ”I had to be some kind of co-composer because time was short and the last song was ready only two days before the concert.”