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.
Take C of Black and Tan Fantasy
During the last ten years DESS member Bo Lindqvist has tried to add all the original versions of Ellington’s recording for OKeh to his collection.
He seems to have got them all including Take C of Black And Tan Fantasy recorded on November 3, 1927 on Okeh 8521. However, many discographic sources says that it also was issued on OKeh 40955 but Bo has not managed to find a copy of this record with take C but only records with this number with take B.
So he has started to doubt that an Okeh 40955 with take C exists and would like to have the help of DESS members to sort out if this is the case or not.
Bo can be contacted at Lindqvist_50@hotmail.com.
The 25th Ellington Study Group Conference took place in Birmingham last weekend. It was organized in cooperation between The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham City University with the moral support of DESUK.
In many ways it confirmed that the Ellington conferences now is firmly in the hands of the academic musicologists, which means that a younger generation is taking over the responsibility to keep the Ellington legacy alive.
As a result of the poor selling of the conference, only some forty persons took part in it. The majority were members of DESUK and other Ellington societies like DESS, which was represented by Bo Haufman, Peter Lee, Jan-Olov Isaksson and the web editor. Only one participant came from the U.S.A. and one of the presenters from Canada.
Here is Peter Lee together with John Grover och Leland Farley med hustru (foto Bo Haufman).
The program of the conference included two keynote presentation and 12 shorter presentations in thematic workshops. The themes were:
– Ellington in the Midlands
– Collaboration and Process
– Sonic Reverberations
– Instrumental approaches
– Technology and Mediation
The website will give more details in a later article.
Thanks to the Ellington Orchestra composed of students of the Jazz Department of the Conservatoire, the conference participants could enjoy four full concerts with Ellington music and also an afternoon jamsession.
Here is an example of what we heard. The clip starts ”Tourist Point of View” and ends with ”Blue Bird of Delhi”.
The Director of the Jazz Department, Jeremy Price, has done a very nice job bringing this orchestra together.
New Issue of Blue Light
The summer issue of Blue Light was published just in time for the Birmingham conference. It was actually hand-delivered to the conference participants. The reason for this was that this issue of Blue Light has the full program of the conference, including abstracts of the presentations.
But the new issue also have some major articles. One is by Blue Light editor Ian Bradley on ”Ellington in Academia”. It deals with Ellington appearances at universities and his relationships with some of the major American universities.
There is also a lengthy article by Ethan Hine titled ”Duke Ellington, Percy Grainger and the Status of Jazz in the Academy. Highly recommended reading!
The Ellington Orchestra of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire played a concert with Ellington’s Sacred Music in the Lincoln Cathedral on May 12, 2018 and Ian Bradley also provides the readers with a review of this concert.
Thomas Erikson stod för föredraget den här gången. När han senast framträdde vid ett DESS-möte pratade han om Tricky Sam Nanton. Den här gånger var ämnet Lawrence Brown.
Vi har bett Thomas att ge en liten sammanfattning av sitt föredrag för de många medlemmar som missade det.
Här är musiken, som Thomas spelade, och listan med låtarna.
Genomgående i alla kommentarer från mötet är att det var ett oerhört bra och intressant föredrag.
”Först gav jag lite fakta om Lawrence Olin Brown, en av jazzens främsta trombonister, levde mellan 1907 och 1988 och tillbringade 29 av sina år i Duke Ellingtons orkester. Han började i orkestern våren 1932 på förslag av Irving Mills. Ellington ska enligt Brown själv ha hälsat honom med att han, Ellington, varken hade hört eller ens ha hört talas om Brown. Flera samtida tyckare ansåg också att Brown passade utomordentligt illa i Ellingtons orkester. En av dessa var John Hammond som bl a karaktäriserade Brown som ”slick” och ”unnegroid”.
Jag fortsatte sedan med att spela upp 13 inspelningar för att visa Browns olika sidor. Där fanns t.ex det virtuosa och rörliga spelet i skivdebuten med Ellington 1932 (The ”Sheik Of Araby), den mjuklyriska nästan celloliknande tonen i ”Serenade To Sweden”, avslappnad blues i ”Jitterbugs Lullaby” (under Johnny Hodges namn 1938), och det noga instuderade studsiga solot i ”Rose Of The Rio Grande”, ett nummer som Brown fick upprepa till leda under sina år med Ellington. Där fanns också, som avslutning, ett nummer (”Feed The Birds” från albumet ”Mary Poppins” 1964) som visade Brown som solist med ”plunger” i Tricky Sam Nantons anda, en roll som han motvilligt åtog sig under sina senare år med Ellington på 60-talet.
Under loppet av föredraget kom jag förstås också in på människan Lawrence Brown. Han var ju enligt bl a egen utsago en renlevnadsman som varken rökte, drack eller brukade andra stimulantia men hade fördrag med andra som gjorde det. Som Rex Stewart har beskrivit honom var han en man som sällan log utom genom sitt instrument där han enligt Stewart också kunde utrycka allt från grymhet till människokärlek.
Att Brown hade ett spänt förhållande till Duke är känt och var förstås också något som jag berörde, liksom det anmärkningsvärda i att han ändå under sina många år med orkestern lojalt fyllde sina roller. Jag lyfte också fram att det mesta som kan sägas om Brown står att läsa i DESS-bulletin nr 2 för 2017, som ju särskilt ägnade sig åt honom.”
Kvällen inledes med en diskussion om det framtida upplägget av medlemsmötena. Åsikterna var många och Lars Björkman antecknade dem noga för styrelsens fortsatta diskussioner av frågan. Hans anteckningar finns här.
A highlight of the second day was another nightly concert.
This time it was Bob Wilber and the Ellington ’88 Orchestra that took the stage and they did so to honor Billy Strayhorn.
The Ellington alumnies Bill Berry, Buster Cooper, Jimmy Woode and Sam Woodyard were part of the band on and off during the evening. They appeared particularily in the rendition of the small group band ”The Coronets” known from recordings on the Mercer label.
A recurring feature in the conference program was to let the Ellington alumnies share their memories of Ellington and their time with him in different panels.
The first one took place on the second day when the doyen of British jazz critics and the author of important books on jazz in the 1950’s and 1960’s interviewed Bill Berry and Buster Cooper ”about their times with the maestro”.
It was followed up later in the day when Herb Jeffries and Sjef Hoefsmit sat down together to talk about Ellington and the orchestra in the early 1940’s and about ”Ellington the man”. Don’t miss the end of this video! It got the conference crowd on its feet.
More from Ellington ’88 will follow! But in between comes Ellington ’18 in Birmingham from which the website also will report.
When one looks at the program for the conference, which has got a very nice and clear design, it is easy to understand why it is considered as one of the best in the series of Ellington Study Group Conferences.
The presentation part is very strong both on paper and when one listens to them in Sjef Hoefsmit’s videos from the conference.
It is supplemented by a excellent concert program including three concerts – ”A Nite at the Cotton Club”, ”A Portrait of See’ Pea” and ”The Extended Ellington”.
The presence of Ellington alumnies like Alice Babs, Bill Berry, Buster Cooper, Herb Jeffries and Jimmy Woode at the conference and their active participation in it gave a special dimension to the event.
The DESS website will this time give more of thematic rather than chronological snapshots of the conference. This article gives some of the presentations on early Ellington.
But first we will let John E. Hasse talk about Mercer Ellington’s donation of Duke Ellington’s papers to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. It was Hasse’s first appearance at an Ellington Conference but there would be many more.
At Ellington ’89 in Washington D.C. a full day was devoted to the Ellington Archive and the presentations on that occasion can be viewed here.
We have chosen two presentations on early Ellington for this article. The first is by Jerry Valburn – one of the instigators of the Ellington Study Group conferences and leading authority on Duke Ellington. He had chosen to talk about Ellington’s recording career 1923-1929.
The second presentation is by the noted jazz researcher and jazz journalist Frank Dutton. He had chosen Ellington’s Cotton Club period, on which he was a respected authority, as his topic.
All these three presentations were given at the first day of the conference and in the evening of it, the conference participants were invited to ”A Nite at the Cotton Club”. The English band Harlem provided the music and Herb Jeffries guided the audience through the night.
Here is a short excerp from the start of it. We will return to it in a later article.
The Ellington Study Group Conference in Oldham, England in 1985 was apparently very special. Roger Boyes, who was one of the participants, says that ”the spirit it generated was quite magical”.
As a result, the organizers took the decision ”there and then” to do it again. However, planning for Newark ’86 was already well in hand by then, and Toronto was penciled in for ’87. So 1988 was the next year available.
Once the conference was announced, the registrations for participation started to come in quickly and soon it was a sold-out event.
Bo Haufman, Deputy Chair of DESS and the editor of the DESS Bulletin, took part in the conference and remembers it very well.
”It was my first Ellington Study Group Conference and it was a very good experience, which triggered me to go to many more, including Birmingham 2018 in two weeks. It took place in the same venue as the 1985 conference – Birch Hall in Oldham – and was run in a very capable way by Mike Hazeldine after the sad passing away of Eddie Lambert about a year before the conference.
Almost all of the presentations were very interesting. I remember in particular the ones by Loren Schoenberg, who talked about “Midriff”, and by Bob Wilber, who made a very knowledgeable presentation of Johnny Hodges and his development over the years.
Jerry Valburn talked about both common and odd 78 rpm Ellington records in his extensive collection of records and Klaus Stratemann about his “Day by Day” project.
In the many panels, that discussed various aspects of Duke Ellington and his music, we could hear Sjef Hoefsmit, Patricia Willard, Andrew Homzy, Jack Towers, Alice Babs, Herb Jeffries and several others.
The evening concerts were presented by a fantastic band put together and led by Bob Wilber. Guest performer was Bill Berry and of course Herb Jeffries and Alice Babs appeared with the band. In it were such names as Jimmie Woode, Buster Cooper, Danny Moss and Anti Sarpila. Afterwards Herb Jeffries gave us a wonderful show ending with “Flamingo”.
The Swedes, who attended the Conference, were Carl-Erik Carlsson, Peter Lee and myself and then of coursefor Alice Babs and Nils Sjöblom.”
The organizing committee had worked hard for almost two years to get everything in place and the day before the conference some of its members made sure that the conference attendees would easily find their way to the conference venue.
Bob Wilber followed in their steps and brought together the band for an two and a half hour rehearsal before the start of the conference.
And then finally, in the morning of May 26, 1988, it was time to open the conference.
The opening ceremony ended with Hazeldine inviting Herb Jeffries to the podium to say a few words. ”It is all for the love of Duke” was Jeffries credo.
The second ”goodie” in May is program 24 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 July 5, 1985 and Ib Skovgard is the announcer also in this broadcast.
It is a broadcast similar in format to the one heard on June 28, 1985 – a mixture of excerpts from live concerts and snippets of interviews with Ellington.
It has three more selections from the Munich 1958 concert, which was featured also in broadcast 23. This time ”Jeep’s Blues”, part of the ”Medley” and ”Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” are heard.
The program also includes ”Take The ”A” Train” (nc) from the 1973 concert in Malmö and two stockpile recordings – ”Riba” (take -19) from March 10, 1970 and ”Kinda Dukish-Rockin’ in Rhythm” from April 3, 1969.
The interview snippets are from March 1962 (Los Angeles), March 17, 1970 (Toronto), January, 1972 (Japan) and one possibly from England i January 1970.
In the interview in Japan, Ellington demonstrates a rare outburst irritation when he was asked what he considered a political questions and he did not want to answer these kind of questions.
The interview in Los Angeles is a joint interview with Billy Strayhorn, in which they play ”Take The ”A” Train” together on one piano.