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Autumn 2019 Issue of DESS Bulletin

The new Bulletin with a lot of good reading was sent out to DESS members a couple of days ago.

Betty Roché is the featured artist this time.

Bo Haufman has written the main article about her. For him she is Duke’s ”unforgettable vocalist”. The article is supplemented by a discography of Betty Roché outside the Ellington organization.

The second installment of Nigel Haslewood’s article about Al Sears is also another major read in the new Bulletin.

Two well-known Ellington compositions – Rocks In My Bed and Mood Indigo – are presented in separate articles. From his website ”Swing and Beyond” Mike Zirpolo has contributed the article on Rocks In My Bed while the one about Mood Indigo is written by Bo Haufman.

He has also contributed an article about Frank Sebastian’s Cotton Club in Culver City in Los Angeles. In later incarnations it is also known as Casa Mañana and Meadowbrook Gardens Café.

The new Bulletin also reprints (with some changes) Anders Asplund’s article about Duke Ellington’s concert in Storvik on April 23, 1939, which  was published on the DESS website last year.

In addition to all this, readers can find in information about the 2020 Duke Ellington Conference in Washington D.C. and a review of a DVD with one of Ellington’s last concerts in the next to last issue of  DESS Bulletin for 2019.


Smått och gott i augusti / Bits and Pieces in August

New Ellington Books (2)

The American writer and jazz columist Con Chapman has written a biography about Johnny Hodges. The title is Rabbit’s Blues – The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges.

It is not entirely clear if it has been published yet. According to the website of the publisher – Oxford University Press – the book will be published Nov. 1 but both new and used copies of it are available at amazon.com. The price for a hardcopy is 27,95 USD. It is also available as an e-book (Kindle) for 14 USD less. However, the book is currently not available on the European Amazon websites.

The web editor has taken advantage of the e-book offer and has read it this week.

It gives a very complete story of the life and career of Johnny Hodges. The book  takes the reader the from Hodges’ birth to his death with almost overwhelming details. His references and footnotes indicates that he has read everything that has already been written about Hodges and used it to a very comprehensive book.

The website will not review the book in detail but recommend its vistors to read the excellent review, which former Blue Light editor Ian Bradly published on his website a couple of days ago. The url is http://villesville.blogspot.com/.

Ellingtonkonferensen 2020

The 26th Duke Ellington Study Group Conference will take place in Washington D.C. at Georgetown University on March 11-15 next year. The organiser of the conference is Professor Anna Celenza, who holds the Thomas E. Caestecker Chair in Music at Georgetown University and had written extensively about Duke Ellington.

With this it is obvious that academic musicologists have taken over the relay as regards Ellington conferences. Out of the last three only one – New York 2016 – has been organised by a Duke Ellington Society or equivalent.

The web editor spoke to Dr. Matthias Heyman about this at the 2018 Ellington Conference in Birmingham. He had just before the conference obtained a PhD of Arts at the University of Antwerp in 2018 with his doctorial thesis on Jimmy Blanton.


The theme for the 2020 conference is Mapping Duke Ellington’s World.

This theme is broadly conceived by the organizers and can include presentations and performances on a range of topics including Ellington’s travels/tours, Ellington’s collaborators, Ellington collections/archives around the world, transcription as a form of musical mapping, musical landscapes in Ellington’s works, mapping the Ellington imagination, Ellington and film, Ellington iconography, and the reception history of Ellington’s works/performances”.

The deadline for proposing papers was August 15 but possibly proposals can still be submitted.

In addition to presentations of academic papers, panels and roundtables there will be cultural walks and visits in Washington D.C. as well as a program of performances by local Washington DC performers.

Keynote speakers will be

Professor Thomas Brothers, Duke University who has published books on Louis Armstrong as well as Duke Ellington

Dr. John E. Hasse, Curator Emeritus at Smithsonian and author of Beyond Categories: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington and many other books.

Professor Tammy Kernodle, Society of American Music

The conference will open with a concert at the classical jazz club Blues Alley in Georgetown.

A website – http://www.ellington2020.org – is already in place. There one can find more information about the conference and buy conference tickets, book hotel and more.

A ticket to the five-day conference is 75 USD for those retired and 100 USD for younger participants. The prices are valid until Dec. 15

Ellington’s Sacred Concerts

The Jazz History Online blog (https://jazzhistoryonline.com), with Thomas Cunniffe as editor, published a very extensive article on Ellington’s Sacred Concerts before the summer. It is highly recommended for everyone interested in the concerts.

Cunniff writes about how each concert developed and about the main songs in each of them. It is richly illustrated by photos and video clips (including some provided by DESS from the Second Sacred Consert in the Gustaf Vasa Cathedral

The article can be read at https://jazzhistoryonline.com/duke-ellingtons-sacred-concerts.

New pods at Ellington Reflections

The website Ellington Reflections  (https://ellingtonreflections.com/) continues tirelessly to produce podcasts on  different topics related to Ellington. During the summer it has published five new ones.

Portrait of Lawrence Brown 1 and 2 (July 21 and August 4 2019)

The Treasury Shows 4 (July 7 2019)

Old Wine and New Bottles (June 16 2019)

Portrait of Otto Hardwicke (June 2 2019

New Ellington Books (1)

In the beginning of July, Jack Chambers – professor of Linguistics at the University of Toronto and well-known jazz writer – published  a new book. This time it is about Duke Ellington and entitled Sweet Thunder.

It is not a traditional biography but a book, which explores the music of the Maestro by tracing nine themes throughout his 50-year career as composer, orchestrator, pianist and leader.

It brings together into a comprehensive unity articles on Ellington topics that Chambers has published in Coda, IARJC Journal, Blue Light etc. or presentations given by him to the members of the Toronto Duke Ellington Society Chapter 40. They have all been revised and adjusted for the purpose of the book.

Each chapter is really a kaleidoscopically written essay full of information and reflections. Together they give a very rich perspective on Ellington’s music. Some of the themes are Ellington’s HarlemLotus Eaters Unite (about Johnny Hodges and Billy Strayhorn) – Bardland (Shakespeare and Ellington) – Afro-Eurasian EllingtonThree Steps Into The River.

The references and playlists at the end of each chapter are also very valuable.

An advantage of Chambers’ approach with themes is that it gives different ways to read the book. It can be read chapter by chapter in chronological order. But the reader can also reshuffle the book  and read the chapters in a personalised order.

Which is the targeted audience of the book?

It seems that it is as Chambers says, ”relative newcomers to Ellington’s 50-year creative journey”. This kind of readers should get a lot from reading the book. However, a problem for them might be that the book right from the start gives a lot of names which might not mean anything to them. So they should possibly be advised to read David Bradbury’s Duke Ellington or John E. Hasse’s Beyond Categories before plunging into Sweet Thunder.

Should those, who already know a lot about Ellington read the book? Chambers hopes that ”the organization into themes will bring new insights to listeners who already know Ellington’s music.” It did so for the web editor and this might also be the case also for others with good knowledge about Ellington and his music.

The Toronto Ellington Chapter has sponsored the book with a ”generous grant”.

Also DESS has contributed towards the production cost to show its support for the book. Hopefully this will encourage many DESS members to buy the book.

Sweet Thunder can be bought on Amazon’s sites both in North America and in Europe. The web editor bought his copy on amazon.de for 28 euros (=300 SEK) but in Europe it is also available om amazon.co.uk and amazon.fr. Avoid buying it from Amazon.com. It is much more expensive with shipping and taxes.










Duke Ellington in Uppsala 1971

Storyville has released a new CD in its Ellington stockpile recording series. This time it is the second Ellington concert in Uppsala on Nov. 9, 1971. Bjarne Busk has produced the CD and also written the liner notes. Jørgen Vad is responsible for the excellent audio restauration.

The CD is the first complete release of another interesting concert from the period when the Ellington orchestra was in some disarray but still performed well and sometimes exceptionally well.

The liner notes are very thorough and gives a lot of information about the music played. Busk also writes about what he perceives as a special relationship between Ellington and Sweden. ”Duke Ellington and Sweden is a true mutual love-affair” he says.

The concert on the CD was produced by George Wein as part of a package tour called Newport Jazz Festival. Besides Ellington and his orchestra, the ”package” featured Miles Davis with a new septet, Kid Thomas Preservation Hall Band, Ornette Coleman Quartet and a group called Giants of Jazz, which included among others Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Thelonius Monk and Art Blakey.

Ellington and Thomas shared the stage in two concerts on Nov. 9 – one at 19:30 and the other at 22:00. Thomas and his band took care of the first part of each of the concerts and Ellington the second.

The Ellington concert was filmed by Swedish Television (as were other parts of the Festival) and one hour of it was telecasted in the beginning of January 1972. The soundtrack of the telecast has circulated among Ellington collectors for a long time. Segments of the concert have also appeared in the Danish Radio Ellington Broadcasts (n°47 and 57) and I Got It Bad in the Medley was included in the Azure CA 10 cassette.

The tape used for the CD emanates from the Mercer Ellington donation. But who recorded it? Was it done by the Wein organisation at the request of Ellington? It is doubtful since it would have called for a double recording set up during the concert. Another – and more likely possibility – is that someone gave Ellington or Mercer Ellington a copy of the tape (in stereo) that technicians from Swedish Radio made together with the TV crew.

Anyhow it is not an important issue. What matters is that Ellington fans and aficionados now can enjoy the full Duke Ellington concert in the Uppsala University Aula (Great Hall) on Nov. 9, 1971 like we us, who were there.

According to NDESOR, Black Swan played by Ellington, Joe Benjamin and Rufus Jones ends the concert. However, it is not on the tape used for the Storyville release neither was it included in the DR 57 broadcast as claimed in the DESS Directory of Recordings by Duke and/or His Sidemen in Sweden.

The issue has to be further researched.

The concert was reviewed in the Swedish jazz magazine in Orkesterjournalen (Albrekt von Konow) and Dagens Nyheter (Bengt Persson). Their comments were generally positive. Both highlighted (as does Busk) the performance of Harlem. However, von Konow would have liked to hear more instrumental soloist and particularly Johnny Coles and Eddie Preston.

The reviews can be read here:



Thank you to Anders Asplund and Jan Bruér for help with information about the recording of the concert.





Music at Ellington ’92

There was much live music at the Ellington ’92 conference. May 28 was Ellington Nights at many clubs and restaurants in Copenhagen.

Then there was the Gala Concert on May 29 with many well-known jazz musicians like Abdullah Ibrahim, Svend  Asmussen, Jesper Thilo, Clark Terry, Buster Cooper, Arne Domnerus, Bength Hallberg, The New Jungle Orchestra and others were participating.

A second Gala Concert took place the following day with The Danish Radio Big Band as main feature. There was also a late night Ellington Ball for conference attendees only.

Unfortunately, no recordings of the musical events exists but Bjarne Busk took a lot of photos, which he has kindly made available to the website.

The reception which kicked off the conference was also a musical event. It took place at Woody’s at Bolten restaurant in the center of Copenhagen and the Danish/Swedish/American group Jan Kaspersen Septet provided the music.

One of the bands, which performed at the Ellington Nights event on May 28, was Ancher Grøn Big Band. This young Danish big band played a four-hour concert.

For the occasion it had enlisted Mercer Ellington as conductor and Willie Cook as one of the main soloist. In addition to original or updated arrangements from the Ellington repertoire, Mercer Ellington and Bengt-Arne Wallin contributed works.

There were also concerts in Copenhagen clubs like Copenhagen Jazz House (James Newton Group), Finn Ziegler’s Corner (Finn Ziegler Trio), La Fontaine (Jacob Fischer Trio) and many more.

Clark Terry and The Scandinavian All Stars performed at the Montmarte jazz club

The band was actually very busy during the conference and also played at the two Gala Concerts and the Ellington Ball.

This was also the case for The Ellington Combo with Rolf Ericson, Buster Cooper, Jesper Thilo, Kenny Drew and shifting Danish bass and drum members.


At the Ellington Nights they played at De Tre Musketerer (The Three Musketeers). Then the band went on to the Gala Concerts and the Ellington Ball.



Andrew Homzy on Ellington-Strayhorn

Andrew Homzy made another interesting presentation at the Copenhagen ’92.

This time, his focus was the collaboration and creative process between Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

He had studied the manuscript scores in the Ellington Archives and used them to provide insights into the process.

Homzy had selected examples from 21 songs to comment upon but because of lack of time he went more deeply into only some of them.

They were, among others, Something To Live For, Barney Goin’ Easy, Take The ‘A’ Train, Rocks In My Bed, Tell Ya What I’m Gonna Do and Memphis Blues.

List of songs

With these songs, Homzy demonstrates the different modes of Ellington’s and Strayhorn’s collaboration  like Ellington sets up the arrangement and Strayhorn takes over or Ellington do the arrangement of a Strayhorn composition or Strayhorn arrange an Ellington composition etc.

The audience benefitted from slides with scores that Homzy had prepared for his presentation.

Unfortunately, we do not have access to them except the one for Rocks In My Bed which was among the handouts provided to the conference participants.

Rocks In My Bed 1

The discussion on the compositional interplay beetween The Monster (Ellington) and Sweetie Pie (Strayhorn) continued at the next Ellington Study Group conference – the one which took place in Stockholm in 1994.

Having also studied the material in the Ellington Archive, Walter van de Leur, provided another presentation on the topic. Here is the link to the presentation

He had some different views from Homzy, which he, of course, further discussed in his book Something To Live For.

Bill Hill: Portraits of The Duke

William (Bill) F. Hill, who was the chairman of the Ellington ’91 conference and participant in other Ellington Study Group conferences before that, contributed to Ellington ’92 as well.


He had systematically collected during a three year period compositions written and performed with the purpose to do hommage to Duke Ellington. They all reflected some aspects of him and the Ellington orchestra.

He reported on this work of love to the participants in Copenhagen. In his presentation. Hill plays excerpts from some of them and together will Andrew Homzy he introduced them.

Because of the recording and microphone setup in the conference hall, the balance between the spoken presentation and the music is not the best (to put it mildly) but the music parts has been edited to increase the volume on the original tapes.

Hill handed out a two-page list of what he found had to the participants at the Copenhagen conference. It included almost 70 works written and recorded by 30 different artists. Worthwhile reading!

Cph 93 Hill handout



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