Ellington News-Nyheter Jan. 2022

I used to call this type of articles “Smått och gott / Bits and Pieces” but I think “Ellington News-Nyheter” is more relevant and I will call them this from now on.

DESS Bulletin 2022-1

The new issue offers – as usual – a lot of interesting reading both in Swedish and in English.

This time, the major article is about Lil Greenwood – “Duke’s Blues Belter” – who sung with the Ellington band for 30 months in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

This seven-page piece is written by DESS member Sven-Erik Baun Christensen and it gives the reader everything there is to know about Greenwood. He writes about her early career as gospel and R&B singer, her early records, her meeting and 30 months with the Ellington Orchestra and her years and appearances on the West Cost thereafter.

It is obvious that Sven-Erik has an affection for her and would like the Ellington community to learn more about her than what one finds in Ellington discographies.

In his view, her main contribution during the two and a half years with Ellington “was to bring to the band a new vocal earthiness, based in her gospel and blues background, that aroused the band and exited audiences”… “The studio recording of Walkin’ and Singin’ the Blues and the best of the concert performances released in later years are evidence that she was worthy of the distinction of being, if only for a short period, Duke Ellington’s female vocalist”.

The Bulletin has this time two more articles in English.

One is a reprint of an article in the souvenir program for Ellington’s 1958 European tour titled The Future of Jazz. It does not read like a true article written by Ellington but rather a text versioin of an interview. But who knows? Anyhow, it is interesting to read as are the comments by Bo Haufman.

The other is a contribution by Mike Zirpolo about Billy Strayhorn or more specifically about The Peaceful Side of Billy Strayhorn album. He tells how the album came about – Strayhorn was in Paris with Ellington for the Paris Blues film and one day a young American record producer approached him in a café about making a recording of his own compositions and Strayhorn said “Why not” and two days later the recording session took place – look closely into A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing.

The article originates from a blog post on Zirpolo’s blog Swing & Beyond.

In the issue, Bo Haufman himself has contributed two interesting articles in Swedish. One is about Ellington’s performances at Carnegie Hall and the other about the song Wanderlust which Hodges recorded with a small group on 20 December 1938.

It is most likely a Hodges composition but it is officially attributed to both Hodges and Ellington.  It also appears on Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins and the Pablo album Up in Duke’s Workshop. There is also a stockpile recording of the piece from 23 May 1969.

Blue Light Winter 2021-22

Whether it is the third issue for 2021 or the first for 2022 one can discuss, but in any case it is – as Blue Light’s new editor Gareth Evans has said – “a bumper issue”. It is expanded from the usual 22 pages to 30 pages and Evans has managed to use the extra space very well.

The new issue is dominated by two major articles, which take up almost half of the 30 pages.

The first one is Roger Boyes’ A Month At The Capitol. It is another one in his very valuable and impressive series on Ellington in the 1940’s. This time, he “looks at the Ellington Orchestra’s 1943 activities in the weeks following the 30 September Philadelphia concert and it follows straight on from Stability and Change in BL 28/2.”

In the first part of the article, Boyes deals with Ellington’s month-long engagement at the Capitol Theatre on Broadway and 51st Street in October 1943.

It was apparently a very succesful engagement both artistically and financially, which is detailed in the article.

Since Shorty Baker, Nar Jones and Junior Raglin were not members of New York’s Local 802 of the Musicians’ Union, Ellington had to use temporary stand-ins during the engagement. As a result, Otto Hardwicke came back to the orchestra and Dizzy Gillespie had a brief tenure in it. There were several stand-ins for Junior Raglin but Wilson Meyers seems to have done “over half” of the subbings.

As regards Gillespie, Boyes does not only state that “Dizzy Gillespie substitued for Shorty Baker” but uses the statement as the starting point for a mini essay on the impact of Gillespie’s four weeks with Ellington on himself and on the orchestra. There are many other examples in article of this style of essay writing and they makes it even more enjoyable to read it.

The article’s second part is devoted to Ellington’s recordings of transcriptions for World Broadcasting System. They took place in two sessions in November and in December. Boyes goes through them in detail and expands particularly on new soloists and new compositions. There will be reasons to come back to this.

The second major article – The Race for Space  – is written by Gareth Evans himself and is about Ellington recordings connected with the cosmic scene. The title is from an article Ellington presumably wrote  in late 1957 but which was never published. It is a kind of springboard for Evans’ look at seven Ellington/Strayhorn pieces with titles associated to space or cosmos.

The first five are from Colmbia 1957-1959 albums – Ballet of the Flying Saucers (A Drum is a Woman) , Spacemen (The Cosmic Scene), Launching Pad and Duel Fuel (Festival Session) and Blues In Orbit (Blues In Orbit). The sixth one is Telstar – a stock pile recording in 1962 and the last one Moon Maiden – the result of a commission from ABC-TV.

Evans has interesting things to say about all of them and it is refreshing to get the perspectives of a younger generation of Ellington experts. I don’t think I have seen Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pink Floyd and similar artists mentioned in articles about Ellington before. Or am I wrong?

The article is accompanied by a playlist on Spotify, which includes not only the Ellington recordings but also a recording of Peter Long’s reworking of Gustav Holst’s The Planet by the Echoes of Ellington Jazz Orchestra. A nice widening of perspectives!

Among other things in the new issue I particularly recommend Fred Glueckstein’s article about the relationship between Tony Bennett and the obituary on Charlie Watts. It was very good to learn that my image of the Rolling Stones’ drummer has been totally wrong all those years. Now I know better!

Tone Parallel

Ian Bradley published the second issue of Tone Parallel some weeks ago. It is available at https://toneparallel.substack.com/p/tone-parallel-5ad.

The issue is about singer, dancer, composer Ann Henry and her composition Pockets, the dedication of the new Alvar Aalto Library at Mount Angel Abbey, a Benedictine community, near Portland in Oregon in May 1970 and Duke Ellington’s appearance there with his orchestra.

Bradley wrote about this subject about two years on his blog Ellington Live  http://ellingtonlive.blogspot.com/2020/05/ but since then he has done a lot of work to find out more about Ann Henry and to improve the sound of the Vimeo video and the reel-to-reel tape which have the music from the event.

It seems fair to presume that Pockets: It’s Amazing When Love Goes On Parade was composed with the dedication of Alvar Aalto Library in mind but Bradley does not go into this, he rather focus on the work itself.

It is written in three movements. The first one is a waltz, the second one a march and the last one “meditative. Based on musical notation by Henry, Ron Collier did the orchestration and conducted the Ellington orchestra in the performance of the work on 29 May 1970. Henry herself sings the lyrical parts.

The Vimeo video with the first hour of the concert is an integral part of Bradley’s video together with an 8 minutes excerpt from a professionally restored sound track of the video and a clip from the reel-to-reel tape with Don’t Get Down On Your Knees To Pray Until You Have Forgiven Everyone sung by Tony Watkins. It is not clear if Bradley intends to share the full Ellington part with other Ellington collectors.

A Duke Ellington video montage

There are numerous video and film clips with Duke Ellington available on internet. We have grouped some of the more unusual together in a video montage spanning from 1930 to 1970. Below is an example from Ed Sullivan Show from 1961 with Duke and Satchmo.

The following can be seen and listened to in the Goodies Room:

1   Extracts from the movie Check And Double Check from 1930, an Amos & Andy adventure. Various tunes are played, the only complete one being  Old Man Blues  other numbers are When I’m Blue, East St Louis Toodle-Oo and Three Little words. On the latter tune the singing is by The Rhythm Boys although the impression from the movie is that the trumpet players are doing this job. One interesting detail is that Juan Tizol’s face has been blackened,

2. 3. & 4. The following sequences are from Ed Sullivan Shows from 1959, 1965 and 1969.

5.  Titled Special Medley, this is a 1966 version of Satin Doll

6.  Duke Ellington with Edie Adams  in 1962, Edie is accompanied by an orchestra led by Peter Matz, reinforced by Ellington, Hodges and Carney. She sings an Ellington Medley and Satin Doll

7.  A rare footage from an Ellington’s concert in Palermo in July 1970, with a solo by Canadian fluegel horn player  Fred Stone

We hope that you will enjoy the performances!



DR Ellington Broadcasts (46)

Program 46 was broadcasted on May 28, 1991. It was produced and presented by Fleming Sjølund-Jensen.

It is the the first “goodie” this month and is available in the ”Goodies” section of the website.

The program starts with Love You Madly sung by Milt Grayson. It is from the March 19, 1962 stockpile session when Grayson recorded four songs.

In addition to Love You Madly, they are Solitude, You Better Know and There’s No One But You. The last song was made popular by Mills Brothers in the mid-1940’s and was apparently composed by Austen Croom-Johnson and Red Evans. Nothing from the session has been issued on vinyl or CD.

Next Sjølund-Jensen turns to the recording session July 18, 1966 when Ellington together with John Lamb and Sam Woodyard recorded six songs, which was later included in the album The Pianist.

However, he does not let the listeners hear any of the songs but focuses on the second part of the session when Ellington recorded Tingling Is A Happiness and Dancers in Love and a congratulatory talk to be included in an exclusive record for the participants  in the 50 anniversary conference of Field Enterprises Educational Corporation

Sjølund-Jensen continues the broadcast with six selections from August 27, 1972. They are all issued on the Storyville CD An Intimate Piano Session (1018445)

He starts with a short version of I’m Afraid Of Loving You Too Much followed by what Sjølund-Jensen says is an unnamed improvisation but in discographies said to be The Anticipation from UWIS Suite and after that Le Sucrier Velours from Queen’s Suite.

Next in the broadcast is Come Sunday sung by Tony Watkins – in English and in Hebrew –  and two more piano numbers by Ellington – first A Mural From Two Perspectives and then the Strayhorn composition My Little Brown Book, which someone asks him to play. Finally he does it but very reluctantly. “I don’t know it! I don’t remember it!”

After this, Sjølund-Jensen moves to the September 5, 1972 stockpile session, which is for Anita Moore accompanied by a tentet from the full Ellington orchestra.

In the broadcast one hears her sing New York, New York, I Got It Bad, I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart and Misty. In the last one, Moore is accompanied only by Ellington, Joe Benjamin and Rufus Jones. None of the songs have been issued on vinyl or CD.

The broadcast ends with a version of Take The “A” Train (nc) played by Ellington, Jeff Castlemans and Rufus Jones at Ellington’s concert at Stanford University with California Youth Symphony Orchestra on March 9, 1969. This is also unissued.



Ellington at 49 Street and Broadway

One of the speakers at Ellington ’90 in Ottawa was Jerry Valburn.

He talked about Ellington’s periods at the New York restaurants The Hurrican in 1943 and 1944 and at Cafe Zanzibar in 1945. One followed the other in the large restaurant and dance space on the second floor of the Brill Building at 49th Street and Broadway in the center of Manhattan.

In the Ellington community, Valburn is best known for the Duke Ellington Treasury Show (DETS) series but he also issued LPs with rare material under labels such as Merrit and Blue Disc.

The DETS series was announced in the DEMS Bulletin in the spring of 1981 and the first volumes were issued in mid-1981. To get them, one had to subscribe to the series and only 400 subscribers would be accepted.

In the DEMS announcement, Valburn said that three records should be released every month (except for July and August) and that each record should have an insert sheet with “a complete script of the actual broadcast”. Subscribers would also get a 50% discount on an Benny Aaslund-Jerry Valburn “special book on the Ellington Treasury Series” which was to be published in 1981.

Rather quickly, it turned out that the schedule was too optimistic and it took several years (and many reminders) before one had the 49 albums in one’s hand.

To get some of the last volumes, I had to meet Valburn at the Eddie Condon Jazz Club on 54th Street in New York. When I arrived, it turned out that the club had closed the night before and when Jerry and I were eating our hamburgers, workers were dismantling the place. But I got my records!

Anyhow, the Treasury Show series must be considered as a major achievement and Ellington collectors all over the world should be grateful that Valburn (and Jack Towers) carried it through to the end.

In his hour-long presentation, Valburn presents and plays fourteen songs from six broadcasts as follows:

4 April 1943 What Am I Here For, Could It Be You and Goin’ Up

23 Sep. 1943 At’s In There and Solid Old Man

20 April 1944 San Fernando Valley, Suddenly It Jumped, On The Alamo and Things Ain’t What THey Used To Be

12 May 1944 Time Alone Will Tell

20 May 1944 Since You Went Away and How Blue The Night. They are unissued and Valburn gives the date as 21 May. Thank you to Anders Asplund for providing the material and the correct date.

24 Sep. 1945 Take The “A” Train (theme) and Stompy Jones. Valburn had announced that he would playtwo more but he runs of time for them.


Valburn’s presentation was one of the presentations and panel discussions at Ellington ’90 filmed by Sjef Hoefsmit. It has been digitalized and edited by the web editor. Because of the technical setup in Ottawa, the sound quality of the original video is quite poor and part of the music played by Valburn has been replaced with material from Storyville’s DETS series.

New Year at Blue Note

Tonight a year comes to its end  and a new year starts. Traditionally, it is a night of celebration and festivities and the website likes to offer something special this year as well.

To avoid all the covid-19 restrictions in place and ensure that you stay healthy, we will do it by transporting you back in time and place.  We will go back to 31 December 1952/1 January 1953 and visit Frank Holzfiend’s Blue Note club in downtown Chicago.

At that time, it was still located at 56 W Madison Street. For many years, Duke Ellington (like Count Basie and Benny Goodman) had summer and winter engagements there.

In 1952/1953, Ellington had a two-week engagement, which started on 19 December 1952 and ended on 1 January 1953. He was regularly broadcasted over the NBC network and some of the broadcasts have been preserved.

This is the case of the broadcast of the early morning of 1 January 1953. Let’s imagine that we are sitting at the bar together, waiting for the band to come back after the break.

Everything is prepared for the broadcast. Duke strolls on stage, sits down at the piano and now it starts.

When the broadcast is over, you will have heard the Take The “A” Train theme followed by Fancy Dan, My Little Brown Book, Bensonality, The Hawk Talks, Creole Love Call, All of Me, Smada and How High The Moon (a few bars).

With this, we wish you A Happy Year and hope that you will support the website and the DESS Bulletin by joining Duke Ellington Society of Sweden (DESS).

Anders and Ulf

Smått & Gott/Bits & Pieces Dec 2021-2

Who Knows

Before the summer, DESUK distributed to its members the CD Who Knows  with Brian Priestley and a small group playing “least studied and least ‘covered’ pieces” of Ellington music. It was originally issued in 2003 on the English 33 Jazz label (33jazz184).

The CD was recorded on 21 July and 8 October, 2003 when Brian gathered Bruce Adams trumpet, Frank Griffith saxophone and clarinet, Simon Woolf bass and Steve Brown drums in Clown’s Pocket, Bexley to record 16 Ellington songs in different constellations – solo, trio, quartet and quintet.

Fellow musician Derek Nash was responsible for recording, mixing, editing and mastering and he did an excellent job.

It seems that the solo, trio and quartet with Frank Griffith tracks were recorded on 21 July and the rest on 8 October when Bruce Adams was added to the group.

The music selected for the CD is a mix of fairly well-known Ellington compositions and songs played by Ellington and/or the band only once or a couple of times.

What Are You Gonna Do (1915), Who Knows (1953) and Blue Pepper (1966) belongs to this category. East, East By East could be added to it because it is of Ellington’s hand but never performed by him.

Among the more well-known Azure, Don’t You Know I Care, Johnny Come Lately and Lotus Blossom.

Common to all songs is that Brian with his arrangements has given them new life. Ellington’s (or Strayhorn’s) music has rarely been heard like this.

Three of the tracks are solos by Brian (Azure, After All, Lotus Blossom), 4 are trios (Who Knows, Johnny Come Lately, Searchin’, What Are You Gonna Do), three are quartets (Don’t You Know Are Care, Almost Cried, Perdido) and the rest quintets (Blue Pepper,  Hand Me Down Love, My Love, East, East By East, That’s What He Says).

Here is my 25 minutes interview of Brian about the CD. In it, you can hear Who Knows and East, East By East with Brian’s comments on them.

To get the CD, one has to be a member of DESUK but it might have run out of CDs by now. Please contact Gareth Evans (gjyevans@hotmail.com), the new Blue Light, and ask about this.

Ellington Reflections

Steven Bowie’s Ellington Reflections (https://ellingtonreflections.com) is one of the indispensable websites for anyone interested in Duke Ellington. Steven himself says that it is a celebration of the World of Ellingtonia and all of its many facets.

The website with blogs about Ellington’s music, his orchestra and its band members was launched back in 2017 and has a large number of followers from all over the world.

So far, Steven has produced 65 blogs. The latest one is about Ellingtonian’s Playing Ellington.

Thanks to the work of DESS member Göran Axelsson, the website recently got an index with direct links to the blogs. Actually, there are two indexes, one chronological and one alphabetical by title.

In addition to the blogs, the website also has three lists of recommendations – Books, Recordings and Videos.

The format of the posts is more or less all the same. First comes the blog (i.e the audiofile), then a text about the topic with photos and scores, and finally a list of the albums played in the blog.

I recently interviewed Steven about his work with the website and what he wants to achieve with it.

In addition to Ellington Reflections, Steven is also working on a biography on Cootie Williams. “Williams was an giant of the trumpet; yet despite his stature in the jazz world, no one has previously written a full length biography.” So Steve has taken on the task to write one.

This is reflected in his presence on Facebook where he runs a Cootie Williams group. Steven also contributed to the Ellington Meeting 2021 with a presentation on Williams.

During his college years, he was teaching assistant for the legendary guitarist Kenny Burrell’s class on Duke Ellington

The Duke Book

Looking for some good “hi-res” DSD recordings of jazz for the holiday season, I came across The Duke Book recorded by the Dutch trumpeter/flugelhorn player Angelo Verploegen and drummer Jasper van Hulten.

The album was issued already in 2019 by Just Listen Records but it seems to be fairly unknown to the Ellington community.

It is a pity because listening to it is really worthwhile.. What Verploegen and van Hulten provide with the album is certainly not the most common interpretations of Ellington standards but very creative and interesting. Start by listening to Blues In Blueprint.

There is a lot of truth in what a writer wrote in a promotional text on the Just Listen Records’ website: “As a listener you are encouraged to play an active role: unnoticed you give your own musicality a place in between the game of the flugelhorn and the drums. Free as a bird you can spontaneously fantasize your own melodic lines.”

Once I had listened to the CD a couple of times and digested this way of playing Ellington, I come to think of the Calefax Reed Quintet, which I heard at the Ellington 2014 conference in Amsterdam. It also demonstrated how to interpret Ellington in a new way and widen the perspectives of the Maestro’s music?

Why is it only Dutch groups interpreting Ellington is this way?

Anyhow, let’s listen to what Verploegen  and van Hulten have to say about the album.

The album exists in different versions The best is to go to the website of Native DSD (https://www.nativedsd.com), which sells it in different versions.. If one has a setup to play DSD files, one should really buy the DSD 256 version. The sound is magnificent!

However, the album is also available in traditional CD format from NativeDSD and on Spotify and other streaming sites.



A Present from Steven Lasker

24 December 2021 is the day in Sweden (and many other countries) when Santa Claus arrives with his presents. This year, Steven Lasker has joined him and given DESS and its members a present in the form of 25 minutes of Never-Issued Rarities from his collection.

It is a mixture of the rarities, which were presented at the DESS Ellington Meeting 2021 by Ken Steiner on behalf of Steven, and some new ones.

They are now available in Steven Lasker Gift in the Goodies section of the website

Track 1 is three fragments of Ebony Rhapsody, recorded in February 1934. They are never-issued alternates to the soundtrack version from Murder at the Vanities, and alternate to the alternates (PBS 79093-1, 79094-1, 79105-1 & 79106-1) first released in 2008 on Sony/BMG 88697302362 (“The Best of Duke Ellington, 1932-39”).

These fragments are sourced from 12-inch, 78 rpm exploitation discs (PCS 79193-1 & 79194) dubbed from optical soundtrack at RCA’s Hollywood studio with narration overdubbed; the first two tracks are from 79193, the last from 79194.

While Barbara Van Brunt sings Ebony Rhapsody on the film’s soundtrack, the vocalist on the second fragment here is Gertrude Michael. Fragments of other songs, performed by Paramount’s studio orchestra, have been omitted.

Track 2 is I’ve Got to Be a Rug Cutter from a spring 1937 Cotton Club broadcast.

Included among the gems from Steven is Never No Lament from a 1940 broadcast (exact date and venue of the broadcast is not known). As the Blanton specialist Matthias Heyman has observed, “Blanton is on fire!” here.

The version played at the Ellington Meeting was out of pitch and this has now been corrected.  The new verion is track 3.

Track 4 is another Ellington composition, the earliest-known version of Barzallai Lew, a fact established by the presence of Barney Bigard, who isn’t heard on any other known version.

Track 5 have two songs from early June 1946. They were recorded by Duke in the chamber music hall at Carnegie Hall.

They were found together with much more on a set of 15 discs that Steven purchased at auction in 2019. The discs contain piano/vocal demos of songs Ellington wrote for “Street Music,” the working title for the show that would be renamed “Beggar’s Opera.”

Introductions to “Brown Penny” and “No One But You” are spoken by John Latouche, who wrote lyrics for the show, although for “Brown Penny,’ he borrowed words from a poem by William Butler Yeats. Kay Davis is the vocalist on both selections.

The songs found on the set of discs include an alternate take of “No One But You” as well as many other Ellington songs, some found nowhere else.

The last tracks are both sides of  Gaye Records no. 365 (45 rpm), Perdido (mx. G3130) /Take the “A” Train (mx. G3131) by Paul Gonzalves with The Ivys [and] Billy Strayhorn Orchestra.

In his script, Steven asks, “Does this record include other members of Duke Ellington’s orchestra? I don’t hear a piano.”

Mercer Ellington owned Gaye Records, which was named after his daughter Gaye. Steven knows of only one other release on this label, no. 364 by Jimmy McPhail (mxs. G3127/28).  New York Age (March 1, 1958, p. 27) reported it was recorded “this week,” thus the two Gonzalves tracks were likely recorded in March or April 1958, following the Ellington band’s return to New York City.

The rarities made available for the DESS’ website also includes two Ellington interviews, one by Nat Hentoff and another by Leonard Feather. They will be published on the website at a later date.

The text above builds on two scripts provided by Steven for the two sets of never-issued rarities from his collection.

The tracks in the Steven Lasker Room are meant for members of DESS and are password protected. Become a DESS member and enjoy Steven’s goodies and much more!

Seasonal Greetings 2021

The website team – Anders and Ulf – wish all DESS members and other friends of Duke Ellington Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year.

We are looking forward to seeing you in 2022 on the website, in the DESScafé and at the Ellington Meeting 2022. Don’t forget to pay your membership fee to DESS to get the DESS Bulletin and keep the website with its many articles, resources and goodies going.


Ellington Meeting 2022

Following up the success of the Ellington Meeting 2021, DESS and DESScafé have decided to organise another virtual conference for Duke Ellington aficionados and experts next year.

It will take place during the last week of April. Further details will be announced later.

Those interested in making a presentation at the meeting should submit a short  summary of what they would like to talk about. The presentations should fit into one of the following themes:

– Ellington compositions and interpretations

– Ellington band members and soloists

– Ellington’s tours and apperances

Submissions should be sent to ellingtonmeeting2022@gmail.com before the end of February 2022.

A Program Committee is currently being organised and it will select the presentations before the end of February 2022.

Registration will open 1 March 2022.

There is a page with information about the event on the website. It will be updated regularily.



Broadcasts from The Hurricane Restaurant 1943 part 3

Full blast at the Hurricane!

We follow up our series with unissued Ellington broadcasts from the Hurricane Restaurant in 1943 with two more.

They are from the end of Ellington’s tenure there. Both are from September 1943. Ellington and the band were to leave the Hurricane that month, playing their last gig on September 23. However, they would come back on March 30, 1944 for a longer stay.

The first broadcast that we present is of unknown origin (DE4356) and with a rather low sound quality. It is however of interest for the fact that a compositition by Wallace Jones is used, Until It Happened To You (Me) and also for nice bass plying by Junior Raglin on Jack The Bear. We can also hear one of the first recordings of On The Sunny Side Of The Street with solos by Johnny Hodges and Lawrence Brown. (more…)

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