| || THE INTERNATIONAL|
DUKE ELLINGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
04/2 August-November 2004
FOUNDER: BENNY AASLAND
HONORARY MEMBER: FATHER JOHN GARCIA GENSEL
EDITOR: SJEF HOEFSMIT
ASSISTED BY: ROGER BOYES
Voort 18b, 2328 Meerle, Belgium
Telephone: +32 3 315 75 83
Part 1. News
Drummer Elvin Jones died on 18May04 in NYC at the age of 76 years. He
became famous as the drummer of John Coltrane. That's why he recorded
with Ellington on the Impulse album, recorded 26Sep62 where he played
in four of the seven selections. He also appeared in concerts with
Ellington in Frankfurt (28Jan66), Paris (29Jan66) and Milano
(30Jan66). Klaus Stratemann described what happened on p533. Louie
Bellson could not join the band for the tour to Europe. Duke hired
Skeets Marsh but became unhappy with his choice and sent for Elvin
Jones. When Elvin discovered that he had to share the drums with
Skeets Marsh he left Ellington and worked in Europe for a short while
before returning to the U.S.
Today [24May04] I got word that Rick Henderson died a couple of days
ago. He was discovered dead in his home. A reporter from the
Washington Post has asked me a lot of details about Rick. I will send
you a copy of what they publish tomorrow. I called him about three
weeks before his death and he seemed just fine then. We talked about
the big changes we've seen in the music we like. I was shocked when I
got the word on Rick. He was a fine guy to know.
From the Washington Post of 26May04 the first part of Rick's obituary:
"Rick Henderson, 76, an alto saxophonist who played in Duke
Ellington's orchestra and led the house band of the Howard Theatre, a
landmark on the black musical circuit, died 21May at his home in
Washington. He had arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Mr Henderson, a D.C. native, was a superior musician who had the
misfortune to rise on the big band scene as it was declining. After
his work with Ellington in the early 1950s and an impressive but
gruelling stint at the Howard Theatre that lasted until 1964, he
spent many decades as a composer and arranger for school and military
orchestras as well as bands led by Ellington, Count Basie, Illinois
Jacquet and Billy Taylor.
Working as an arranger did not bring much public attention, which may
have been fine for Mr Henderson, often described as a person who
liked his privacy. As a quiet practitioner of his trade, he earned
the respect of those who used his charts, including pianist and
educator Taylor, who felt that Mr Henderson captured Ellington's
When Jack Towers introduced me on 5Jun86 to Rick Henderson, I was
surprised to see a man of my own age. I figured that he would have
been much older as having been Duke's band-member in the 1950s. As
many of us know, Rick occupied the Hodges chair during the Capitol
years from 1Mar53 until mid Jun55 when Johnny returned to the band
and Duke resumed his recording activities for Columbia (Jan56). Rick
not only soloed in many concerts in his modern "bop" idiom; he also
contributed to the band-book with many compositions and arrangements.
Rick composed Frivolous Banner (better known as Frivolous
Banta); Commercial Time and Carney. He arranged for Duke
All the Things You Are; Teach Me Tonight; Look What I've Got for
You and The Happy One.
He was back in the band during the recording sessions for "A Drum Is
a Woman" in Sep and Oct56 and he appeared with Ellington in the
Columbia studio on 9Sep57 to re-record his own composition
Commercial Time. The same composition was performed at Mather
Air Force Base on 5Mar58 and later released on the Private Collection
Volume 6 as Californio Mello.
Rick made me a cassette with a great number of his own compositions.
Some of these were also performed by the Ellington band during the
stockpile session of 5May71: Public Address (on the tape box
titled Dreaming by the Fire), Pat Your Feet (on the
tape box Rick's Blues) and Pretty Girl (which has
nothing to do with Star-Crossed Lovers). By the way, I believe
that the subtitle of Star-Crossed Lovers is Pretty Little
Girl. Listen to the recording of 8Sep55 by the Johnny Hodges
group on Verve 2304.446.
Listening to Rick's tape makes me agree with Taylor that Rick
"brilliantly" captured Ellington's sound. Maybe this is not Billy
Taylor but the critic J.R.Taylor who reviewed an Ellington concert by
Rick Henderson's band in the Washington Star of 19Aug80 saying:
"Henderson seems to interpret Ellington - understandably enough -
from the angle of the 1950s, his own period with the band and the
period in which Ellington rose to meet the challenge of Count Basie's
reconstructed orchestral powerhouse. Thus the Henderson orchestra's
ensembles are relaxed but polished, powerful but restrained, and
often somewhat in the vigorous Basie manner."
I am most grateful to Jack Towers for introducing me to Rick
Henderson and I will treasure his cassettes and his letters as well
as my video recordings from his basement-studio. I was fortunate
enough to meet him several times when I was in the Washington area.
He was a great friend and a marvellous musician!
John R. T. Davies1927 - 2004
25May04. I'm sure you'll be saddened to know that the great
remastering engineer, John R.T. Davies, died this morning. Though not
particularly known for being a Duke follower, he contributed to many
reissues - not only the ones where he was in charge of remastering,
but by loaning 78rpm takes of which he often had mint copies.
I think that John R.T. Davies was to his field what Mark Tucker was
to ours. When people like that go, no one can take their place. I
just hope that John R.T. knew how many people were indebted to him
for the way he made the music jump right out of those grooves into
their ears. He was a great artist.
John R. T. Davies had two successful careers, first as an outstanding
musician with the top traditional bands in England and, secondly, as
one of the foremost restoration specialists with old and rare
He was called upon to play and arrange for The Temperance
Seven in the late 1950s. His musical career in traditional
jazz was actually launched when he played with the Crane River
Among his many close musician friends were such well known British
musicians as Chris Barber, Steve Lane, Acker Bilk, Sandy Brown, Ken
Colyer and Mick Mulligan.
As a skilled trombonist, saxophonist and piano player he travelled
world wide showcasing his talent throughout Europe and then trips to
Australia, the United States, and Canada, playing at his own
granddaughters wedding a few weeks before his death.
His great record collection of vintage material from the 1920s and
beyond became a clear factor in his desire to restore and master the
material. The horse stables at his home in Surrey had been converted
into a storage facility for his fabulous collection as well as the
rooms where he would utilize his outstanding equipment for his
restoration and mastering wizardry. And while he pursued his career
in this work he never abandoned his playing. He had his own private
labels in the early 1960s and then he became the chief
restoration expert for such labels as Hep, Storyville, Fountain,
Retrieval and Jazz Greats. In the United States DRG and
Columbia/Legacy were the beneficiaries of his efforts. His work on a
specific LP or CD would guarantee the best possible transfer
A FEW FAREWELLS FROM CLOSE FRIENDS
Jack Towers :
John R. T. Davies had the best command of the English language of
anybody Ive ever met. While his education had been limited to
completing High School he spent the rest of his life, self-taught,
and becoming a master of electronics, physics, and, of course, music.
His greatest accomplishment was getting the most from old 78rpm
records. When the discs were transferred to reel-to-reel tape with
many clicks and pops, John utilized a device he invented where you
could pull the recorded tape over a playback tape head and then
isolate the click and etch it off the oxide of the tape itself. John
showed me how. I then made a copy of the unit and it was a great help
to me in preparing the masters of the LPs and CDs I
prepared from disc sources.
He tackled many of the toughest problems in getting the most from
old discs. His results are amazing. Record collectors the world over
can appreciate that they are getting the best when they see the name
John R. T. Davies as the engineer. I will truly miss
my good friend.
Barbara Valburn :
When I was asked to say a few words about our very dear friend
John R. T. Davies I said "thats got to be the
simplest of tasks" because indeed he left so many beautiful memories.
Sharing time with John was always a great treat. How he managed to
amass such vast and complete knowledge in every imaginable subject
area never ceased to amaze us. And, his delivery when he shared
information, told an anecdote, or threw a one liner always tickled
and delighted us. To say that he was brilliant, witty, kind, caring,
and truly a joy to be with is an understatement. So, as we bid
good-bye to our dear friend it is with only one regret that
geography kept us from spending more time together.
Jerry Valburn Some Memories
Our paths first crossed in the 1950s when John made me acetates
of Ellington items I didnt have at that time. In the
1960s on one of his many visits here we finally met and over
the years he stayed with us.
In 1973, while in London, Dick Sudhalter picked me up for a trip to
"Ristics" home. Barbara and I later stayed with him. It was not
unusual to see Robert Parker, with his digital equipment,
transferring from Johns mint 78s on Johns dining
John was very proud of his Saab racing car and he drove us to the
Ellington conference at Oldham in 1988 . On our trips to Jack he
greatly admired the countryside of Maryland and expressed a strong
desire to settle on a farm there someday.
If I have one regret it was in 1996. I didnt know that John had
been playing a gig in Toronto. He remained at the hotel holding the
Ellington conference until the last possible moment before his plane
trip back to the UK. We had had a very leisurely lunch with Willie
Timner and his wife, and we arrived at the hotel after Johns
departure. I missed him then and I miss him now. There are tears in
my eyes as I write this. Farewell dear friend.
Seated in front are Ted Shell, John R.T. Davies, and Jerry Valburn.
That's Jack Towers standing at the top.
Ray Charles, who became a famous musician in a somewhat other style
than Ellington, died on 10Jun04. He did not only play on 23Feb70 with
the Ellington band on a "Salute to Ellington" programme at Madison
Square Garden, where he and Louis Armstrong were among the performing
guests; but he also played on the video taped show "Duke Ellington,
We Love You Madly" on 10 or 11Jan73 at the New Schubert Theatre in
Los Angeles. This made him almost an Ellingtonian.
This message was published this morning (30Mar04) in De
Volkskrant, a Dutch daily newspaper. A quick translation:
"Musicologist and artistic leader of the Dutch Jazz Orchestra,
Walter van de Leur,
received the Irving Lowens Book Award from the Society for American
Music. He was awarded the prize for his book Something To Live
For: The music of Billy Strayhorn. Strayhorn was, amongst other
things, composer/arranger for Duke Ellington. It is the first time
the Irving Lowens Book Award has been given to a non-American. Before
this, Van de Leurs book won another prize, awarded by the
American Association of Recorded Sound Collections."
Jack Towers was chosen by the Association for Recorded Sound
Collections [ARSC] for its new Award for Distinguished Service to
Historic Recordings. Criteria for this single honor includes
"contributions of outstanding significance to the field of historic
works or discographical research". Source "Ellingtonia" Newsletter
of The Duke Ellington Society, Washington Chapter.
Congratulations and thank you Jack, from South Africa.
Norbert is our favourite supplier of Jazz literature, videos and
DVDs. He sends out every few months an impressive catalogue and he
has sent us recently the following announcement:
"My web-site has finally moved to a new home at
It is online in an updated and newly designed version."
We hope that many of you will enjoy paying him a visit.
In DEMS 03/2-3/2 Maurice Rolfe reported the death of his long
time friend and fellow DEMS member John Lawrence. We received through
e-mail the following message from John's heir, his niece
My Uncle, John Lawrence, was a huge fan and collector of Duke
Ellington's music. I have inherited from him a large collection of
jazz recordings and would appreciate some advice on who I could
contact re their value/libraries/museums which would be
I have so far logged the LP records (see attached file with 374 Duke
Ellington records and 840 other records, Duke Ellington's are listed
on the first sheet) but also have a vast number of CDs which are yet
to be logged.
The collection is currently in London. Any advice you could give
would be very appreciated.
If anybody is interested in this almost complete Ellington collection
or has a suggestion what to do with it, please let us know. We have
seen the listing, it includes among other things all the original
vinyl releases of the Treasury series. Include in the heading of your
e-mail message any indication that this is an Ellington matter. If we
do not know your name, we might throw your message away together with
the enormous amount of spam we receive daily now that our e-mail
address is on the depanorama web-site. That's why we do not publish
Helen's e-mail address here.
An old member of the Duke Ellington Society of Sweden wants to
sell a great number of books about Jazz. If you are interested, we
can forward to you a list.
Ellington Conference 2004 in Stockholm 12-16May
The unofficial opening of the conference took place on Wednesday
the 12th with a Get-together party at the old Swedish Jazz Palace
NALEN. Our initial reservations about not staying at the same place
for lodging, meals and presentations quickly evaporated when we saw
the marvellous main hall in which we were going to enjoy the
presentations and concerts during the following days.
Ulf Söderholm gave a lecture about the story
of this remarkable building. It has been totally restored after a
long history of being used for several strange purposes, like
bicycling and boxing. But most of the time it has been used for
dancing and listening to Swedish and foreign jazz musicians.
During the party Åke Johansson played the
piano while we were treated with a luxurious buffet. In situations
like this, the piano-player does not get the attention he deserves. I
listened to the recordings of his recital later and it was indeed
impressive. He did play several unusual numbers like Star-Crossed
Lovers and Blood Count..
The official opening took place the next morning, when
Charles Stewart, president of the Southern
California Chapter passed on the Eddie Lambert
gavel to Göran Wallén, chairman of the
Duke Ellington Society of Sweden and also chairman of the organising
The daytime programs were hosted by Professor
Åke Edfelt, chairman of the Swedish Jazz
History Group and well known to those of us who were present in 1994,
and by Jens Lindgren, curator of the Swedish Jazz
Archive, which contains the private collections of
Benny Aasland and Alice Babs.
Jens showed himself to be a very accomplished trombone-player when he
played with his "Kustbandet" orchestra during the dinner-party on
Saturday evening, which concluded the conference. But let's get back
to the first day:
The first speaker was Jan Bruér, who is
working on a re-issue project of Swedish jazz recordings. He played
for us several of the recordings, which were selected for this
project. There were two recordings with
Alice Babs, who was (happily, and for the entire
conference) among the participants in the audience; from 1951 I'm
Checking OutGoom Bye and from 1959 with the
Arne Domnérus big band I Got It Bad.
Another noteworthy recording from the 50s was Sophisticated
Lady by a group with Rolf Ericson,
Åke Person and
Arne Domnérus and from the mid-60s Satin
Doll by a group of three male and three female singers, called
"Gals and Pals".
The next presentation was highly interesting for record collectors.
The presenter was
Frank Büchmann Møller. He
works at the library of the University of Odense. After
Arnvid Meyer, the founder of the Danish Jazz
Center, retired in 1997, the private collections of
Timme Rosenkrantz and
Ben Webster (among other things) were moved from
Copenhagen to Odense. Frank has finished cataloguing the Webster
collection. He found 2 acetates from 1941, privately made by Ben in
California with Ray Nance and probably
Fred Guy and Sonny Greer. There
are seven selections, of which three are undoubtedly with
Jimmie Blanton. Ben played piano, clarinet and
tenor. There is a five minute version of Body and Soul with a
vocal part, probably by Sonny. Frank played for us the three
selections with Jimmie: I Never Knew; The Sheik of Araby (with
Ben on clarinet) and I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me.
Frank doesn't know why Jimmie is not heard on the other four
selections. Maybe he was already too ill. This could mean that the
three recordings are among the last which Jimmie ever made. Next year
all seven selections will be issued by
Anthony Barnet [I hope I have the name right]
in England as part of a series dedicated to Jazz Violinists.
Claire Gordon presented in her talk her latest
book "My Unforgettable Jazz Friends" (see 04/2-19). She told us how
Steven Lasker pushed her to finish
Rex Stewart's biography and how we owe a debt of
gratitude to David Hajdu for encouraging her to
write and publish her own memoirs.
Her book has two main threads, both starting with a D. They are,
Dancing and Discrimination. When she was a young girl, there were
many dance halls in the Los Angeles area and all over the
country. They provided work for thousands of musicians. The black
musicians among them had a hard time however. She told the story of
Duke's Pullman car although she never saw it. She wondered how
Ellington bought his clothes since she shared the experience with
Maxine Sullivan of being refused service in a
Fifth Avenue department store when she was trying on a new dress.
Duke had his costumes and shoes specially made and she was happy that
he found by doing this a way to overcome similar embarrassment.
When Ellington was sailing home after his 1939 visit to Europe, he
met her parents on the Ile de France and her mother told Duke how
much Claire enjoyed his music and how determined she collected his
records. Ellington told her mother that Claire and her brother would
be welcome to visit him at his recording sessions in Los Angeles.
When she worked a couple of years later in New York and lost her job
(because she made a mistake in returning change money) she met Duke
who knew her well by now and gave her a job as his secretary to
handle his fan-mail. Duke arranged that Juan Tizol
accompanied her occasionally because it could happen that a US Army
southerner in New York might get the idea that he had to defend a
white woman if she was spoken to by a black man.
This year each presenter received from the committee an original
silhouette drawing, portraying Ellington. After
Åke Edfeldt gave Claire her present, he
asked Helena Ashby to step forward. She received a
drawing of Rex Stewart by the same artist. Helena introduced herself
as the oldest daughter of Rex and she expressed her joy at
being in our midst. Now everybody knew her and she had to pose
patiently in order to have her picture taken together with many of
the participants during the remaining days of the conference.
Bjarne Busk started his presentations with a few
words dedicated to the late
Karl Emil Knudsen.who founded the
company Storyville in 1952 and who died on 5Sep03. (See DEMS 03/3-2).
He also mentioned the book by Klaus Stratemann
which was published by Karl Emil's publishing company Jazz
Media. The book will not be reprinted and only a few copies are
left. The book was on sale at the booth of Storyville where we
met the charming Mona Granager, the driving force
behind Storyville, and its production manager,
Anders Stefansen, who both were committed to
continuing the activities of Storyville. Storyville has already
released quite a bit of the material from the Danish Radio and the
rate at which further new releases will appear depends on us,
the market. The more we buy, the more will be made available. There
is still an awful lot of unreleased material. When
Ted O'Reilly, the famous Toronto jazz expert who
was in the audience, once asked Duke if he had many unissued
compositions, Duke explained that he had indeed too much for the
market to absorb. Bjarne played this segment of this 17Mar70
interview. Ted spoke during question-time about his problem with his
clip-on microphone on that occasion, since Duke, who had just taken a
shower, was wearing nothing apart from a towel on his lap
Bjarne played some of the selections on the latest Storyville release
"The Jaywalker" (see DEMS 04/239). He also played for us
the Ellington composition PEKE and the
Rick Henderson composition Rick's Blues
(a.k.a. Pat Your Feet), both recorded in 1971, as examples
of what is still to come on the Storyville label. Bjarne conveyed his
thoughts about releasing material from Duke's Stockpile. There were
several angles to take into account. The ethical question: would
Ellington have agreed with the release? The viewpoint of collectors
and researchers, who like to see everything made available; and the
commercial angle: a certain amount of sold records is required.
Bjarne ended his talk with a segment of his interview with
Juan Amalbert, the percussionist who played in the
show "My People". Juan explained in that interview that his
scores were completely written by Ellington. Duke appreciated his
musicianship highly and once he inspired Duke to dance in front of
the band. By the way, there are also plans to release some of the
alternate studio recordings for the album "My People". Bjarne said
that in all there is at least enough material for 10 high quality
Annie Kuebler gave an interesting talk about the
relationship between Ellington and
James P. Johnson. The Institute of
Jazz Studies recently received a James P. collection. [There
must also be a JPJ collection at Fisk University.] Annie played
several piano pieces like a part of New World A-Comin' (by
Ellington at Wollman Auditorium at Columbia University on 20May64);
Carolina Shout by James P. (from his piano-roll from
1921); Soda Fountain Rag (by Ellington from 8May37 under the
title Swing Session) and Carolina Shout (by Ellington
as part of the first concert of 30Jan65 in Paris). She also played a
part of the Harlem Symphony composed by James P. and performed
by a large orchestra. She mentioned the similarities between
Ellington and James P.: they both had pride in their race, both
wanted to be considered serious musicians, they both ended up in
Harlem and they shared
Will Marion Cook as their teacher.
Some of her statements were illustrated by segments from Ellington
interviews with Carter Harman and probably
Stanley Dance. Annie mentioned a great number of
names of people who influenced Ellington or were influenced by
Ellington. One of James P.'s later works was the opera
"Dreamy Kid" based on a libretto by
Eugene O'Neill. Annie concluded her talk with a
complimentary word for the technicians who took care of the sound
system and the overhead projector. They did indeed a splendid job.
She will hang her present, the silhouette of Ellington, in the
Institute of Jazz Studies.
Scott Schwartz told us that he has "deserted"
Ellington and gone from one great to another. He now takes care of
the John Philip Sousa collection at
the University of Illinois. If we think that the Smithsonian
Collection only contains documents of music, we are wrong. It also
contains documents of money. In the early years Ellington's business
transactions were done with cash. Al Celley, who
became band-manager in 1943 after Jack Boyd, had
to carry a gun and even Duke, who also carried a lot of money in his
pocket, had a small weapon. In later years Ellington's business
affairs went corporate and he had to keep accounts of his finances
for the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Scott has studied the
financial records in the Smithsonian Collection, specifically those
of the years 1961, 62 and 63 and he found that Ellington had quite
some problems with his personal and corporate tax returns in 1964.
Scott gave us many details, some of them hilarious. When the band
stayed in a hotel, the band manager had to take care of the bills of
the musicians who forgot to pay themselves. That's why
Paul Gonsalves was constantly in debt to Ellington
and why it happened that when other band members were spending money
in the hotel, they charged their expenditure to Paul's bill.
That evening we visited the Engelbrektskyrkan for a concert, titled
"Ring Dem Bells" by the Kirk Quintet directed by
Erik Dahberg in collaboration with the Sofia
Church Choir. It was very interesting to hear The Mooche
performed by a choir. The courageous and young
Johanna Grüssner performed very successfully
some songs from the Ellington/Alice Babs songbook.
The second group on this concert was "Freedom The Vision", a trio:
Håkan Lewin (as),
Johannes Landgren (pipe organ) and
Robert Ekström (Hammond organ). Håkan
and Johannes have made a nice CD, dedicated to the music of
Ellington, titled "In My Solitude" for which
Patricia Willard wrote the liner-notes. It was
issued by Argument Förlag AB in 1999.
Sometimes the acoustics in the church were somewhat overpowered by
two organs and a saxophone. The CD sounds actually much better.
One of my greatest personal surprises was meeting again
Birgit Åslund after many years. She
complimented me on the DEMS Bulletins. I have had the pleasure of
receiving many compliments, in writing and more specifically in
person from several DEMS members I met at the conference. To be
honest, none of these compliments made me more proud than those from
dear Birgit Åslund.
The second day started with Brian Priestley who
spoke about Charles Mingus as a member of the
"Ellington School". Brian was happy to be invited to speak about two
of his favourite musicians. When Duke was asked at a press conference
in Argentina what he made of Charles Mingus' statement
that he [Charles] belonged to the "Ellington School", his answer was:
"That's what he says." [Stanley Dance, The
World of Duke Ellington p267]. Duke's answer was not only the title
of Brian's talk, but also the title of one of the tracks on his
latest CD "Who Knows?" (see DEMS 04/2-46).
Mingus was born on 22Apr22 and grew up in the Watts area of Los
Angeles. Mingus was befriended by several of the Ellingtonians,
especially Britt Woodman, who took him to an
Ellington concert in the thirties and who had to save him from
falling from the balcony when he became so excited
about Ellington's music. Britt said once that Mingus after having
listened to his Ellington records, could play the piano intro's by
Duke by ear. He had no formal training on the piano.
Around the age of 16 Mingus started to take informal lessons from
Red Callender who soon realised what potential
Charles had. He sent him to his own teacher, a classical bass player
[Herman Reinschagen, who had played with the New
York Symphony Orchestra].
Charles also met Jimmie Blanton. He once saw
Jimmie playing with Slam Stewart, swapping licks
[probably with Claire Gordon in the audience, who describes
this happening in her book on page 17].
In an interview, Mingus said that he was very impressed to notice
that Jimmie Blanton could play with the bow classical pieces
which he knew by heart.
Brian played for us the first part of the 13Nov59 recording by Mingus
of Mood Indigo. We heard John Handy (as),
Jimmy Knepper (tb) and
Roland Hanna (p).
Mingus was very much influenced by European classical music and by
Ellington and Strayhorn. Like Ellington, he used to write for
the individual musicians. He also like Ellington wrote many tributes
to other musicians, many of them to Ellington: Duke's Choice
(Oct57); Open Letter to Duke (12May59) and after Duke died
Alive and Well in Duke-land and Duke Ellington's Sound of
Love for which Mingus also wrote lyrics, expressing his
admiration for Ellington.
To illustrate Duke's and Billy's influence Brian played for us
several recordings like the 6May46 ballad Baby, Take a Chance with
Me, with vocal by Claude Trenier and Britt Woodman at the end of
the coda playing the same note as in Sonnet to Hank Cinq. He
played the 1964 Amsterdam recording of Meditations on
Integration with the very recognisable
Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet and with the
Ellingtonian Johnny Coles in the band; and the
4Feb59 very original Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.
Brian mentioned the unsuccessful stay of Mingus in the Ellington
band in Feb53 and the very successful Feb62 album "Money Jungle"
a title which seems to be attributable to Mingus. Brian read Duke's
statement about their collaboration on Fleurette Africaine
(MIMM p243), where Duke stated that there was only one take made.
[This is contradicted by Michael Cuscuna in DEMS
Brian concluded his presentation with an excerpt from The Black
Saint and the Sinner Lady from 1963 in which
Jaki Byard played the role of Ellington and
Charlie Mariano personified
Johnny Hodges. In the same band were
Rolf Ericson and
John Edward Hasse started his talk
with a plug for the Jazz Appreciation Month organised by the
Smithsonian Institution. It is held each year in April, because then,
the schools have not yet closed for the holiday season. This year's
poster carried the image of Artie Shaw, who at age
93 when asked for the difference between himself and
Benny Goodman, answered: "I'm alive."
John, who earlier [in Chicago on 9May98] spoke of "The Ellington
Canon", seems still to be interested in Ellington statistics because
he now choose to speak of "Ellington, Strayhorn and the
Standard Repertory of Jazz."
Selections can be made based on six different criteria:
1. Is it a masterpiece, which means it has great excellence? Like
2. Is it a historical milestone, significant in the course of musical
history? Like Black, Brown and Beige.
3. Is it a biographical milestone, significant in a musicians
career? Like Choo Choo.
4. What pieces are the most typical of their type or genre?
5. Is it a hit? That means most often bought or heard at a specific
time. Like Satin Doll.
6. Is it a standard? That means most often known and performed by
professional musicians over a longer period of time. Like St.
Louis Blues, Stardust, Autumn Leaves, Summertime, Round Midnight,
which are generally regarded as jazz-standards.
On this point we were asked to write down 5 or 10 compositions by
Ellington or Strayhorn or members of the band, written during their
stay in the band, which we considered standards and to indicate which
one in the list was number one.
After the sheets were collected, John continued his talk with the
seven approaches to determine what the standards are.
1. What tunes earned the most money for their copyright holders?
Answer: Take the "A" Train; It Don't Mean a Thing; In a
Sentimental Mood. Or which one brought the most money for printed
music sales? Answer: Satin Doll.
2. Which one is mentioned most in lists compiled by experts:
3. Which tunes appear most often in songbooks? They are merely
aimed at amateurs and they do not necessarily reflect what the
professionals are playing. After all the professionals define the
community of jazz standards.
4. Which recording has been most often transcribed?
Andrew Homzy did a survey in 1992 and he found:
I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart; Solitude; Take the "A" Train.
If you ask why people transcribed the same piece, the answer is:
they didn't know that another one had done it. [This was
Don Miller's major concern and the subject of the
first Ellington Conferences in the days prior to the arrival of
Duke's manuscripts at the Smithsonian Institution.]
5. Which tunes appear most in professional musicians fakebooks? A
fakebook contains only the melody line. After music publishers found
out that there were many illegal fakebooks, they started in the 60s
to publish legal fakebooks. There is a fakebook index on the web.
Most of these fakebooks mention mostly I Let a Song Go Out of My
Heart and Satin Doll.
6. What tunes are most frequently recorded or released. It is not
always the musician who makes the choice, but often the record
company. This means that this is not an exact way to establish
whether we have a standard. One can find what tunes are most widely
available on discs today: Prelude to a Kiss is available (in
the US) on 588 CDs, recorded by Ellington and others and not
necessarily all different. The same recording can be released on
several CDs. Satin Doll on this list is only number 9. Number
1 is Caravan, which appears on more than 1000 CDs. Number 2 is
Take the "A" Train.
7. What tunes have been most widely recorded throughout the history
of jazz? John used Tom Lord's discography, not
because it is the most reliable, but because it is the only one on
CD-ROM. John showed us the list he compiled of the 50 most recorded
pieces from which I only quote the top eleven: Take the "A"
Train (1071); Caravan (929); Sophisticated Lady
(775); Mood Indigo (773); Satin Doll (732);
Perdido (669); In a Sentimental Mood (626); Don't Get
Around Much Anymore (563); I Got It Bad (554); It Don't
Mean a Thing (533); Solitude (515). In the case of Take
the "A" Train 46% of recorded versions were by Ellington and 54%
by others. For the 50 most recorded tunes, the peak years of
composition were from '38 to '46. The peak year of all was 1941 with
9 tunes composed that year in the top 50. 1949 had only 5 and there
were none at all after 1957.
During question-time, Art Zimmermann asked if John
in using Tom Lord's discography had filtered out the unissued
recordings. John answered that he did not include alternate takes in
the same session and that he did not include unissued recordings, but
he did not sound very convincing when he said: "I think this is the
number of issued recordings."
Brian Priestley argued that presumably a lot of
the versions of Take the "A" Train are brief theme
performances at the start of a concert or a broadcast. He suggested
that if you would compare the roughly 50% division of recordings of
Take the "A" Train by Ellington and by others, with the
situation with Caravan, you would find a much higher
percentage by others in the case of Caravan.
Ken Steiner asked why there was so much emphasis
here on the standards, while there was a so much larger body of works
to be explored. John replied that his study did not take away any of
the importance of other works, but that since nobody had done it
before, he thought it would be interesting to do a research for
Bjarne Busk remarked that by using Jazz
discographies, one would not come across the many recordings of
Ellington tunes outside the field of jazz.
Jan Bruér asked whether there were figures
of Ellington's best selling records on 78's and LPs? John asked for
help from Steven Lasker and
George Avakian. Steven said that there are no
accurate figures about 78's and George said that there was no doubt
that "Ellington at Newport" was the best selling LP, with sales of
over a million copies. He also explained that the sales-figures from
Columbia were much bigger than the public or the industry knew,
because Billboard and other publications had no access to the figures
of sold records in the record clubs. They only surveyed sales through
record stores. In the case of the best selling records many more
copies were sold through record clubs than in the stores during the
first few months after release.
The next presenter was Eric Sahlein. He replaced
Andrew Homzy, who was unable to come to the
conference to talk about the "Togo Brava Suite". Eric was presented
to Ellington around 1971 by Karen Read, the
Walter and June Read. Duke
was Karen's godfather. June Read promoted many young artistes
from Philadelphia, among others Tony Watkins and
Devonne Gardner. (See MIMM p289). Eric was asked
to do some arranging for the group of singers around
Roscoe Gill for stage performances of songs like
Caravan, Prelude to a Kiss and Jump for Joy. In the
conference programme notes it was claimed that he arranged secular
music for the Sacred Concerts. However he did not mention any of the
titles from any of the Sacred Concerts and of the three titles he
mentioned, no recordings are known to me with
Eric carries now the surname of his own father, but in those years
his name was Kuhn, the name of the family who adopted him.
He mentioned that the original title of In a Sentimental Mood
was In the Middle of a Kiss. Steven Lasker
who told us that there is a subtitle, Paradise, asked where
Eric found his subtitle. Eric answered that Mrs Read had told
him. There is no trace of Eric under either of his surnames in the
literature or in my files, which doesn't mean that he didn't tell us
the truth. He said that he never promoted himself and that he had not
previously produced a CD. There was however no doubt about his
piano-playing. He played for us In a Sentimental Mood and it
was gorgeous. He promised me to keep me informed if he would have
made a CD with Ellington tunes.
Lars Weston, editor of "Orkester Journalen", the
oldest jazz magazine (1933) in the world, was the next speaker. His
topic was Rolf Ericson. Lars decided to speak
English with a Swedish accent, to make it more authentic.
The first video shown was the one from 20Feb64 with Perdido.
Lars mentioned that shortly after Rolf joined the Ellington band (in
May63) there was a tour through Sweden which lasted for one month.
They played in Stockholm at Grona Lund and the tour ended in
Mjølby (¤300 kilometers South of Stockholm). [This is not
strictly correct. The Swedish tour ended two days later on 25Jun63 in
Rolf was influenced by Louis Armstrong. He was
eleven years old when his uncle took him to one of Louis' concerts in
Stockholm [at the end of Oct33]. This made such an impression that
Rolf decided that he wanted to become a trumpet player. He played in
his school orchestra with Arne Domnérus,
who was two years younger and who carried Rolf's bags. [Rolf also
played in the amateur band of Benny Aasland.]
Together with Arne, he was selected for a new band, founded in 1943.
Lars played a recording of this band. After the war, these young
musicians dreamed of going to America, but the problem was the
language. People hardly spoke any English. Not until 1950 was English
taught at elementary schools. Rolf played in 1946 and 1947 in another
band which performed in NALEN from 1935 until 1948. Lars played a
short clip of this band. Rolf's language problem was "solved" by the
visit to Sweden in 1947 of the piano player
Bob Laine, a fellow-countryman who had emigrated
to the USA in 1928 and who had played there with many American
musicians. He played in NALEN in the small room, which became known
as "Harlem" in 1947.
After Bob's visit, Rolf accompanied him and Bob's wife to California
in 1947. Rolf started as a dishwasher in Palm Springs but when he had
earned enough money he went to Los Angeles and started to play with
many American bands. He revisited Sweden in Sep50. He was treated as
a star at NALEN. There was a new band formed with Arne and Rolf. Lars
showed us a clip from Dec51.
Rolf returned to the US in 1952 and stayed there for almost 15 years.
He played with many bands. He was featured as a soloist in the
Stan Kenton orchestra in 1959/60. When he returned
to Sweden he played with many younger musicians. We saw a 1962 clip
with Rolf and Nils Lindberg. When he started his
own band in Sweden, he was not very successful, because he was not
much of a businessman. But Rolf was loved by everybody who knew him.
He also worked in Berlin and Köln. He played in 1981 in the
"Sophisticated Ladies" Show on Broadway.
The last clip we saw was from 1993 or 1994 when he was going to play
for an early morning television show. There was nobody to accompany
him, and he had to play alone. He performed
Harry Edison's Centerpiece, which was shown
by Lars. It was very moving.
The only person who has attended all the Ellington conferences,
Patricia Willard, spoke about
"Louie Bellson, Billy Strayhorn
and Duke Ellington - Their reciprocal impact." She is working on
Louie's biography and she can be considered the greatest expert about
Louie Bellson. It has not been established whether Duke had
heard Louie Bellson other than on records when he met him for
the first time. When Juan Tizol suggested to Duke
that he should bring Louie with him when he and
Willie Smith were leaving
Harry James' orchestra for the Ellington band,
Duke was delighted. He knew of Louie's capabilities and his
double bass drum. The James orchestra were not playing much more than
once a week at the time and when they told Harry that they were going
to leave him, he said: "Take me with you!"
Louie was not only a drummer but also a composer and arranger, eager
to hear his music performed. Billy became Louie's roommate on the
road and Louie asked him about the way Billy and Duke wrote their
music. He was especially intrigued by the voicings of Caravan.
Billy said: "Sorry, that's something we don't tell.
Duke told Louie: "Don't try to be Sonny Greer. Play like Louie
Bellson." Louie showed Duke and Billy his compositions, The Hawk
Talks, a piece written for but never played by Harry James
(Harry's nickname was Hawk) and Skin Deep, written by Louie
when he was in the Army Band. After several months on the road,
between sets Duke played Caravan on the piano for Louie and
explained him the way he wrote it. Billy must have told Duke of
Patricia played for us the recording of The Hawk Talks from
14Mar52. By this time Louie had earned the privilege of studying
Strayhorn's sketches and Ellington-Strayhorn collaborations. Louie
recalled: "Even though I was in the same room with them when they
worked on a project, listening later I couldn't tell for instance
where Duke started and Billy picked up."
On 19Nov52, Louie married Pearl Bailey in London
and the new Mrs. Bellson soon won the battle for Louie. She
didn't want to be separated from her new husband by Duke's demanding
itinerary and she wanted Louie to be her musical director. [Louie
left the band on 26Feb53.] Louie came back to Ellington frequently
when Duke asked him for special projects. An example of this is the
first Concert of Sacred Music on 16Sep65 at Grace Cathedral in San
Francisco. The almost 10 minutes drum solo by Louie on David
Danced Before the Lord had to be edited for the one hour
television documentary by Ralph Gleason, but the
Wally Heider recording is complete on the British
CD-release Status DSTS 1015. Patricia played for us Light from
"Black, Brown and Beige" from this 16Sep65 concert.
She also showed us two selections from the video recording made at
Basin Street West on 25Aug65, titled Blue Bird of Delhi and
The Opener. The greatest surprise of her presentation however
came at the end of her talk. It was the showing of the video
recording made by Norman Granz of the Big Four,
Duke Ellington, Joe Pass,
Ray Brown and Louie Bellson, on
8Jan73. They played Cotton Tail twice, which means that
we have an alternate take (the second take is the one which was
released). It seems to me that the music runs too fast on the CD.
[The take released on Pablo was also used for a Norman Granz (video)
documentary in 1996. I heard (and saw) in Stockholm the alternate
take for the first time. In his documentary Norman explained that he
intended to make video tapes of all the Pablo sessions, but it was
too complicated and he only made this one with Duke. Aren't we
Patricia told us many more stories based on her enormous
knowledge of her subject. I am reluctant to give you more quotes from
her talk. Everything will certainly be included in her book, which we
are eagerly waiting for. I agree with
Jens Lindgren who said: "Thank you Patricia. That
The last presentation on the second day was a conversation between
Alice Babs and Nils Lindberg.
At the last moment Ken Steiner was asked to chair
this small panel. He announced that he was going to use his American
Alice reminisced about the first time she saw Duke in 1939 in
Stockholm and about her being in the group that went to Duke to
congratulate him on his 40th birthday. She remembered much more
clearly her experiences in 1963 when she was invited to do a TV
programme with Ellington [7Feb63].
Nils remembered how overwhelmed he was by seeing Ellington and the
band for the first time. He could not have dreamed that Ellington
would ever play his music or that he would ever play the piano in the
band. Alice said that she did dream about it. In 1941 in an
interview when she was asked for her biggest wish she said: "To sing
with Duke Ellington." Alice spoke of the Newport Jazz Festival at
Lincoln Center when she brought Nils Lindberg's arrangement of
the Swedish folksong Far Away Star to Ellington who used most
of it for the recording session of the album with the same name
[3Jul73]. When Alice was in Ottawa to sing at the concert of the
Ellington Conference [18May90], Andrew Homzy
showed her an arrangement by Billy Strayhorn which
was a bit different from what she knew. This was Billy's original,
not yet edited by Duke. Duke also edited a bit Nils' arrangement of
Far Away Star.
Alice spoke of the way Duke conducted her from behind the piano when
she made the album "Serenade to Sweden" in Paris [28Feb/1Mar63].
Arrangements were made for the four French horns, but there was no
music for her. "You sing whatever you feel like." She felt so relaxed
that she reached the high-E, which she had never done before.
Nils replaced occasionally Ellington on the piano on the 1973 tour.
Duke did not give him any instruction.
Duke made once [2Jul73 at Ruth's apartment] a portable recording on
which Duke also sang and he gave it to Alice and her husband,
Nils Sjöblom, who were present. Alice gave it
to Nils Lindberg, who made an arrangement. It was called
There's Something About Me. Alice promised to sing it the same
evening for us during her concert at NALEN [14May04], but in
Malmö [25oct73], she brought with her Nils Lindberg and
they played together Nils' arrangement for Duke as a surprise during
his concert [CD Caprice Records 21599]. Nils had scored it for the
rhythm section only.
Alice also told us of the lack of rehearsals for the Second Sacred
Concert and her great admiration for Duke for writing for her
Heaven and T.G.T.T.
Nils said that he had heard of Duke's poor health in 1973. One
couldn't hear it in his playing, but as Alice said, you could see it
at Westminster Abbey [24oct73] where Duke left the stage for 10
minutes. Alice had together with Harry Carney
arranged the scores in the correct order but Duke started with
something completely different. She had to look for the words of
My Love. You can hear it on the recording.
Three weeks after the Westminster concert, Alice was asked to come to
Barcelona immediately. The people there thought that Duke was going
to play his Third Sacred Concert but there was no choir. [11Nov73.]
So the performance would be a selection from all three Sacred
Concerts and it was supposed to be rehearsed at 21:30. The concert
was timed to start at 23:00. When they arrived at the cathedral in
Barcelona, the audience had already started to enter. The cathedral
became completely filled. Alice felt sorry for the cameramen who were
going to make the TV recording. They had no idea what was going to
happen. Alice has a video tape of the concert and it turned out to be
marvellous. Duke came up with the idea that Alice should not sing
Heaven. When Duke announced the number, she made herself ready
but Duke called for Tony Watkins, who was
unprepared. [This made Duke play a very long version of Hallelujah
while people were looking for Tony.] Ken Steiner mentioned
to Alice that Anita Moore had died [28Apr01].
Alice didn't know this. In New York Anita had to teach Alice to sing
Somebody Cares. There was no music. She had to improvise when
it came up in Barcelona when Alice joined Anita and Tony.
Ken asked Alice if her classical training helped or hindered her in
her involvement with Ellington's music. She said: "With Ellington it
doesn't hinder me at all. It hindered me with some of the critics,
because they think that I am too well educated in singing [to be
involved in Ellington music]. It is like saying that a flute cannot
Alice answered a question by Ray Carman about
Billy Strayhorn. She said that Billy should have
been mentioned earlier in her account, which was mostly concerned
with what happened in the later years. She mentioned Billy's great
support during the rehearsals and recordings in Paris in 1963. He
played a lot on the piano on that album "Serenade to
The evening concert was the climax of the conference.
Alice Babs gave us a sterling performance. She
combines the highest possible musical taste with an unbelievable
technique, not in the least diminished by the passing years (not
according to her, but according to our ears). Her improvisations are
marvellous and her appearance charming and graceful. For this alone
it was more than worthwhile to make the trip to Stockholm.
Nils Lindberg played a great role with his very
original complete reed and rhythm section without any brass. It was
good to see the admiration of many of the members of the
Holiday in Harlem band. They started
the evening's programme but stayed in the audience to enjoy Alice and
to admire the craftsmanship of Nils and his
Third Saxes Galore.
Alice has given her name to the "Alice Babs Jazz Award". The winner
of 2004, Karin Hammar is a lovely long legged
Swedish trombone player who gave an amazing solo performance, showing
her total control of this difficult instrument. She took full
advantage of her long arms.
The evening ended with a performance of the great
Arne Domnérus. He looked old and fragile,
but his music was gorgeous as ever.
The third and last day of the conference started with a talk by
Dan Knight who replaced
Janna Steed. Janna could not come to Stockholm
because of a mastectomy on Monday, 10May. Dan passed on to us her
greetings. Janna left the hospital the previous day [the 14th]
and she hopes to be recovered very soon. She mentioned in a message
to Duke-LYM that she is preparing a lecture for 30May.
Dan told us of his great good fortune to have an uncle who played,
when he was baby sitting for Dan and his brother, music from his
record collection (Ellington and others) as loud as they liked. When
Dan saw Ellington on television in the Today Show with
Dave Garroway, he was totally enthralled. When he
told his piano-teacher, she became furious and said: "This is not
good music!". He noticed on television that most jazz musicians were
black and he was excited when his grandmother warned him that when he
took a sip of coffee it would turn his skin black. So at the age of 6
years, he tried to consume as much coffee as he could and became very
agitated as a result. He was diagnosed as being high on caffeine.
When Dan discussed with Janna the title of the talk, "Taking the Duke
to Church" he said to Janna: "You cannot take Duke to church. He is
already there. Let's talk of taking his music to church".
It is an interesting question what makes music popular or sacred. It
depends on how you phrase the question. If you ask if it is popular,
the answer may be: Yes. But if you ask if it is sacred, the answer
also could be: Yes. It depends on yourself. You should ask the music
itself. Dan played for us In a Sentimental Mood as an example.
It was different from what Eric Sahlein played the day before but
this rendition was also beautiful. How could it be anything else if
played by a sensitive and well trained piano-player? Dan is an
accomplished piano-player and a protégé of
Dr. Billy Taylor.
Here is a question: What Am I Here For? Is this piece
spiritual or not? Dan quoted Duke Ellington from MIMM p260 about
"Seeing God". On Christmas Eve 1973 a few month before he passed
away, Duke played at the Rainbow Grill. Some friends came in and told
him that they were not going to Christmas Mass but that they
had come here instead. Duke replied: "You are in church when you're
Dan concluded his presentation with a nice performance of Le
Sucrier Velours. Most of the remarks and questions after the
presentation were about the relationship between believing in God and
Duke's music. If I may speak on behalf of those who are
non-believers, I would like to say that some of us also enjoy
Ellington's music immensely.
George Avakian, who had both
Louis Armstrong and
Duke Ellington under contract in 1955, figured
that if he could produce an album with Louis being guest soloist with
Ellington's orchestra it could become the greatest jazz album of all
time. Already in 1938/39, when George selected the opening bars of
part 2 of Reminiscing in Tempo as the signature tune of his
radio programme, he thought how great it would be if Louis were to
play the solo instead of Art Whetsel. George
played it for us as a reminder.
In 1955 George heard the opening theme of a Louis Armstrong
series for Columbia television, titled "Satchmo the Great", which he
also played for us. He found that it was based on the opening of
Clarinet Lament. He wondered how this came about after 19
years. So he asked around and Louis, Barney and Duke all gave more or
less the same answer: It was something that was in the air, like the
George continued thinking about a combined album of Louis and Duke.
Imagine Louis' powerhouse ending of West End Blues, but with
the Ellington band behind him. George played the segment from the
original 1928 OKeh record.
Additional ideas started to come into George's mind. He thought of
how the second theme of Clarinet Lament is nothing other than
Spencer Williams' Basin Street Blues, from Louis' hometown.
George played the Ellington recording of Clarinet Lament. A
week after he made Basin Street, Louis made an even more
dramatic recording, not very well known because the composition was
never recorded again. It was the tremendous finish with
Don Redman added so that there were three horns
behind Louis. George thought that he just had to do this with the
Ellington orchestra, and we listened now to Tight Like
The vocal quality of Louis' trumpet sound made George think of how
Duke shaped the voice of Adelaide Hall to do
Creole Love Call; he played us the closing section. Another
remarkable recording with Adelaide is The Blues I Love To
Sing. George did not like very much the second theme and told
Duke he should rewrite it, to make it stronger. Much later, Duke said
he did it: the beginning of Such Sweet Thunder. George was not
convinced but did not argue with Duke. Now he played take -2 of
The Blues I Love To Sing where Adelaide sings "Blues I love to
hear". This made him think of The Mooche and even more of
Hot and Bothered from the same session. George
suggested to Louis that he should play the trumpet part and also do
the scat singing on the same recording. Louis said: "OK".
George played for us the Ellington record and indicated with his left
and right hands what was played by Bubber Miley
and what was sung by Baby Cox. By this time George
had started to discuss the matter with Duke and when he
mentioned Hot and Bothered, Duke said: "I will write you a
much better piece." This is what Duke always said, but you know, he
also did it.
Both Duke (after Newport) and Louis were very busy at the time, and
in order not to harm each other's box office takings, they never
played in a festival on the same night. Unfortunately therefore,
Duke, Louis and George never did actually get together in person.
They discussed the matter over the telephone and George even selected
the pieces to put at the beginning and end of each side of the LP.
The fact that Louis' contract with Columbia expired in 1956 and that
his agent, Joe Glaser demanded too much money,
made it even more difficult to realise this great project that, as we
all know, never came to fruition. The later Roulette session
fell very far short of what George had envisaged. George had much
more to say. He is a remarkable raconteur, and it was a pleasure to
have him at the microphone.
Steven Lasker's presentation was especially
interesting for people like myself who are fanatic Ellington
collectors. He started however with some very interesting results of
his research into publications. He showed many pictures of the early
days of the band and explained the origin of strange names for the
band like Six Jolly Jesters. It is simply too much to give you all
the details and it is a pity that we cannot show you the pictures
themselves. Wouldn't it be a great idea to see these findings
published in the same way as the booklet "A Cotton Club Miscellany",
which we enjoyed so much two years ago?
How about listening to the first recording? It is Tishomingo
Blues, recorded 25Jun28 and issued on a Canadian Brunswick. This
is from the first recording session with
Johnny Hodges, and probably all the Canadian
Brunswicks issued have the same alternate take, but it was discovered
for the first time only a couple of years ago in the
Ron Anger collection by
John Wilby from Toronto [I hope the name is
right]. It would have been included in the RCA 24 CD box, but Steven
didn't know at the time that it existed.
Steven developed an interesting theory that a part of the music
copyrighted by Jo Trent was actually written by
Ellington. An article about this theory is still a work in progress.
I hope to have the privilege of publishing it in DEMS Bulletin when
The second selection we were able to listen to was the actual version
of Three Little Words as performed in the 1930 picture
"Check and Double Check". [Steven reported about this great
find in DEMS Bulletin 98/1-17. This contribution was reprinted and
followed by a report of the latest find in Feb04 in DEMS Bulletin
04/1-4.] There is a question as to who the soloist was. Steven is
about 70% sure that it was Freddy Jenkins and 30%
that it was Arthur Whetsel.
Luciano Massagli figured that it was
Cootie Williams. [In the meantime (after the
conference) Luciano changed his mind. He believes now that it was
Jenkins. See DEMS 04/2-32.] Steven suggested that we should have a
poll after listening to the recording. We should show our preference
out of these three trumpet players by raising our hands. After the
hand count Steven announced: "I think Jenkins won."
The next recording was Clouds in My Heart. from 18May32. Take
-A, taken from a test pressing (DEMS 03/2-77/1).
The next topic was Harry Carney and the flute.
Have we ever heard a recording of Harry on this instrument? It
appears that many of us have had one in our collections for 25 years
because it came out on Jerry Valburn's Blu-Disc
T-1001. It is with Adelaide Hall in I Must Have
That Man take -A and take -B from 21Dec32.
Barney Bigard was ill that day, so Harry played
the clarinet in his place, but Steven believes it is a flute that we
hear! Not everybody in the audience accepted his suggestion after he
played the recording.
The next thing we were invited to listen to was a one of a kind
shellac test pressing of Black Butterfly take 2
from 21Dec36. (DEMS 00/3-22/p29)
Steven made a shameless plug for the New DESOR, the most complete
discography of Duke Ellington. He asked
Luciano Massagli to stand up, and Luciano was
given a warm applause. "It's marvellous. There are still a few copies
left. If you talk to him and give your name and address he will send
you a copy."
The next recording was an alternate take -1 (the preferred take) of
You'll Never Go to Heaven if You Break My Heart. (20May37).
The vocalist was Buddy Clark. That much is
certain. He is mentioned in the ledgers. There has been some
controversy on the point. [It was discussed in length by
Frank Dutton on 30May in Oldham at Ellington '88.]
Take 1 is a true Ellington performance unlike
take 2 on which Ellington does not play. He must have been
in the control-room. On take 1 you hear him play the piano
behind the vocal.
Next came two selections from the session of 20Sep37. Both are
alternate takes, in each case takes 1 of Harmony in
Harlem and Dusk on the Desert. (DEMS 03/1-3; 03/2-14/1 and
03/3-9). Take 1 was chronologically not the first
recording. It was the "first choice" take on that day and this
decision was later reversed. In the case of Harmony in Harlem,
take 1 was rejected because the background was too loud
for Johnny Hodges' soprano solo. However the solos
of take 1 were preferred, Steven thinks. In Dusk
on the Desert, Arthur Whetsel played his last
You may ask when these recordings will be made available. That is
difficult to say, but Steven told us about the terrific broadcast
with Ellington and Jimmie Blanton from Jun41,
which he played at the conference of 1997 in Leeds and the terrific
broadcast from the Casa Mañana of 20Feb41, which he played in
1999 in Washington also with the great Blanton. Both broadcasts will
be coming out in the coming months on BMG as part of a package of one
DVD and one CD. Steven volunteered his broadcasts for the CD. He
selected 13 of the very best tracks. The DVD will have "Symphony in
Black", the five "Soundies", the 1943 RKO short and as a bonus the
eleven minute radio interview for Radio Newsreel of 28Jan41. This
will be a tool to get young people interested in Ellington.
Next Steven turned his attention to the train-whistle we hear on
Choo-Choo; Wanna Go Back Again Blues; Daybreak Express (not
the movie but the Victor recording) and the Five O'Clock
Whistle. Steven didn't know if all these trainwhistles are
the same one, but Sonny Greer did possess a
trainwhistle. He gave it to someone who now lives in Kansas
City. He had it in storage in New Jersey. Steven hopes at some
point to acquire it, or borrow it to find out what it is. But it does
exist and it is not a part of the Fred Guy kit as
you read in the [Storyville] Fargo notes. Steven thinks it was
The next selection was a set of three takes (two breakdowns followed
by a complete take) of the Capitol Transcription of 9:20
Special of 16Jul46. This set survived on an acetate, which found
its way to Steven through a dealer. It is especially interesting
because of Jimmy Hamilton's tenor solo. Later we
heard Taft Jordan and Al Sears.
Steven is trying to lay his hands on the studio recordings for the
film "Assault on a Queen". He hopes to be able to present it at the
next conference. "Hopefully soon", as Steven said.
The last selection was a short medley with Duke at the piano with an
unknown studio orchestra, on an unknown date and at an unknown
location. Solitude, Don't Get Around Much Anymore and I Let
a Song Go Out Of My Heart, Sophisticated Lady. Steven believes it
is probably from 1947. [Luciano Massagli believes
that it is from around 1943. Sophisticated Lady is very
similar to the recordings of 1943 and different in comparison to the
solos of the following years.]
This was another of Steven's marvellous presentations. He shares his
finds with his friends with the same dedication as he shows in his
collecting and research activities.
In 1983 at the first conference (in Washington),
Joe Igo told us about his work on Duke's
Itinerary. After Joe died, Gordon Ewing took it
over and worked on it for many years together with
Art Pilkington and
Klaus Stratemann. None of these pioneers are still
with us, but from a younger generation Ken Steiner
has picked up the task and he presented the results of his research
of the Jimmie Blanton -
Ben Webster era. He brought as a special gift for
all the attendees, a nice 12 page booklet titled "On the Road and on
the Air with Duke Ellington. October 1939 to December 1940." [He has
sent us the text through e-mail and we are happy to be able to
publish it in this Bulletin, DEMS 04/2-22.]
Two very formative experiences helped Ken in becoming an Ellington
aficionado. First, on 10Feb74 and just a few months before Duke
passed away, Ken had the pleasure of being on stage as a member of
the stage group for a concert at Georgetown University. The next
great experience was on 29Apr86, a date you will recognise. Ken
produced an all day broadcast in Washington as a tribute to
Duke Ellington, and as a result of this production, Ken met
Jack Towers. Ken called up Jack, who he had never
met before, and told him his plans. He was invited to
come over and he went there with another radio announcer. Jack wore
them out. He kept playing one Ellington record after another. At that
moment Ken realised how deep and vast Ellington's legacy is. Ken also
spoke with Jack before this conference and Jack asked Ken to convey
his best wishes to everybody.
Klaus Stratemann wrote in his book "Day by Day and Film by
Film": "The inadequacies of this book will spur others into further
research, it is hoped." "And here I am," said Ken, "doing that
Ken has taken the existing Itinerary and started to check every entry
by writing to local papers. He is doing what the earlier researchers
would have done if they had had more time. Ken aims to give
more details of the gigs, apart from simply the date and the
Ken told us of the many frustrations in doing this research. In many
cases there are only advertisements and if you are lucky you may find
after two pages about football two lines about Ellington's
performance of the other day. Microfilm sources are not complete and
also many editions of newspapers are missing although there were far
more newspapers back then than there are now. The researchers who
compiled the Igo Itinerary and Klaus Stratemann's book were only
able to review a few of the great AfroAmerican
newspapers that existed at the time, the Pittsburgh
Courier, the New York Amsterdam News, the Baltimore Afro-American,
the Chicago Defender and the California Eagle. Most cities with a
considerable AfroAmerican population had their own paper. And
these papers were excellent. They gave far more coverage than most of
the white daily papers did to Ellington. Ken found many interesting
facts in these local newspapers.
Ken is not a discographer but some of his findings have led or may
lead to revisions in the standard discographies. A friend of Ken's
looked at the NBC radio-logs in the Library of Congress. Many of
Ellington's broadcasts were over NBC and from many of these
broadcasts recordings exist. We know now which numbers were played on
which nights and this helps to identify some of the previously
unidentified tunes [or to establish the correct dates].
1939 was world-wide a terrible year. In the United Sates people hoped
somehow to stay out of the war. Conversely though, war preparations
led to an economic boom. There was a nagging sense that things would
not last. At the same time, and you won't find it in the white daily
papers, there was a growing civil-rights movement. Some believe that
the civil-rights movement started in the fifties, but it was well
underway by 1940. Ken echoed Claire Gordon's
remarks from her wonderful presentation two days earlier. In
doing a study on Duke Ellington you find yourself doing a study
on discrimination. Ellington and the other black band leaders were
not getting the opportunities that the white bands were. They were
not getting the best locations, which were the hotels in which, in
addition to a well paid job where you could stay in the same place
for more than one night, they were also offered broadcast
opportunities. Broadcasts were very important for the exposure of the
bands and their music. And this is where Ellington was really a
The first location-gig [at a hotel] after Ellington returned from
Sweden was in Jul39 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Boston. They had an
open-air rooftop situation where the band could broadcast. One of the
first things Ken uncovered about this gig, was the fact that it
extended over eleven days [7-17JulAug39, see DEMS 03/2-10]. Earlier
researchers have missed that. It is good to go back and take a fresh
look. Ken is bound to have missed a lot of stuff too and he hopes
that others will join him in this research.
One evening on the roof of the Ritz-Carlton it was a bit cold and
Duke felt a draft. He asked Billy to take over at the piano. In 1962
Billy Strayhorn told the Duke Ellington
Society in New York that many of the members of the band heard him
play the piano for the first time on that occasion. It was also the
gig when Billy's first arrangement for
Ivie Anderson was played, the popular
Cab Calloway tune (Hip, Hep) The Jumpin'
Jive. This tune became a feature for the orchestra
throughout the remainder of 1939, but it was not recorded by
Ellington. However, Ken played a part of the Cab Calloway
recording [of 17Jul39]. He also found another event, 28Sep39, a
victory party for Joe Louis in Detroit, when Joe
Louis went onto the band stand and sang this tune. (DEMS 02/3-4) This
event is reported in the Michigan Chronicle of 7oct39, another great
Afro-American paper that has not been tapped by Ellington researchers
Waiting to be published in a future Bulletin is a letter. which DEMS
received from Darryl Scott Alsbrook,
the son of the bass-player Adolphus Alsbrook,
mentioned by Ken Steiner (and commented on by others) on Duke-LYM.
These comments have been published in DEMS 03/1-8/1. Ken Steiner
reported of his meeting with the son. Darryl lives about 100 miles
from Ken. He plays the guitar. He did not get to know his father
until he (Darryl) was a grown man. In the documentation about his
father he only found: Duke Ellington 1939. Adolphus told his son that
he left Ellington because he could make more money arranging. He
arranged for over a hundred big bands. The best estimate Ken could
make is that Adolphus worked for Ellington between mid September and
mid October 1939. He knows that it was a month and since Adolphus was
from Kansas City Ken suspects that he left the band around 8 or
9oct39 when the band played there.
Ken also reminded us of how Ellington found
Jimmie Blanton, his particularly favourite
Ellingtonian. [This was earlier described in DEMS Bulletin 02/3-4 and
5, and it is also mentioned in the nice booklet which Ken presented
to the audience and which is "reprinted" in this Bulletin
He also mentioned the Salt Lake City discussion as described in DEMS
03/1-6/1, playing the very poor recording of St. Louis Blues,
which is in DESOR 4007f and which should be dated 2-8Feb40
instead of Mar40. The recording is so poor that there has been a
debate as to who the singer was,
Ivie Anderson, Ray Nance (which
would be an argument for yet another, later, date in 1941) or
Cootie Williams. Ben Webster
and Jimmie Blanton were very much present
Ken continued with the gig at the Hotel Sherman from 8Sep40
and he played the opening Sepia Panorama and the following
Rumpus in Richmond.
Between the locations were heroic travels and many of the gigs Ken
found were black dances. It seems that Duke's involvement with black
audiences is not fully appreciated in the itineraries. Many dances
that Ken found were for blacks only. For some they sold tickets for
whites, seating for whites, at a lower price than the blacks were
He mentioned a number of gigs from 1941 not included in his booklet,
but which we hope will be published in a later DEMS Bulletin. The
booklet had after all as subtitle The Blanton/Webster Era, part one.
We are looking forward to part two.
Ken concluded his presentation by playing for us Black Beauty
from the Hotel Sherman, probably from 17Sep40, because Duke told the
Chicago Defender: "Tune in on Tuesday night. I have something special
for you." It was found in the NBC logs that on Tuesday night
September 17th Duke Ellington did offer something special for his
fans: the solo version of Black Beauty.
The last presentation was given by a mini panel of
George Avakian and Lars Westin,
chair (Lars gave Friday's talk about Rolf Ericson).
Lars introduced his guests as one who had been active on the West
Coast (Patricia) and one who was active on the East Coast (George)
with as common denominator Duke Ellington.
Patricia: When I first started handling public relations for Duke at
the West Coast, I was provided with the
William Morris agency's press manual. One of the
things Duke immediately told me was that I was in charge of putting
out the texts for advertising. I should mention nobody's name but
Duke's "because you never know who might leave the band and upset the
public by not being there when the event happens." But in the actual
releases, Patricia usually mentioned the names of the stars like
Johnny Hodges, Al Hibbler and
George: The publicity for the record company was handled by one
person only at all times. During the time Duke was working with me it
was Deborah Ishlam [I hope the name is correct].
Before her time it was Christine (George had forgotten her
last name). Christine was not very interested in Jazz. George didn't
remember her doing very much with Duke, but Deborah Ishlam was
genuinely a jazz-fan. She did a very fine job in the follow up to the
events of the 1956 Festival at Newport and she was responsible for
getting Duke on the cover of Time Magazine. [This is contradicted by
Charles Waters in his essay in the Annual Review
of Jazz Studies #6 of 1993 titled "Anatomy of a Cover." On page 6 we
read: "Late in 1955, Joe Morgen proposed the idea
of an Ellington cover story to Carter Harman,
music director of Time." See also MIMM p435. Charles explains in his
study that suggestions that the initiative for the cover resulted
from the Newport success are incorrect. Preparations for the cover
were made previously.] George continued by saying that the fact that
Deborah was able to do this also strengthened her in other attempts
to publicise Columbia artists. She was successful with
Dave Brubeck for example. [However Dave Brubeck
appeared on the cover of Time Magazine on 8Nov54, before Duke did on
George: Duke was not interested in record covers. He trusted the
company and George to take care of those things. Duke was very good
at making himself available when that was required for publicity
purposes. He promised to be there and he usually was. Patricia: But
was he on time? George: Good question. I cannot remember him being
not on time.
There was some discussion about Duke's longer works and help was
sought from Ted Hudson who has studied BOOLA.
George: Duke had indeed very strong feelings about his longer works.
He was very appreciative about being free in his choice for recording
longer works for Columbia. George made "Controversial Suite" and
others, which of course were not going to be commercial successful.
That was at the beginning of the 12" LPs which sold much better than
the 10" LPs. George believes that a lot of his customers for his 12"
LPs were actually customers for classical 12" LPs who had respect for
Duke. They got into the hands of people who were buying contemporary
classical music. Duke appreciated that deeply. The record clubs sold
more records than the shops. Serious record buyers preferred to buy
through the record clubs.
When writing about Ellington, Down Beat was in the habit of
mentioning every time his age. Duke disliked that, and so asked
Patricia to make it stop. The Los Angeles-based editor of Down Beat
was a good friend of Patricia's and gave her the age of the
editor-in-chief Don de Michael
She wrote a letter to Don in which she addressed him with "Dear
30 year old Don de Michael", and continued to mention other
musicians' names with their age, closing the letter with her
signature and her own age. The message got through. Down Beat stopped
referring to Duke's age every time they mentioned his name.
Lars asked: What would Duke say at the age of 105 when looking down
at this conference from his castle in heaven. Patricia answered: "He
would wonder why on earth you needed to use that number." George:
George talked about the concert at the NYC Town Hall as the first
part in a series of four concerts called "Music for Moderns"
[28Apr57]. Before the intermission
Dimitri Metropolis was conducting the New York
Philharmonic doing a very little known concerto by
Kurt Weill in which George's wife was going to
play the solo part. When Duke was invited to play after the
intermission he suggested to use the new suite "Such Sweet Thunder".
George called Louis Applebaum to ask permission,
because the work had been commissioned by the Stratford Shakespearean
Festival. Louis was happy with the publicity and he accepted the
invitation to say a few words to introduce the new composition at its
premiere performance. Duke introduced the pieces and when he came at
the last piece, Circle of Fourths, he admitted that it was not
yet ready. He replaced it with Cop-Out. 'Cop-out' means having
an excuse which is usually not a very good one for something that you
didn't do that you should have done. George could not prevent himself
from laughing a long loud laugh which luckily was not picked up by
the microphones because he was sitting well back in the hall.
George was not prepared to say that Duke did normally not finish
his commissioned work on time, but he was prepared to say that,
no matter what happened, Duke always came up with a solution.
There was a splendid dinner-party the same evening with music by
Jens Lindgren and his "Kunstbandet" Orchestra.
Someone told me that these were amateurs but I cannot believe it.
At the end of the dinner, George Avakian spoke on
behalf of all of us to thank our Swedish friends. He promised to
arrange that at the next conference the language would be Swedish.
It is a good custom in a report of an Ellington Conference to remain
silent about the small imperfections. This is after all a labour of
love by a group of our best friends who devote much of their time
over more than a year to organising such an event. But if I have no
minor criticisms this time, it is not out of mere courtesy. There was
absolutely nothing to complain about. It was one of the most splendid
conferences we have ever had.
I have so far not mentioned the music which was played in the
intervals of the afternoon presentations in the small room
designated "Harlem". On Thursday
Per Larsson played the piano. On Friday the
Bernt Rosengren quartet performed and on Saturday
there was a trio, Bent Persson,
Frans Sjöström and
Jacob Ullberger. I did not attend these
performances, as I was constantly occupied in conversations with my
friends (mostly at the bar). One has to make a choice. The people who
went to "Harlem" were very pleased with the performances.
In addition to thanking the committee and especially the chairman
Göran Wallén, I should also mention
the impeccable sound engineers and the very gentle and friendly young
people who served us in the cloakroom, at lunchtime and at the bars.
This conference will long be remembered with gratitude and
This report could not have been written without the help of
Sven Eriksson, who audio-taped the conference for
There are strong rumours about a conference in 2006 in New York!