Following the very successful and almost legendary Ellington ’88 conference in Oldham, England, the Ellington Study Group Conference returned to Washington D.C. for its 7th edition. It took place on April 28-29, 1989 and was proceeded by a full day symposium at The Smithsonian and its National Museum of American History.
The Duke Ellington Society Chapter 90 was responsible for the conference. Its long-standing President Terrell Allan was chairman of the organizing committee and Ann Ledgister the conference coordinator.
The full Ellington ’89 program can be read and downloaded here.
Bob Reny, who was part of the organizing committee, has generously shared his recollection of the preparation of the conference with the DESS website.
”To begin with, The Duke Ellington Society, Washington DC was a relatively small organization and we didn’t think we could mount a Conference recognizing Duke’s 90th Birthday in light of our few members and limited funds. But we began, chipping away at one obstacle after another, feeding off the material supplied by other Societies.
We had great cooperation from the Mayflower Hotel for the two day event.
The major challenge – the music – was solved when we engaged the Doug Richard’s Orchestra from Richmond, VA which had a solid reputation of playing Ellington’s music with unbridled passion. Then through the friendships of some of our key members with Ellington sidemen, we were able to secure the talents of vocalist Herb Jefferies and clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton and those two luminaries, supported by the Richard’s Orchestra, helped swell our paid reservations list.
We still, however, didn’t have the level of funding to complete the conference and an angel in the form of famed recording engineer, Jack Towers, a member of our Society, came to our rescue with a no interest loan. Jack, who was loved by all of us, passed in 2010 at age 96 but not before becoming an “audio magician” for restoring, remastering and producing jazz vintage recordings for a myriad of jazz labels world-wide. He will also be remembered always for his role in recording the Ellington Orchestra live at Fargo, North Dakota in 1940, an album that became a best seller and received a Grammy Award.
Another key contributor to our Conference was Washington’s jazz radio giant Felix Grant (WMAL & WDCU), who painstakingly unearthed the birth certificate of Ellington and then worked for fifteen years to have a commemorative plaque placed at his birth place, 2129 Ward Place, NW, Washington, DC which is now a bulk mail postal facility – the bronze plaque is mounted on the outside brick wall near the entrance.
Grant commented that “Ellington has been a name in music for about six decades of the century. The only other person I can say that is true of is Irving Berlin.” The plaque was unveiled by son Mercer Ellington on the birthday of his father in the afternoon of the second day of our Conference, April 29; the ceremony was well attended by conference participants.”
This far Bob Reny.
Doug Richard and his orchestra was not the only one performed Ellington music at the conference. Another one was the late Ellington scholar and author of the book ”Ellington: The Early Years” Dr. Mark Tucker.
Replacing the originally announced orchestra ”The Army Blues”, Tucker thrilled the conference participants, which had gathered for an evening reception at the Flag Hall of the National Museum of American History, with a concert with Ellington’s piano music.
The concert is also available as a soundfile in the Ellington Archive’s Washington D.C. 1989 folder
Ellington Study Group Conference May 25-27, 2018
Even if there is still no official announcement, it seems that the 25th Ellington Study Group Conference will take place in England or more precisely in Birmingham on May 25-27.
It is organized and hosted by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the School of Media, Birmingham City University in association with Duke Ellington Society UK (DESUK).
The conference starts at 17 o’clock on May 27 and ends on 13 o’clock on May 29.
The programme includes two keynote presentations, six thematic panels with presentations and four concerts by the Birmingham Conservatoire’s Ellington Jazz Orchestra.
The keynote presentations will be given by Dr. Harvey Cohen, Senior Lecturer, Kings College London and Dr. Katherine Williams, Lecturer in Music, Plymouth College. Dr. Cohen is the author of ”Duke Ellington’s America” and Dr. Williams is doing research for a new book on Duke Ellington.
The web editor has done some research on hotels in Birmingham not far from the site of the conference and the result can be found here.
In the beginning of January, Laurent Mignard and his Duke Orchestra presented a ”spectacle musical” in Paris called Jazzy Poppins. The show is inspired by the musical Mary Poppins and Duke Ellington’s Reprise album ”Duke Ellington Plays Mary Poppins”.
Another set of performances took place at the end of February and early March. Most likely, there will be even more.
Those, who do not live in Paris, can enjoy the show on CD. It can be ordered at the Laurant Mignard website http://www.laurent-mignard.com/jazzy-poppins-boutique/
On May 6 at 11 o’clock, the Duke Orchestra and the lead singer in the show, Sophie Kaufmann, will appear on the public radio station France Music (www. francemusique.fr) to perform a substantial part of the show.
In accordance with the agreement between the website and DESUK, issues 2015:4 and of Blue Light are now available to members of DESS in the Ellington article.
Especially interesting features in this issue is a report by DESUK’s late chairman Geoff Smith on the 2015 Ellington Study Group Conference in Portland, Oregon on Nov. 6-8, 2015, the first of two article by Matthew J. Cooper on Ellington as a pianist and a discussion between Roger Boyes and Geoff Smith on the Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington published in 2015.
The fourth ”goodie” for March is program 23 in the Duke Ellington series broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the ”Goodies” section of the website.
The program was broadcasted on June 28, 1985 and the announcer this time is Ib Skovgaard
It is a broadcast with excerpts from three live concerts – one in 1958 and two in 1970. In between the music, there are interview snippets with both Duke and Mercer Ellington.
The program starts with ”Take The ‘A’ Train” from Ellington’s concert in Munich in Germany on Nov. 14, 1958. Other selections from this concert – ”Black and Tan Fantasy/Creole Love Call/The Mooche”, ”Newport Up” and ”Sophisticated Lady” – are played later in the program. Together they form the opening part of the Munich concert.
Then follows another excerpt from the Danish Radio interviews with Mercer Ellington in 1984. This time he talks about why he decided to make the donation to Danish Radio.
The third part of the program is excerpts from the interview of Duke Ellington, which Ted O’Reilly did for the Canadian public radio station CKPC on March 17, 1970.
The predecessor to The Hollywood Empire was called Tom Breneman’s
Thomas Breneman Smith (June 18, 1902 – April 28, 1948) was a popular 1940s American radio personality known to his listeners as Tom Breneman. For most of his career, he was based in Southern California, in Los Angeles and Hollywood. His radio program was such a success that he established Tom Breneman’s Restaurant in Hollywood, which attracted many actors, musicians and others. In 1948 it was renamed The Hollywood Empire with Gene Norman as one of the partners. For the opening in December 1948, Woody Herman’s 2nd Herd was hired and before Duke Ellington and his orchestra appeared in Februari 1949, both Louis Armstrong and Billy Eckstine appeared there. Our third programme from The Empire is also from Februari 1949, according to New Desor, the session number is DE4906 which would indicate that the recording date is after February 10. Below you can listen to one of Kay Davis’ better performances from the period, He Makes Me Believe.
Kay Davis sings
The complete broadcast, originally issued as AFRS Jubilee J-349 can be found in the Goodies Room. (mer…)
On November 10 last year, the website published an article by Joe Medjuck on an unabridged version of Chelsea Bridge issued on vol. 12 in the Storyville DETS series.
The website followed it up by publishing a broadcast from Casa Mañana in Culver City, CA on Feb. 20, 1941.
These two articles, the audio material that came with them, plus an upcoming big band project of Strayhorn music that he will direct, prompted DESS member Hans Doerrscheidt, to do a little research of his own. Here is the result.
”As it turns out, not only one, or two, or three, but actually four complete recordings of Chelsea Bridge have survived! How so?
The broadcast announcer says: “And now, as our dancing continues, we hear another Billy Strayhorn number: The Duke’s [sic] distinctive arrangement of ‘Chelsea Bridge’.”
With that mis-attribution starts what appears to be the first ever documented performance of the song. Regrettably, the audio quality is not quite what one would wish for. But – it is a copy of a historic broadcast, so why complain. Until we hear…
“This, ladies and gentlemen, is music by Duke Elligton and his orchestra, via the Mutual Network […] And now, as the dancing continues, the Duke features ‘Chelsea Bridge’…Duke?”
Talk about ‘fidelity’! The audio quality is pristine; every last instrument is audible like you are dancing right in front of the bandstand. Wonderful! Now, fast forward 4 years to…
The announcer says: “Next, Duke Ellington features a group of three Billy Strayhorn compositions, beginning with ‘Chelsea Bridge’.”
This is the “second” full recording that Joe Medjuck pointed out in his article last year. As shown above, in chronology it is actually the third. Fidelity is good, and by now the irritating wrong last note played by Tizol and Carney in 1941 at the end of their respective middle sections (a.k.a bridge) appears to have been corrected in the parts (it’s G natural, not G flat).
Then another 7 years go by, and we hear a familiar voice back in the band: It is Juan Tizol, who plays the unannounced pickup notes to…
the fourth unabridged version performed at a dance date at an unidentified location in Northwestern U.S.A. in March 1952 [iv]
This is a personal sleeper, as I have had this 3-CD set ever since it came out about five years ago; not until now did I realize that it contains this rarity. The sound quality is quite acceptable for what appears to be a private tape; we hear Tizol repeating his original role, Paul Gonsalves paying tribute to his mentor Ben Webster, and my favorite rhythm team Marshall/Bellson providing a solid beat.
The three studio recordings from 1941 all have one thing in common: 32 bars of music were cut to make the original 5-minute arrangement fit one side of a 78. However, what is cut is different on all three takes. See my structural analysis below for more details.
And a last note, for all you jazz ensemble directors out there: Alfred Music has two versions of this arrangement published: The transcription of the 1941 RCA master take as well as the unabridged version.
Both editions have their pros and cons; neither one can be taken without a grain of salt, unfortunately. So if you think your band should play as many right notes as possible on this one, feel free to get in touch for my view on things….”
The different versions of Chelsea Bridge mentioned in the article can be found on
Author: Hans Doerrscheidt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
One of the surprises on the last day of Ellington ’94 was a presentation by Luciano Massagli and Giovanni Volonté of what was to become NDESOR – the totally indispensable tool for any serious Ellington collector.
They were not in the original program but asked for a slot only a couple of weeks before the conference and – of course -the organizers was happy to give them one.
So the last day of the conference started started a little bit earlier than originally scheduled to accomodate their half an hour presentation.
As can be seen and heard in the video below, Massagli talked about what NDESOR would be like and Volonté presented the just published book ”Duke Ellington : un genio, un mito”, which he had written together with Antonio Berini.
A 12 page handout about the 740 page book was provided to the conference participants. It gives an overview of the chapters of the book plus the foreword by Leonard Feather and the introduction by the authors. It is available in the Ellington Archive.
The second ”goodie” for March is program 22 in the Duke Ellington series broadcasted by the Danish Radio in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The broadcast is available in the ”Goodies” section of the website.
The program was broadcasted on June 21, 1985 and the announcer is once again Bjarne Busk
The program brings the listeners some good sessions from mid-1967 and early 1956. However, it starts with a selection from June 6, 1962. It is the next to last performance of H’ya Sue in Ellington’s discography. Three takes were recorded that day and in the broadcast the second take is played. A month later (or July 8 to be exact), Ellington played it for the last time. It was at the 1962 edition of the the Newport Jazz Festival.
Next, Bjarne Busk turns to the ”stockpile” recording session of July 11, 1967 and features the four songs recorded on this occasion – Rondolet, Mich (or Acht O’Clock Rock), Lady and Lele. It is really a ”rock” session”, as Busk says in the program.
After this, the broadcast continues with what is often called ”The Pentape Session” on March 18, 1956. Busk plays two of the songs – Where’s the Music and Play the Blues and Go Home – recorded by a small group from the the band on that day .
The website wrote about the ”Pentape Session” session on June 16 last year (https://ellington.se/2016/06/16/pentape-originals/).
The program ends with two selections from the ”stockpile session” of January 3, 1956. First, Willie Cook solos in Tea for Two in a way quite similar to what he played at the Newport Jazz Festival half a year later.
Then comes a 11 minute long untitled blues, which ends the program. It is called ”Long Time Blues” in the discographies.