DUKE ELLINGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
08/1 April-July 2008
Our 30th Year of Publication
FOUNDER: BENNY AASLAND
Voort 18b, 2328 Meerle, Belgium
Telephone: +32 3 315 75 83
DISCUSSIONS - ADDITIONS - CORRECTIONS
See DEMS 07/3-17
Re: Ray's Take the "A" Train and Just Squeeze Me, I asked the Jazz Icon people about Take the "A" Train and they said only that it did not exist on any footage acquired by them. I have seen this delightful fragment of Just Squeeze Me, which just cuts off during the number. Since the Jazz Icon producers did not plan to edit Duke's reference at the end of the medley, I felt that an explanation was in order so I called it "camera failure." That was deleted from my notes.
See DEMS 07/3-17, P.S.2 at the end of the article.
I knew that I had consulted Stratemann on each sideman I wrote about so I replied to you from what I thought was "memory" that I got the six times Harold Baker stayed with Duke from Stratemann since my research notes were temporarily unavailable. You, of course are absolutely right about Stratemann citing only five periods for Shorty Baker. I now find in my notes where I got the six — the five Klaus has plus "Jan-Apr '38," which makes six. That one from 1938 comes from Feather's first Encyclopaedia. I know how unreliable Feather frequently is but I found two more mentions of '38 in both Chilton (who also knows how unreliable Feather frequently is) and Kernfeld/New Grove so I went with it. Possibly I should not have. I should have consulted you about the discrepancy. Mea culpa. Thank you for offering me the opportunity to justify what I had written.
Dizzy on All of Me?
I have just stumbled across an Ellington EP on Philips entitled "Ellingtonia Vol 4 - The Fifties" (429 810 BE) and comprising Things Ain't What They Used To Be; Malletoba Spank; All of Me; Up & Down, Up & Down.
According to the notes on the back cover, Dizzy Gillespie plays on Malletoba Spank and All of Me, but I have not seen this claim in any of the discographies (I am aware of Dizzy being on UMMG and Hello Little Girl from 19/2/59).
Have these apparently extra Dizzy appearances been overlooked or are they simply cover note mistakes?
They are simply mistakes. Probably because on the LP sleeve of the CBS release S 63485 as well as on the sleeve of the Philips LP B 07515 L, Dizzy Gillespie was mentioned as the first one in the list of trumpet players. Elsewhere on these sleeves, under the titles, the credits are correct. The same was the case in the liner-notes for the CBS CD 460059 (see DEMS 87/4-2;88/2-3) and for the "Golden" Sony release UDCD 719 (see DEMS 98/2-12/2).
On the CBS double LP S 67285 (on which two albums were combined: "At the Bal Masqué" with "Jazz Party"} Dizzy Gillespie is mentioned in a separate group of three guest soloists: himself, Jimmy Rushing and Jimmy Jones. It is unlikely that this double LP was used to dub the CDs or to write the text for your EP.
Hello, Little Girl
I hope this is a quickie. Do you know whether "Duke Ellington and His Great Vocalists" (Columbia CK 66372) has Hello, Little Girl (19Feb59) on it?
Yes. It is track 16 (the last one) on Col CK 66372. There were some discussions about this selection in DEMS Bulletins 98/2-12/2; 98/3-13/2&15/1.
Taken from a message by Hans-Joachim Schmidt:
1. Thanks for the complete back issues of the Bulletin. I managed to copy the years 1979 to 2005 on cd-r. Quite a resource that I hope to enjoy in the near future. I was not able to open page 1 of bulletin 1990-1. Is that an error on my PC or is it in the internet source?
2. I was surprised to see Angèle Durand pop up again (DEMS 07/3-32). The German text you quote relies on an article in "Stern", Hamburg, 20. August 1960. I am adding copies of the relevant pages in the attachment. It was written by one "Petronius" as part of a series "Deutschland deine Stimmchen". It is full of sarcasm, and though it gives room to her rambling about the Ellington connection, the author makes clear what he thinks about it. Angèle Durand claims that she had a rehearsal with Ellington und "seine Leute". It was in Studio II of the Brüsseler Funkhaus, she brought her arrangement of "C'est si bon". "Petronius" adds: "In diesen Stunden des 10. April 1950 - und nur in diesen - erlebte Angèle Durand einen Schimmer des großen, des ganz großen Erfolges." So there was an audition. Everything else is pure fiction. She must have been on Duke Ellington's heels during his tour, though. Her utterance about Swedish women sounds authentic: was she upset! But she never made it to the stage with Duke Ellington. She felt grossly frustrated and was not able to suppress her feelings. That alone should have made it impossible to believe in any success concerning Duke Ellington. The article analyses her methods of building up a reputation and a career. In the end Angèle Durand looks rather pathetic. But worshippers want myths, and Bear Family Records oblige. [Addition Jan. 3: It is possible - someone would have to check the local papers - that she sang one concert in Brussels with DE, where he let her sing her own popular songs.]
3. DEMS 07/3-21: "the announcement of C-Jam Blues, not by Mitch Miller but by Rex Stewart (and not by Oscar Pettiford)." So that is Rex. I thought I heard Oscar's voice. Rex would of course be more appropriate as he is the leader.
"the 18Jul58 concert: we believe, as you do, that Oscar Pettiford is present during the whole concert." Is there a tape of this concert? If you have it, may I ask for a copy? It would certainly be an asset to my Pettiford collection as it is obviously the last concert he played with Duke Ellington.
4. Ko-Ko. Years ago you sent me the recordings of Ko-Ko I asked you for, and finally I can offer the results of my research. The first section deals with the making of Ko-Ko.
I trust that in spite of Andrew Homzy's rude attack everyone will have Ken Rattenbury's book "Duke Ellington Jazz Composer".
In short: Ko-Ko is a head-chart. When Ben Webster came he had to make up his own part. Strayhorn added the climax, section G (p. 133ff in Rattenbury's book). Then it was recorded. AFTER the recording Tizol took the music down, as usual, and Duke Ellington himself wrote a part for Ben Webster (identified independently as Duke's hand by David Berger and Walter van de Leur). The parts are in the Ellington collection. What is new in Ben's part: sections A (p. 110ff in Rattenbury's book) and F (p. 130ff in Rattenbury's book). Part of this can be heard in later recordings (e.g. The Radio Years). After a while the whole thing was dropped. What survived is what was played on the first recordings.
I just got a mail from Michael Kilpatrick, and I asked Walter van de Leur for his opinion. This is the beginning of a discussion. I need to check my results. More to come.
1. The first page of 90/1 is missing indeed. I have sent you a hard-copy.
2. If anybody would like to see the attachment with the relevant pages from Petronius' article, please let me know.
3. My point was that Mitch Miller was no longer at the microphone, but as I figured it must have been Rex. I wasn't there. See for a description of the tapes of the radio broadcasts of this short concert DEMS 07/3-21. This concert by the Ellingtonians was recorded on 3Jul58 and not on 4Jul as was wrongly mentioned on the LP sleeve of CBS 38262 and accepted as the truth by Willie Timner on page 554 of his recently published 5th edition of Ellingtonia.
A copy of the 18Jul58 concert at Stony Brook is on its way to you.
4. I hope that DEMS Bulletin may publish the findings of your continued research.
It might be useful for those who are looking for a copy of Rattenbury's book "Duke Ellington, Jazz Composer" to know that it is still available from Norbert Ruecker (paperback € 14.95)
Zürich, Kongresshaus, 2May50
See DEMS 07/3-10
Marcus Girvan has sent us the following article, which appeared in Jazz Journal of July 1950:
ELLINGTON AND GOODMAN VISIT SWITZERLAND
No doubt you all know that Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman paid a visit to Switzerland in May. Since a lot has already been written about the stage shows of both these musicians, I'll touch only on matters that should be news to jazz enthusiasts in England. Little sidelights on the musicians and music, notes and comment, fact and figures. On the 2nd May I was at the station in Zurich, accompanied by Joe Turner, Glynn Paque, and some other friends. I wanted to greet the Duke's band as soon as they arrived, since I knew Quentin Jackson from his first visit to Switzerland with the Don Redman band. The boys all arrived safely, and I was gratified to find that Quentin hadn't forgotten me. In a few minutes he introduced me to Sonny Greer, Russell Procope, Harold Baker and Harry Carney. We took a taxi and went in search of a hotel. First surprising thing I learned was that although the boys were quite happy about the money, they earned, they were not so happy about working with the Duke. When I asked them why they stayed with him, the response was: "Where else can we go?" As we talked about the States, and various musicians, I discovered that Quentin Jackson is a great admirer of Tommy Dorsey – "not just as an instrumentalist, but also as a jazz musician," and that Harold Baker thinks Charlie Shavers the best trumpet player in the business just now – "apart from Louis, naturally!"
After we had inspected the hotel rooms, we adjourned to the bar, and continued our chat. I had noticed Don Byas at the station, complete with big horn, wife and baby, and enquired how this came about. They told me that the Duke had picked him up in France, and wanted to take him back to the States with the band. All of them, that is Baker, Jackson, Greer and Procope, were full of praise for Byas, and referred to him as "the best ever," and "far better than he used to be."
When I asked for the reason Tyree Glenn wasn't with the band, they all started to laugh. It appears that Tyree had struck up an acquaintance with a girl in Antwerp during his tour there with Don Redman, so Mrs. Glenn forbade a new trip to Europe. Quentin Jackson told me that for this reason he was playing all the wa-wa stuff with the band, since this was originally Tyree's department. Furthermore, he told me that he never liked his profession more than when he worked with McKinney's Cotton Pickers, which he described as: "The damned bestest band there ever was!"
Shortly before the start of the matinee we broke the party up. By this time Sonny Greer was in a somewhat elevated condition! Asked about the second drummer. he told me, with a twinkle in his glassy eye: "You know man, I like to take it easy!"
Just before the start of the concert I met Peanuts Holland, the coloured. trumpet player, who had come especially from Berne to hear the band (Joe Turner had come from Aarau, and Paque from Geneva). He was more a-twitter than all the fans around.
Then came the concert. The brasses were marvellous, the rhythm too. Hodges played one very sticky solo, Procope didn't have a single bar of solo, Hamilton was very "cool," Brown played too many notes in too little time, and the Duke ruled like a Duke in his Dukedom, looking exactly the part.
Harry Carney is top man for me. If some day Hodges, Brown and Greer leave, that will be a pity, but it ever Carney leaves it will be a catastrophe, because Carney makes "the sound." He is basis, fundament, and bulwark, and he handles his big horn like a flute. It's quite unbelievable!
After the concert we all (that is about 150 people) went to a dance hall rented especially for the night. Everybody had to pay 8 francs so that the musicians could drink free of charge. It was some party! Procope, Hamilton and Ernie Royal jammed for hours. It was easy to see that Procope leads a frustrated existence in Duke's band because of Hodges, although this is hard to understand because they play quite different styles, and would not collide, even if let loose after one another.
The same can be said of Ernie Royal. This quite marvellous trumpet player hasn't a chance in Duke's aggregation. He plays a moderate form of bop, and is far too good to get just one middle part in the show. Similarly, the whole trumpet section is too good to just have one tune, Blue Skies (alias Trumpet No End) allowed to itself.
Hamilton proved himself to be an exceptional instrumentalist again, but too brainy for my taste. Clear as crystal, a perfect master, talking musically quite a lot, but not saying much.
I had a long chat with Wendell Marshall, Duke's new bass player. He's quite young and very shy. Glad to be praised, but knowing that he has a long way to go before reaching the status of his cousin, Jimmy Blanton. Later on I found Sonny Greer, hanging at the brass rail (we have them too !) He was full of praise for Marshall, and asked me if I thought it was easy to play bass with a band that has two drums, but no piano, and no guitar. I must explain that the Duke spent only about half the concert at the piano, and that Greer was perched high up above the band, and played fill-ins. Personally, I was in constant fear that he would fall down, but his drum inventions had point, and were of great value to the show.
I had Ray Nance, AI Killian, Ernie Royal, Quentin Jackson, Harold Baker and Russ Procope at my table. Nance is a lovable clown, both on and off stage. AI Killian was very low down. He had lip trouble and a stomach ache. He was fed up with the whole music business. He swore he would get out of the mess as soon as he was back in the States. A nice fellow if ever there was one. I sincerely hope that his lip and stomach are better by now. He was discouraged because everybody identifies him with high notes. "I'm a jazz musician, you know, not a freak - I can do more than just blow my top!" Then he tipped me off that the brasses and rhythm had made some records in Paris.
As an afterthought, because I have just read L. Feather's piece about" Jim Crow" in the MELODY MAKER of 13th May. As usual at parties with colored musicians, there were a lot of fans and girls running after the boys. It was at the same time funny, yet sad, to see that the darkest musicians had the most success. Nobody gave Quentin Jackson and Harold Baker even a tumble - they are quite light you know. But people mobbed Alva McCain!
See DEMS 06/1-33
Pages 166 and 1475. We read in Kurt Dietrich's "Duke's 'Bones" on page 114 about Ted Kelly: "The beginning of the end of Glenn's tenure with Ellington came in 1950, when the band was to go to Europe. According to Raymond Horricks [Gammond p103], talk of a European tour with the full band in early 1950 had hastened [Glenn's departure]. Tyree had visited Europe in 1946 with Don Redman, and in Paris there had been a friendship with a French girl. The trombonist's wife announced that there would be no more European trips for him."
Kurt continued with his own text: "Ellington took trombonist Ted Kelly with him in Glenn's place. Kelly was in Europe for two weeks, returned to the States to marry, and never played with the Ellington band again." [Source was Kurt's interview with Quentin Jackson]
My text: If we take the first day of the trip as the first day that there was a concert (at Cinema Normandie in Le Havre on 5Apr50), the two weeks stay ended around 19Apr50 when the band played in Nancy in the Grand Theatre. We should not forget the Ernie Royal record date on 15Apr50 in Paris with Ted Kelly for Vogue.
We may easily assume that Kelly had gone before the band played in Hamburg on 29May50. The same (but shortened) story is told in Kurt Dietrich's latest book "Jazz 'Bones" p113. It is strange that Ted Kelly's name is now spelled as Kelley. We stick with the spelling Kelly since we had a letter from his daughter, published in DEMS Bulletin 05/1-20, who used that spelling.
I have looked for Kelly in the marriage registrations, but can't find a match for any date in 1950.
The line-up on the Zürich CD is as arriving in Paris but Killian also left the band during this European trip and Brown was hospitalized and out of the band for 9 days.
Someone who was present at the concert [in Zürich] claims that the line-up is correct.
Best regards – TCB Music SA
Art Baron Master class
I found an interesting article on http://www.trombone.org/articles/library/viewarticles.asp?ArtID=14.
It is rather technical but it describes the styles and techniques of Duke Ellington's specialists.
From the same web site address with ArtID=110, I found an article about Grover Mitchell.
It was mentioned in this article that Grover played with Ellington:
Question: You actually subbed in the Ellington saxophone section, didn't you? How did that come about?
Answer: The first time it was for Johnny Hodges. Johnny was sick in the hospital - he had ulcer problems - and they had just left either the first or second Monterey Jazz Festival. Instead of getting a saxophone player, [bassist] Aaron Bell told Duke to get me. I didn't attempt to play Johnny's solos, nothin' like that! I played alto parts, which is an easy transposition. All you do is change the clef from treble to bass, and the key signature. It's a major sixth or a minor third away, so as long as you know what key you're in, you're OK.
The next time I played in Duke's band, they couldn't find Paul Gonsalves. Duke remembered me playing in Johnny's place, so he asked me if I could play the tenor book. If you want to know the truth, I can actually play the tenor parts easier than I can play the alto parts. You just change the clef from treble to tenor, read the part as if it's in tenor clef, and get the key signature right. And the timbre of the two instruments is similar, so it was much easier. But you know, Duke and them, they were really fascinated by this type of thing - I was a big deal. So I didn't tell them that it was simple for me. I took advantage of playing the hero.
Question: How did you manage to blend with the saxophones?
Answer: Trombone, if you will listen, is a very good blend in a saxophone section. And that's another thing about Duke. He was probably more curious about it than anything else. Rather than solving any kind of personnel problem, it was just an opportunity for him to hear what that sounded like. And later on, in Basie's band, Thad Jones wrote a lot of things with bucket-mute trombone playing lead over the saxophones, and it was beautiful. You see, the trombone, it's a big-looking instrument and everybody thinks you're gonna come up with some kind of big brassy sound. But when it's in the reed section, especially when you've got a bucket on it, it's a very mellow instrument. It's very much like the French horn - it blends with reeds very, very, very well. Even in small groups the trombone-alto or trombone-tenor front-line is a good sounding thing. If anything gets hairy technically you can get into trouble, but there's a lot of - nowadays anyway, man - real machine-gun players. I always had pretty good technique, but I never tried to out-trumpet the trumpets or out-saxophone the saxophones. I like the characteristics of the trombone.
Take The A Train in Early 1946
The routines on Take The A Train at this time are of special interest because of Ray Nance's absence from the band until the beginning of April.
New DESOR lists four known recorded performances. They are:
Carnegie Hall, 4 January (DE4601o);
the Ritz Theatre NYC, 16 January (DE4605b);
the Chicago Civic Opera House, 20 January (DE4606o);
and the first Capitol Radio Transcriptions studio session, 28 March (DE4609n).
All four have been issued on LP or CD (or both). I don't know the one from the Ritz. Eddie Lambert mistakenly locates this venue in Los Angeles (DE - A Listener's Guide, page 129).
According to New DESOR the routine at Carnegie Hall is that Taft Jordan takes the break in the middle 8 of the first (band) chorus. Duke at the piano takes over Ray's old solo chorus extending it for a second chorus. In the next chorus, which follow the band's fanfare passage, Cat Anderson takes the solo trumpet breaks, with Al Sears coming in for the final eight bars. Taft returns for the last few bars of the abbreviated theme ride out.
The routine is broadly the same at the Ritz and in Chicago, though with one chorus of solo piano instead of two. But on the Capitol version from the end of March, Chorus 2 becomes a trumpet solo once more, taken (says New DESOR) by Cat. Cat continues to solo in the next chorus, with Al Sears taking over as usual for the final eight. Thus, Taft is heard at the beginning and end of the performance only, exactly as in January.
But Patricia Willard's note for the LP issue of the Capitol Transcriptions version says that Taft is the soloist, and she doesn't mention Cat. Other commentators and sleeve note writers tend to be reticent about the identity of the trumpet soloist(s) on all these performances, their reticence perhaps reflecting their uncertainty.
I am uncertain too, though to my ear the trumpet breaks in Chorus 3 (Chorus 4 at Carnegie Hall because of the extended piano solo) sound less Cat-like on the Capitol than they do on the January versions from Carnegie Hall and Chicago. But the Ellington trumpeters could be famously chameleon-like, able to assume each other's roles, and something of each other's musical personae, as required. So I'm jumping to no conclusions.
Does anyone feel confident enough to identify the trumpet soloists on these performances with certainty, and so clear up the discrepancy between Patricia's note about the Capitol recording and the routine described in New DESOR?
While his presence in the band is not likely to be relevant here, I should mention that New DESOR also lists a fifth trumpeter, Bernard Flood, for this period (page 1460).
I think you should have a copy of the 16Jan46 recording. I was going to copy it on a CD, but because I hate empty space on a CD I also copied the three other candidates you mentioned. I also added (at the start) two recordings from 1945. The first one is from 25Aug45, 4558j. The trumpet solo was credited to Ray Nance until Giovanni Volonté and Luciano Massagli changed their minds and the initials RN with those of Rex Stewart, see DEMS 05/3-57, DESOR small corrections, page 1173. The second is the recording of 24oct45 (4583g), a short one which only showed the usual 8 bars by Taft Jordan with the band in the first chorus.
When I arrived at the recording of 16Jan46, I decided to copy the whole recording of the Third Esquire All American Concert. The sound quality is not bad at all and the concert itself is remarkable. You hear not only Duke Ellington with his orchestra but also the Woody Herman band with among others Pete Candoli, Bill Harris, Flip Phillips, Chubby Jackson and Frances Wayne. In addition there is the Nat King Cole trio with Oscar Moore and Johnny Miller. Orson Welles was MC. Leonard Feather presented the Esquire awards and George Wein organized this concert.
I kept the original CD and made you a first copy. There might be some interest for having a copy of this new Azure CD 82 among other readers of DEMS Bulletin, for identifying the trumpet players or for the Esquire Concert (or both).
Some "fresh" DEMS CDs
It happens that old or "new" DEMS members have a special desire for an unissued recorded concert or broadcast. In some of these cases we keep a master-CD available to make more copies for other candidates. Lately there has been a heavy (as Duke used to say) demand for more recordings of the 1950 tour. The only alternate recording is from the 29May50 Hamburg concert (see DEMS 92/2-5; 97/3-18; 01/1-11; 01/2-21/1;01/3-10/1; 02/1-5/2; 04/1-21; 04/2-28 and 05/1-20). It is rather poor and should not be compared with the Zürich CD. Still there are a few selections among the 17 tracks on the Hamburg CD, which were not played in Zürich: The Mooch; Y'oughta; On a Turquoise Cloud; Mood Indigo; Caravan and the closing Blue Skies.
For another old and loyal DEMS member, who is especially interested in Oscar Pettiford, we made a double CD with the Stony Brook 18Jul58 concert, because that was the last time Oscar played in the Ellington orchestra [see DEMS 08/1-14/3]. We agree with Giovanni Volonté and Luciano Massagli and consequently we do not agree with Willie Timner, who believes that Oscar only played in Autumn Leaves. The fact that this was acknowledged by Duke does not mean that Jimmy Woode played the remaining portion of the concert. It is obviously Oscar Pettiford all the way through. We filled the second Pettiford CD with the Civic Opera Chicago broadcast of 2Feb47 and the Band Box NYC broadcast of 4Feb53.
Laserlight CD "Duke Ellington Christmas"
I have just bought (thankfully very cheaply) the Laserlight CD "Duke Ellington Christmas" with most of the tracks not appearing in my own Ellington database. The CD has no personnel details or recording dates, but (of course) featuring photos of a smiling Duke. I searched through DEMS and found [06/2-50] that the majority of tracks date from the 1980s, and consequently are not performances by the maestro. I must say I find this deplorable. If the CD were called "The Duke Ellington Orchestra directed by XXX" there wouldn't be a problem. But in its present state, surely this is legally a fake?
Or am I getting steamed up over nothing very much? !
If you have any information about the personnel, it would be useful, as my CD has no detail at all. But the CD should have been labelled "The Duke Ellington Orchestra directed by Mercer Ellington" and not "Duke Ellington Christmas" without any details at all!
John Wilson Smith
We can tell you that on the LP cover it says on the front: "The Duke Ellington Orchestra Take the Holiday Train" and on the back it says: "The Duke Ellington Orchestra directed by Mercer Ellington." The order in which the titles are on the LP is a bit different from that on the CD. On the LP sleeve the following names have been mentioned:
Arrangements: Onzy P. Matthews, Jr.; Lloyd Mayers; Barrie Lee Hall Jr.
Personnel: Mercer Ellington, leader; Anita Moore, vocalist; Ron Carter, bass; Charles Connors, trombone; Kenneth Garrett, alto saxophone, flute and clarinet; Barrie Lee Hall, Jr., trumpet; Marvin Holladay, baritone saxophone and baritone clarinet; John Longo, Sr., trumpet; Onzy P. Matthews, Jr., piano; Lloyd Mayers, piano; Harold Minerve, alto saxophone, clarinet, flute and piccolo; Vincent Prudente, trombone; Youssef Rahka, trumpet and flugelhorn; Rufus Reid, bass; Joseph Shepley, trumpet and flugelhorn; Rudy Stevenson, guitar; Quinten [sic] White, drums; Joseph Wilder, trumpet; Britt Woodman, trombone; David Young, tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute.
Stack O'Lee Blues
I have just received the latest issue of VJM's Jazz & Blues Mart where I am reading the following discograhical note:
"Bernhard Behncke (Germany) reports a couple of items concerning the Duke Ellington Orchestras. He has just obtained the "The Washingtonians" Harmony 601-H [Stack O'Lee Blues - DESOR 2801b - my comment) - and confirms what both his friends Laurie Wright and Klaus-Uwe Duerr of Hamburg have suggested in the past. It is NOT (!) an Ellington record but an unknown, probably black band. The trumpet is not familiar to him (none of the Ellington trumpet players) and the piano solo is rather poor, of course not Duke. That leads to the guess that Harmony fixed the master numbers not when they recorded a tune but later and used the same pseudonym to get better sales figures.
Does anyone wish to comment, and perhaps hazard a guess as to whose band it really was? Can someone check the Columbia/Harmony file cards? They often show the true identity of the artists and may shed light on this session.
Has this matter ever been under discussion before? In DEMS or elsewhere?
Yes, elsewhere. This is an e-mail by Marcello Piras of 11Nov01:
Dear duke-lym and jazz-research friends,
Yesterday I was working at my bench doing really boring stuff (indexing a book). My Mac was playing some vintage Ellington in the background to keep me alive and awake. Suddenly, the music came to the fore of my consciousness, and I said: "Gee, this piano payer isn't Duke!"
I stopped working and focused on the music. As I listened, the whole picture got clearer. Here it is.
The CD is "The Okeh Ellington", Columbia Jazz Masterpieces C2K 46177 [DEMS 91/3-1 and 91/4-1].
Horrible edition, I know, but still better than silence to keep me company. Disc 1, tracks 7, 8, and 9, reproduce session DE2801 (DESOR numbering). "The Washingtonians", New York, January 9, 1928. Titles: Sweet Mama (145488-3), Stack O'Lee Blues (145489-3) and Bugle Call Rag (145490-3). Originally issued on Harmony 577H (first and last piece) and 601H.
Well, this is NOT Ellington. He has nothing to do with this session, only his sidemen played in it. Does anyone recall whether the presence of Ellington on this session has ever been disputed? Is there any article on the subject? I have a theory about it, but I'll publish it later on, if it turns out to be correct.
You asked: Is there any article on the subject?
Not on the piano player, but on the session as a whole: Jan Bruér claims (and Austin Lawrence confirms) that this is an acoustic recording session. Jan furthermore claims that there is no bass player. Indeed, I cannot hear the bass.
I totally agree on both points. A typical, un-harmonious Harmony record. :-)
Thanks for checking. Well, I can say for sure this session must be removed from Ellington discographies. He's not playing the piano, nor is he conducting, nor are the pieces his, nor are the arrangements, except perhaps intro and verse from Sweet Mama. This scanty Ducal material must have been completed by another arranger, who wrote in the current mid-Twenties Harlem style. Duke wouldn't write the last part of Sweet Mama using a clarinet trio in call-and-response — that's Clarence Williams, or Don Redman (or some minor follower), not Ellington.
Also, the same person entirely arranged Stack O'Lee Blues — a totally undistinguished recording. As for Bugle Call Rag, it is clearly a head arrangement.
I'm not even sure all of the Duke's men are there. I can hear Miley (at the beginning of Sweet Mama) and Nanton (throughout). I'm less sure about Carney — the baritone solo in Bugle Call Rag is full of quite untypical (for him) repeated notes. Could that be Hardwick on baritone? And who's that horrible clarinet player? And the pianist! He doesn't play ONE chord that sounds like Duke's unmistakeable chords. Notice the double-tempo episode in Stack O'Lee Blues. The guy plays the same tonic and dominant tones (when he hits them) in the bass range over and over. As far as I know Duke never did that. Also, notice the accompaniment in Sweet Mama under the soloists. Did Duke ever use that rhythmic pattern when backing a soloist? I know of no such occurrence.
This is what Eddie Lambert had to say about this session on page 21:
His first session of he new year , however sounds like a backward slide in more ways than one. Recording as The Washingtonians, the band cut three titles — none of them by Ellington — for Harmony, a Columbia subsidiary label. This was a cheap label, and, remarkably, Columbia had continued to use their old pre-electric machinery for Harmony recordings. This Ellington session marks Barney Bigard's entrance into the band, and he soloed on clarinet on Stack O'Lee Blues and on tenor sax on Bugle Call Rag. Although the clarinet work on the latter title is usually said to be by Harry Carney, it sounds very like Rudy Jackson in both style and execution, and it is probable that there are four reeds present here: Hardwick, Bigard, Jackson and Carney, with Hardwick playing more bass sax than usual owing to the absence of the string bass.
This is what the New DESOR has to say about these recordings:
Sweet Mama, Papa's Getting Mad: (ABCABDE28) int8BAND;1°BM;pas4DE;ver16BAND;
Stack O'Lee Blues: (ABCABD24) int8BAND;1°LM;pas2BAND;2°12BB,12DE;ver16BAND;3°BAND&JN.
Bugle Call Rag: (12) 1°BAND;2°BB(t.s.);3°BM;4°JN;5°/6°(nc)8OH(b.s.);
If you want to join in at the discussion, please feel free to send us your description. Unknown to be represented by UN.
We hope that Marcello Piras reads this article and will join us with his theory.
I happened to talk to Steven Lasker on the phone the other day and read this VJM discographical note to him. He strongly opposed this opinion of it not being an Ellington recording.
This was Bigard's first session with the band and he discusses it on page 59 of "With Louis and the Duke". I hear Braud on this session, but because the recordings are acoustical, he's difficult to hear and likely inaudible on some reissues.
This is what Barney told us in his book: "The first recording I made with the band was Bugle Call Rag and I remember that, for some reason, they couldn't use the drums. Of course Sonny Greer came there and sat through the whole deal, got paid and everything, but they couldn't record the drums. Wellman Braud, bless his soul, he had to have the horn right close to his bass. He was coming over far too loud and they told him to move back some few feet. "Okay," says Braud, and don't you know he moved back sure enough, but be dammed if he didn't take that horn right along with him. Everyone had their individual horn see."
Barney told in his book that there were no drums, but that is definitely wrong. They are very well heard in all three recordings. Barney talks about the horn each member had. Does that not mean that the recordings were electric? Could they play all in different acoustical horns?
That multiple recording horns were sometimes employed at acoustical recording sessions — as Bigard describes — is evidenced in photographs and written accounts. Braud plays arco (bowed) bass on the Harmony session in question.
I've been listening to the 9Jan28 Harmony session, and have two observations. First, there is no doubt in my mind that the pianist is Duke Ellington. Second, Bigard was right about there not being drums on this session. Now do you remember why Baby Dodds had to play woodblocks on the Oliver Gennetts, rather than the full drum set he played every night at the Lincoln Gardens? Because the engineers, WHO WERE RECORDING ACOUSTICALLY were afraid the drums would knock the cutting stylus out of the groove, or so I've read. Now on the 9Jan28 acoustic Harmony session, Greer is present but he's not playing drums per se — he's just banging a cymbal. So I figure Bigard was right after all!
I do believe Eddie Lambert was right about Rudy Jackson's presence on this session. I agree that he's the clarinettist on Bugle Call Rag, and just before the piano solo/break on this track, aren't those unison tenors we hear? (The two tenors are also heard together near the start of this track.) Jackson's clarinet is also heard near the end of Sweet Mamma (Papa's Getting Mad) while Bigard's clarinet solos on Stack o'Lee Blues. Finally, I think it's Carney, not Hardwick, who plays baritone on this session.
The New DESOR shows the first solo on Sweet Mamma (Papa's Getting Mad) as by Bubber Miley, but it might also be shown as a Bubber Miley-Harry Carney (bar) co-solo.
The original matrix cards for these masters bear the typed artist credit "THE WASHINGTONIANS" but offer no further details.
Brooks Kerr agrees that four reeds are on the 9Jan28 Harmony date, with Rudy Jackson playing the solo clarinet on Bugle Call Rag. He also agrees there are two tenors on this title, playing in harmony (and not in unison as I wrote). He thinks the altoist heard in the first eight bars of Sweet Mamma (Papa's Getting Mad) is Carney (I thought it was Hardwick) and that it is Hardwick playing baritone (and not Carney as I thought) in tandem with Miley's solo. He's probably right. As for the baritone soloist on Bugle Call Rag, however, we continue to disagree: he thinks it's Hardwick, I opt for Carney. Identifying the reed solists on the records from this period isn't always easy. Carney himself (according to liner notes to Decca DL9224) wasn't certain whether the low saxophone which takes the last reed solos on "Doin' the Frog" (29Dec27) was Hardwick's bass sax or his own baritone! (The New DESOR shows Hardwick playing these solos on bass sax.) The opinions of other are, as always, invited.
It seems to me I've written about this before, but it's probably worth bringing up again: The story (repeated by Bigard on p44 of "With Louis and the Duke") that Jackson was fired by Ellington over Creole Love Call is demonstrably untrue. Consider that Bigard joined on or about 30Dec27 (Bigard recalled [WLatD, p46] that he joined on a Friday; interviewed by Patricia Williard for the NEA's Jazz Oral Histories Project, Bigard stated he joined in 1927; since he isn't heard on the band's session of 29Dec27, it appears that he joined on Friday, 30Dec27); Jackson isn't heard on the band's session of 19Jan27, having presumably left the band by that date (might he have worked out a two-week's notice?); Creole Love Call was first released 3Feb28 on Victor 21137 (which credits the composers as Ellington-Miley-Jackson); King Oliver's letter of complaint (recreated on page 26 of Laurie Wright's "King Oliver") to Victor over the melody of Creole Love Call, which he felt infringed on one of his melodies, is dated 30Apr28; the copyright for Creole Love Call (which credits Ellington alone) is dated 16Aug28.