DUKE ELLINGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
08/2 August-November 2008
Our 30th Year of Publication
FOUNDER: BENNY AASLAND
Voort 18b, 2328 Meerle, Belgium
Telephone: +32 3 315 75 83
1. 25 Years and 17 days after the start of the first International Duke Ellington Conference in Washington and 4 years after the last Conference in Stockholm, the initiator of the 20th Conference, Ellington 2008, Antony Pepper, opened the proceedings with the traditional Eddie Lambert gavel, brought to him from Sweden by Jan Falk.
Antony conveyed to us the good wishes of Alice Babs, who is actually retired nowadays.
Brian Priestley gave apologies for the three speakers who were not able to attend.
Steven Lasker would present Ken Steiner’s contribution,
Ted Hudson would present John Fass Morton’s contribution and
George Avakian excused himself. Brian read George’s address to the conference attendees. It had been his intention to present at the conference a fresh re-release of the 1956 Newport concert as Duke agreed upon it, with correct and truthful liner-notes. But it apparently could not be made ready in time for May 2008. He had recently made contact with a brand new record label in NYC, which had shown interest in this project and George hoped that the re-release would hit the market next year. He promised a discount for members of Duke Ellington Societies.
2. The first speaker was Michael Pointon, who delivered the keynote address: “Ellington Tours in the UK: 1933, 1948 and 1958.” Michael is a free-lance writer and broadcaster and he also plays trombone. His talk was casual and pleasant. He cited many publications from the European press about Ellington’s concerts. They were not all favourable. He played many of the selections which were played during Duke’s concerts. One of the selections he was planning to play was Trees, but Antony couldn’t help him by supplying a recording. This surprised me, since Antony e-mailed DEMS on 9May to acknowledge the receipt of a CD with all three recordings of Trees that have survived.
3. The other presentation of the morning was the one by Ken Steiner, delivered in Ken’s absence by Steven Lasker. Steven started his talk by referring back to the previous speaker who very much relied on Ken Vail’s two-volume “Duke’s Diary”. Steven pointed out that Ken Vail had benefitted enormously from the earlier work of Klaus Stratemann. What he did not mention is the fact that Klaus himself benefitted enormously from the work, started by the late Joe Igo, and continued after Joe’s death by the late Gordon Ewing and the late Art Pilkington. Roger Boyes pointed out that Ken Vail had had Klaus’ permission to base his diaries on Klaus’s research. I further add that Klaus too had had permission from Gordon to use Joe Igo’s Duke Ellington Itinerary. Actually what Gordon and Klaus did was to exchange their research results.
Ken Steiner’s research covered the period of “The Washingtonians”, not included in Klaus Stratemann’s book, which opens after a short introduction with Duke’s first film, made in around Aug29. Klaus’s first and foremost object was to be complete about Duke’s films in his book. Later he added a lot of Itinerary facts to his manuscript, which as he stated were not complete. That’s why I have been irritated by remarks in the past about the Stratemann Itinerary being incomplete.
As a great surprise we all received a 38 page booklet, titled: “Wild Throng Dances Madly in Cellar Club. Duke Ellington and the Washingtonians, 1923-27. A compilation from the Contemporary Press and Duke Ellington Itinerary by Ken Steiner”. While most of us were reading Ken’s brilliant work, Steven played for us the following 11 recordings from the period, by Duke and also by Duke’s contemporaries.
1. The Washingtonians (Miley, Irvis, Hardwick, Ellington, Guy, Greer): Choo Choo (Ellington, Ringle and Schafer), NY, Nov24, Blu-Disc T1002.
2. Van and Schenck, Comedians—Orch. Accomp.: Choo Choo (Ringle, Ellington and Schaffer), NY, 8Aug24, Co 197-D.
3. Fred Weaver Assisted by Leroy Tibbs (piano): I'll Take Her Back (If She Wants to Come Back) (Leslie and Monaco), NY, Dec24, Up-to-Date 2018.
4. Piron's New Orleans Orchestra: Ghost of the Blues (Brymn-Bechet), NY, 15Feb24, Co 99-D.
5. Viola McCoy and Billy Higgins (acc. by ?Louis Metcalf, t; unk., p): Get Yourself a Monkey Man and Make Him Strut His Stuff (Morton), NY, early oct24, Vo 14912.
6. Gertrude Saunders (blues singer with jazz band [a contingent from Paul Whiteman's orchestra]): Love Me (Pinkard), NY, 6Sep23, Vi 19159
7. Sunny and the DC'ns: Oh How I Love My Darling (Leslie-Woods), NY, Nov24, Blu-Disc T1003.
8. Duke Ellington & His Washingtonians (Miley, Charlie Johnson, Nanton, Prince Robinson, Hardwick, unid. alto sax, Ellington, Guy, Mack Shaw, Greer): Li'l Farina (Smith-Mier), NY, 21Jun26, Ge 3342.
9. Bert Lewis (Of Club Kentucky) Piano Acc., Jack Carroll: If My Baby Cooks (As Good as She Looks) (Kahal-Carroll), NY, 13oct26, Ge 3399.
10. Clarence Williams' Blue Five (Miley, Irvis, Hardwick, Clarence Williams, Fred Guy or Leroy Harris, Bass Edwards) Vocal Chorus by Eva Taylor: Pile of Logs and Stone (Called Home) (Pinkard), NY, ca. 22Jan26, OK 8286.
11. Duke Ellington and His Kentucky Club Orchestra (Miley, Metcalf, Nanton, prob. Prince Robinson, Hardwick, unid. reedman, Ellington, Guy, Mack Shaw, Greer): East St. Louis Toodle-o (Elllington-Miley), NY, 29Nov26, Vo 1064.
The title of Ken’s work was chosen by his wife, who was struck by the title of one of the articles, reproduced on page 23 of his work. When I realized how much time and devotion Ken had invested in this present for his friends, I had a problem using the term “booklet”. It is so much more than that. In addition to the great collaboration between Stratemann, Ewing, Pilkington and Igo, Ken Steiner has also benefitted quite a bit from the privately published work of Steven Lasker in 2006 titled: “The Washingtonians: A Miscellany”, 50 copies of which were printed and distributed among interested friends and research colleagues. The result of this collaboration between Steven and Ken is impressive and will give the privileged readers a great joy.
After I mailed a draft of my report with my compliments to Ken for his impressive work, he e-mailed me:
“It was such a disappointment for me to miss the London conference. I'm very pleased to hear of the wonderful reception of "Wild Throng." Your comments are very meaningful to me.
Thanks for mentioning Steven's important role. He is the one who really put the puzzle together. I firmed up the dates and added details. It was so much fun. I wish I had the time to write up all my 1930s research.
Steven had a very interesting comment about "Headlines," the 1925 movie that the Washingtonians likely appeared in. He said that Klaus would have needed to make the starting point of his book in 1925 if indeed it is true that the film contains scenes of the Club Kentucky band.
I only have a few extra copies of "Wild Throng" left. I plan to correct the typos and make a few minor corrections, and do a second printing. Arne mentioned "Wild Throng" on the jazz-research list, and I received more requests than I could fulfil.
PS Thanks for mentioning my wife - she was delighted to hear it.”
Ken Steiner allowed us to publish his e-mail address, so in case you would like to have a copy of his work, you know where to go.
4. The afternoon started with what could be called a panel discussion between the three Ellingtonians, Buster Cooper, John Lamb and Art Baron. In the chair was Brian Priestley who did not have much to do. The three guests told us anecdote after anecdote about the Ellington period of their careers, which resulted in their contribution to the conference programme being the most hilarious one.
When Brian opened the discussion by asking each of the guests to say in a few words what it had meant to them to play in the Ellington Orchestra, I expected that Buster Cooper would repeat his remarkable statement from Oldham 1988, when he gave as an answer to the same question: “I didn’t have to audition anymore.” But he didn’t this time. Instead he gave us recollections of the great trombone section: Lawrence Brown, Chuck Connors and himself.
John Lamb very appropriately made the remark that Duke’s band would not have existed without the musicians. They were the band. A noteworthy remark from John Lamb was the mention of his real birthday: 29Nov33. Since the midwife was a bit confused the date was registered as being 4Dec33. That’s probably the date that she went to the Registry Office. (The same happened with my grandfather, who was too busy with his butcher’s shop to realize that he had come to the Town Hall two days after the date of birth of my father.) This warrants a correction in the New DESOR. The wrong date of 4Dec33 can be found in the New Grove (edition 1994). The New DESOR had the different wrong date of 12Apr33. This is because of the different ways of expressing all-figure dates in the USA and Europe: M/D/Y as opposed to D/M/Y.
Art Baron who was obviously very much enjoying himself during the Conference, told some anecdotes about him being the junior in the band.
This was undoubtedly the most casual and good-humored panel discussion with Ellingtonians since 1988, when Jimmy Woode and Sam Woodyard were also on the panel with Buster Cooper and Bill Berry. The Jimmy Woode story is too long but Sam was very brief: When he was asked why he left the band, he said: “Money”. When someone asked him why he came back, he said again: “Money”.
5. Earl Okin was the next speaker. The title of his presentation was a little thought- provoking: “Duke writes for orchestra, but his real instrument is the piano”. I enjoyed this presentation very much, because I agree with Earl. It is true that Ellington plays new melodies in his improvisations. It is true that he had a very personal way of piano playing, which is probably because he was in spite of Marietta Clinkscales’ efforts largely self taught. The way he played the piano was also the way he arranged for the band.
Gunther Schuller made the same statement. Earl played for us The New Piano Roll Blues. He said that when he played it for some of his friends, they assumed that it was Thelonious Monk. I again agree with Earl: Duke had two specific qualities as a piano-player: The self taught Monk style and his romantic piano playing.
The highlight of Earl’s presentation was when he played for us a tape, recorded by Renée Diamond in London in Oct58. (Renée was a dear friend of Duke, and also a friend of Earl.) On this tape we hear Duke play his first version of Single Petal of a Rose.
This is what Earl earlier mailed to the Duke LYM list on 18May99:
“I have the actual original tape-recording in my possession here. Renée Diamond left it to me. She certainly told me he'd composed it on the spot. A year later, he apparently sent to her for a copy because he's forgotten how it had gone and wanted to record what is now on Pablo. Again, if he'd already been playing it a few times, I think that he wouldn't have needed to have a copy sent to him. This and the fact that there are one or two real differences between this and the 'final' version make me believe it really was composed on the spot. After all, we know that he did compose like this relatively often. Of course, we'll never know for certain. As you know, I'm sure, it was named after a petal, which was falling on the piano that night from a vase of roses...”
In a later E-mail, Earl Okin mentioned the fact that since the Diamonds were close friends, Duke would not have deceived them, and would have told them so if it had been composed earlier. He even made the Diamonds fly to his 70th birthday party in the White House.
6. By far the most interesting presentation (for my taste) was the one by Harvey Cohen, the author of the book “Duke Ellington’s America”. His book will be out next year around May. Maybe I am biased because I had the great pleasure of reading his dissertation, which was submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Maryland, College Park, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 2002. His dissertation won the Pauline Maier Best Dissertation Prize. In his dissertation, Harvey gives us a picture of Ellington in all his aspects, not only as a composer or a musician. It shows him as an important figure in American history, especially as far as race relations are concerned. He illustrated his presentation with a lot of audio recordings of Ellington statements during interviews. Several of these recordings were taken from the long (more than half an hour) Stanley Dance interview in London on 21oct71.
Harvey had already published in the American Quarterly, “Duke Ellington and Black, Brown and Beige: The Composer as Historian at Carnegie Hall”. Duke not only composed the suite, he also produced a written version of his story of the American Negro in the USA. The handwritten manuscript as well as a typed version are in the Smithsonian Collection. In this manuscript, Duke used the name Boola for his subject. In the interview with Stanley Dance he mentioned this text manuscript saying that music only needed to sound good. But music on its own was not sufficient to convey the story fully. This article is the basis of one of the chapters in Harvey’s forthcoming book.
Harvey also wrote “The Marketing of Duke Ellington: Setting the Strategy for an African American Maestro” for the Journal of African American History. Both these publications are hard to come by, but this article too is adapted from a chapter in Harvey’s book. So don’t worry. Next year you will be able to read both.
During the seven years of the writing of his dissertation, Harvey worked intensively at the Smithsonian Institute through Duke’s business records and through the scrapbooks to get a clear picture of the non-musical aspects of Duke’s life. He also explored the maze of paper at National Archives II in College Park, MD. At the U.S. State Department Library he found a lot of information about Duke’s State Department tours. He furthermore visited the Library of Congress and the Institute of Jazz Studies and he interviewed many people who knew Duke.
When Duke died, I read in a Dutch weekly magazine (Elsevier) that he had left around $300.000. My admiration for the man grew considerably. He had managed to write his music and play it for his audiences and still leave a small positive financial legacy. If he had simply tried to make more money, he would have died a very rich man, but if he had done that he would not have lived the life he wanted. He went as far as he could go in combining a good life with his artistic ambitions. Harvey concluded his presentation with the same observation. Ellington always found enough profit to keep his band touring, and his artistry in record stores. Some people say that he was not a good businessman. Harvey said that he couldn’t have been a better one. He accomplished in his life exactly what he wanted, including supporting friends and family, rather than aiming for pure profit.
I am very much looking forward to the book next year. I expect it to be in the same category as the writings of the late Mark Tucker, with whom Harvey Cohen shares many qualities, even his way of teaching and his outlook.
7. Bob Wilber and his wife Joanne Horton (a.k.a. Pug) made the most moving presentation. They started it with three versions of Jam a Ditty. The first one was by Ellington, the second by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the third by the winners of the 2008 Essentially Ellington contest, the band of the Roosevelt High School of Seattle. Bob Wilber and Pug attended the contests in NYC between 15 and 17May of this year. Bob was one of four members of the jury, together with Wynton Marsalis, David Berger and Reggie Thomas. 1000 bands from the US, Canada and Western Australia participated in the contest. For the last round 15 bands were selected. The winners of first, second and third prizes participated in the final concert. You can find their pictures at www.jalc.org/about/gallery/ee-08. The whole program is a huge success and the number of young musicians taking part is growing every year. A promotional film has been prepared, titled “Chops”. (By the way, chops are vital for playing every instrument, even a piano.) The documentary was made two years ago at the 11th contest in NYC. The trailer of this picture was shown on screen. Because the conference auditorium was very light and couldn’t be made any darker, the film was hardly visible. If you wish you can see it yourself at www.chopsthemovie.com.
Pug supplied us with a great number of statistics. 200 packs with scores and recordings were sent to each school this year. The recordings included one of each selection by the Ellington band and one by the Jazz at Lincoln Center band. There were 6 different selections. It took the students 8 months to rehearse. They were youngsters between 16 and 18 years old. The total of selections used for these contests in the past 13 years is 71. A total of 66.000 scores have been distributed and more than 210.000 students have taken part in the 13 contests. 3700 Schools were involved. Next year music by Benny Carter will also be included. Much more information is available at www.jalc.org/jazzED/ee/index.html.
The enthusiasm of Bob and Pug was stimulating and the great success of the program “Essentially Ellington” is a blessing. David Palmquist spoke a few words of appreciation for the work Bob and Pug are doing to preserve Ellington’s music. The applause underlined that we all felt the same.
Since the final contests are held each year in May, it seems to be a golden opportunity to organise a future Ellington Conference in conjunction with these rehearsals or concerts. Even if we had to spend the daytime in the concert hall, we could easily decide to have our presentations in the evening.
8. Bjarne Busk began by asking us to bear with him because he was the only non-English speaking presenter at the conference. He was mistaken. Arne Neegaard comes from Norway! Bjarne’s was probably the most entertaining presentation. He played us a lot of music that almost none of us had ever heard from the period 1924-1939. Like Bill Hill in California, he is highly interested in recordings made of Ellington compositions by other bands, and in tributes to Ellington. In DEMS 05/3-60, Bjarne published his list (Oct05) of all the Ellingtonia he could trace, even if he had not heard the recordings. An updated list (Jun08) will be sent to everybody who expressed interest by giving their name and e-mail address at the Storyville stand.
Bjarne played the following recordings:
Jim Dandy, by the Hungarian orchestra of Sándor Józsi a.k.a. Dajos Béla, 24oct25
Jig Walk, by The Devonshire Restaurant Dance Band in Great Britain, 10Dec26
Bjarne recommended two CDs for people with an interest in these ancient recordings: Keith Nichols’ CD “Harlem Arabian Nights” from 1996, on which 13 compositions out of 23 are by Ellington and with Bob Hunt on trombone (remember Leeds 1997?); and Bob Hunt’s own CD “What a Life”. See DEMS Bulletins 99/4-23/1 and 99/5-6/3.
The Mooch, by Leo Reisman and his Hotel Brunswick Orchestra, in a Vitaphone film, which was shown on screen. This is probably the only film showing Bubber Miley although only in silhouette. Recorded Mar29. After a discussion on Duke LYM, Andrew Homzy does not believe that this was Bubber Miley.
Misty Mornin’, by Spike Hughes and his Dance Orchestra of Great Britain, 5Nov30.
Next Bjarne showed us a clip from a Dutch newsreel. It contained a very short part of Duke’s performance claimed to be in Scheveningen on 25Jul33. The date and the location are wrong. The newsreel text said that it was secretly filmed at the “Gebouw voor Kunsten and Wetenschappen” (Hall of Arts and Sciences) in The Hague. This film clip was made on 8Apr39. (According to Joop Gussenhoven and Ate van Delden the date was 8Apr and not 7Apr as mentioned in Ken Vail’s Duke’s Diary 1.) I have an old Dutch book, titled “Jazzmuziek”. First edition Nov39, second edition Jun47 (which is my copy). It was written by Will Gilbert and Mr C. Poustochkine. At the end of the book are a few pictures, one of which is exactly identical with what we saw on screen. The caption reads: “Edw. Ellington orchestra during his latest European tour, performing in the Gebouw voor Kunsten en Wetenschappen at The Hague (1937 [sic]).” It obviously dates from 1939. Although Otto Hardwick was supposed to have stopped playing his bass saxophone by 1939, he still has it with him on stage. The picture shows Rex Stewart and Wallace Jones. On the film clip the trumpets were too dark to be identified. The music we hear accompanying the film clip is the final (4th) chorus of the 14oct39 recording of Little Posey, a further indication that the year 1933 must be wrong.
The number of recordings of Ellington tunes by others constantly increased in the early thirties. With the exception of the second half of the year 1933, more recordings were made in the US than in Europe, approximately 60% as against 40%.
An example of the recordings, made as a tribute to Duke, is a composition by Klaas van Beek (van Beeck is wrong), titled Duke’s Holiday. The recording, made in Dec33 by the Dutch Radio Dance Orchestra “The Ramblers”, was played.
On 17Nov33, The British band Madame Tussaud’s Dance Orchestra recorded Echoes of the Jungle.
On 15oct31, Don Redman recorded Shakin’ the African, The first part of this piece consists of a spoken intro (by Don Redman) over the first strain of Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo: “Boys, look like we’ve picked out the wrong spot this evening. Of course this sweet music is all right, but man, we wanna go where it’s hip,……(?). And I really know a spot too with real excitement. Take your coat, get out of here, and come along with me. I mean I gonna take you to a place where it’s just too bad” - and then the music continues with Shakin’ the African, with some more narration. When Roger Boyes proof-read my text, he made the remark that the similarity of the beginning of this piece and Mood Indigo is hardly noticeable.
In his book “Louis Armstrong on the Screen” (1996), Klaus Stratemann’s second masterpiece, Klaus wrote on page 27-36 about the film “København, Kalundborg OG? In this film are the three famous clips with Louis Armstrong playing I Cover the Waterfront, Tiger Rag and Dinah. Also in this 70 minute film is a clip of Roy Fox and his Orchestra playing It Don’t Mean a Thing. Bjarne showed us this clip, with a great number of beautiful girls, dressed in old-fashioned bikinis, as an illustration that we do not exclusively talk during these conferences. The film was made in London probably in 1933.
The next recording was Mood Indigo, by the British band Nat Gonella and his Georgians. The name of the band was probably connected with the song Georgia on My Mind, which was one of the big successes of Nat Gonella in these days (as I remember vividly). The recording of Mood Indigo was made 13Apr38 in London.
In Apr36, Aage Juhl Thomsens Orkester from Denmark recorded in Berlin Showboat Shuffle.
Bjarne read a paragraph about Duke Ellington from the book by Martin Goldstein and Victor Skaarup, titled “Jazz”, Denmark 1934.
The last item in this presentation was the film clip of Ellington and his sidemen leaving the ferry from Malmö to Copenhagen and a picture of the band playing in Copenhagen in 1939.
As it was playing we watched in the background our friend Arne Neegaard struggling with the inadequate presenters’ equipment for his presentation the next day. He was still doing this when Bjarne concluded his very entertaining presentation with the understatement: “That’s all there is. Sorry.”
9. The most academic presentation was the one by Professor Andrew Homzy. Andrew had two dreams: one about the fact that the history of classical music is based on the composers and the history of jazz music is based on the performers. The second dream was inspired by statements by Buster Cooper and Clark Terry, who both described Duke’s orchestra as a University, a graduate school for musicians. This led Andrew to the idea of identifying several ‘chairs’ in each section of the orchestra, which as in a University had to be occupied from time to time by a new incumbent, replacing his predecessor in order to keep the chair occupied and available for Ellington to write for. Andrew only dealt with the trumpet chairs in his presentation, but his handout also covered the trombone and the reed section.
For the trumpets he first played West End Blues by Louis Armstrong, being a hot player, followed by Singin’ the Blues by Bix Beiderbeck being a sweet-cool player, King Oliver with Dippermouth Blues as being a bizarre player and Henry Busse as a sweet-legit player in Way Down Yonder in New Orleans. Andrew now set up four chairs on the podium, labelled for each of these four categories. Then he started to discus the trumpet-players in the Ellington orchestra. Bubber Miley was unquestionably a bizarre player and Arthur Whetsel a sweet-legit. Freddy Jenkins was a hot player. These three players gave Ellington a choice of trumpet sounds and styles. When Bubber left, Cootie Williams was supposed to take his place. Cootie as we all know started as a hot player, but gradually developed himself into a bizarre player in order to replace Bubber in that empty chair. When Rex Stewart came in the band, Duke had a second bizarre player, but this time not so much with the plunger as with his special half-valve technique. When Wallace Jones came into the band, Duke had his first sweet-cool trumpet and a full trumpet faculty with four chairs. With the replacement of Cootie by Ray Nance Duke had a multitude of qualities at his disposal. Andrew characterised him as hot-plus. He could be hot, play the violin and sing. Andrew forgot to mention Ray’s qualities as a dancer.
Harold Baker took the chair of sweet-cool and Cat Anderson could play anything. Andrew called him bizarre-screech. He could play in every style and he had his own speciality, his high notes. Clark Terry was a sweet-cool player. The last trumpet player to be mentioned in Andrew’s presentation was Fred Stone, undoubtedly a bizarre player. Andrew’s hand-out enables us to play his selections again, but without having them abruptly cut short (which hurt like an amputation). We can also cover the two other sections and play the selections chosen by Andrew to illustrate the fact that in these sections too the diversity of styles was always preserved by replacing specific players with successors who more or less played in these same four styles: hot, bizarre, sweet-cool or sweet-legit.
10. The most personal presentation was the first session of the Saturday afternoon, 24May, devoted to memories of Duke’s 1958 tour through Britain. Peter Caswell, Roger Boyes and Jack Kinsey told their stories about the concerts they attended. The presentation was illustrated with the showing of the DVD of the 1958 Amsterdam concert (DEMS 08/1-10).
Roger Boyes suggested that the entire Ellington tour originated in the 1958 Leeds Music Festival. Leeds Town Hall was completed in 1858 and opened by Queen Victoria. Now 100 years later, her great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II was coming to Leeds for this centenary festival, which was organized by her first cousin Lord Harewood, a great music lover. Lord Harewood’s brother, Gerald Lascelles who was co-author with Sinclair Traill of publications about jazz, arranged a programme of jazz concerts. Sinclair made, probably through Stanley Dance, contact with Duke. Duke wrote later the foreword for the 1959 edition, volume 3, of the annual publication of Traill and Lascelles, titled “Just Jazz”.
The band played in Leeds on two different dates at the same venue, the Odeon Theatre, a movie theatre from the 30ties. The first date was on Monday the 13oct and the second date, 18oct, was the more important one, because it was when the Queen was in Leeds. On that occasion she couldn’t come to the concert in the afternoon. But the Duke of Edinburgh and Benjamin Britten, who in the morning had conducted a Mozart concert, sneaked out of the lunch at Harewood House and came in during the concert. Late in the evening of that day the famous Civic Hall reception was held where the Queen and Duke exchanged their compliments. When Roger spoke about the single record, pressed for the Queen of “The Queen’s Suite”, Steven Lasker produced a copy of that original LP, to the great surprise of Roger and everybody else in the audience. Steven would later that afternoon talk about the rare copies of the Queen’s Suite LP.
The concerts in Manchester were planned to be at the Free Trade Hall, but that was already booked, so they had to be relocated to the Kings Hall, Belle Vue, a very large uncomfortable “garage” in the words of Bob Hope. Because this huge hall could not be filled twice on the same day, there was only one concert in the end, which turned out to be a terrific bonus for those who didn’t have to leave to catch a bus (like Peter Caswell whose family had a new car). The reason is that after the concert the band members gradually returned to the stage and they played exactly what they wanted. Later Duke himself joined the group. What a pity that this was not recorded!
Jack Kinsey was very unhappy with the Manchester concert. For a start he had to catch his bus and so missed the encore session. Also, the sound was terrible. He very much more enjoyed the London-Kilburn concert. A selection from the double CD of both Kilburn concerts was played, and then Peter invited the audience to add their own stories about 1958. One of those who did was Claude Carrière. It was a great pleasure to meet him for the first time in person at this conference. Lance Travis also saw the band for the first time in 1958. His recollections are part of the liner-notes of DETS CD Vol 13 (See 08/2-28).
11. The greatest disappointment was the presentation by Arne Neegaard about Duke’s State Department Tour in 1963. It was not disappointed so much for us in the audience as upset for Arne himself, who had prepared his talk as a Power Point presentation, but who had to accept the fact that he couldn’t show it with the poor equipment that was available at this conference. To compensate a bit for this shortcoming, Arne had invited Buster Cooper, the only living soul from the band during the 1963 tour, to assist him. Their collaboration was obviously unrehearsed. Buster was sometimes in a different city with his memories than Arne who was trying to follow the itinerary of the tour.
Arne had chosen the 1963 tour as his subject because of the information he had received about a forthcoming movie with Morgan Freeman, titled “The Jazz Ambassadors”. This film in which Morgan will personify Duke Ellington will be out next year. Shooting starts at the end of this year. Morgan Freeman not only plays the lead role in the film, he is also involved in the production with his Morgan Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment. It was found out that the CIA infiltrated Duke’s entourage. When Duke was in Bagdad to play two concerts, the people were advised to stay home because of the danger of a coup which actually took place and which resulted in Saddam Hussein becoming the country’s dictator.
Jeremy Doner will write the script for the film. Buster Cooper has been asked to be consultant. The film will concentrate on the relationship between the black elderly Republican and the 25-year-old white Democrat, the U.S. State Department escort officer Tom Simons and not Simon as he is wrongly spelled in Music Is My Mistress. By the way if you make your correction on page 301, go also to page 328, where you can see Tom watching Duke at a water wheel. This scene was also filmed, but since the “Contessa”, Fernanda de Castro Monte, was also on the film, it was never released.
The Morgan Freeman film will show the problems with Ray Nance being sent home because of his behaviour. The State Department was not happy with his conduct especially since he had a history of drug abuse. The ambassador was told to send him home. The ambassador told Tom Simons and Tom told Duke what to do. This resulted in Ray being angry with Duke for a long time. Arne Neegaard referred to Duke’s chapter about Ray in Music Is My Mistress to show that Duke for his part was not angry with Ray. The film will also show Duke being happy to go to Delhi where the Contessa was waiting for him. She created another problem for the State Department because of the mixed race problem. Another problem was the fact that Duke would explain in interviews that he had not used the word jazz since the early forties. The tour had been advertised at great expense as being by a jazz orchestra.
Both Buster and Arne made the best of the presentation, which despite all the technical problems was very interesting for the audience, especially the announcement that Arne still hopes to release his DVD of the concert in Oslo on 8Nov71 (see DEMS 07/3-19) from which the hilarious selection Fife was shown on screen. It was clear that this black and white video is superb. Arne is trying to find the remaining 20 minutes of the concert. He told me that it must exist. Let’s hope he finds it. Anyway now we know why the intro to Fife was so remarkable. You can see it described in the New DESOR on page 868 in the description of 7173i, or you can hear it if you have a copy of the audio tape which is in circulation. But you had to be in the London audience to see on film what really happened.
Duke many times used the term “courageous performer” when he announced a soloist for an unexpected performance. We can say that Arne was also a courageous presenter, being at an Ellington Conference for the first time and having to struggle along without the doubtlessly perfectly organized preparations for his talk. Since the end of 2003 he has been a very active member of the Duke LYM list and although he grew up with Ellington, we as a community have failed all these years to contact him. Now we have met him in person. It was a tremendous pleasure!
12. For people like me (the fanatic collectors), the traditional Steven Lasker presentation is the highlight of each conference. The first recording he played for us was the off take of Oklahoma Stomp of 29oct29 (Black Tuesday). It differs from both the –A and the –B take. Duke was playing at that time at the Cotton Club with the Washboard Rhythm Kings. He took Teddy Bunn on guitar and Bruce Johnson on washboard with him to the studio for this recording session. All takes of Oklahoma Stomp were recorded under the title Oklahoma Stuff. David Palmquist wanted to know what an off take is. It is an office take, from which only one pressing is made to listen to at the office. Parts and test were usually destroyed but this one survived.
The next recording was Jive Stomp from 15Apr33. It is the alternate take. On the label both the –A and the –B are visible. It is in any case much faster than the well-known release. It was mentioned in DEMS 05/2-12.
The next recording, made in Dec36 in Hollywood, probably immediately after the Ellington session of 21Dec, was by Ceele Burke with Betty Treadville. The label number is Variety 600, and the matrix numbers are LO 379 for Baby, Ain’tcha Satisfied? and LO 382 for I Never Had a Dream. LO 380 and 381 have never been located. At the Ellington session the last matrix number was LO-378. It is very possible that one of Duke’s men stayed in the studio and played with the Ceele Burke group. The alto player, doubling on clarinet, sounds very much like Johnny Hodges. One could also ask: why would Mills hire a Hodges clone if Hodges was already in the studio? Steven played first I Never Had a Dream. After playing both selections, he asked the opinion of the audience. Bob Wilber guessed that Hodges played in the first selection, but that it was someone else in the second. I personally believe that if it was Hodges in the first, it was also Hodges in the second. I gradually changed my mind, inclining towards Hodges instead of an unknown altoist.
Steven noted that 2008 was also the 50th birthday of the Duke Ellington Society, started in Los Angeles by Patricia Willard (for the very first time not present at the Ellington Conference) and Bill Ross.
Now it was time to go a little deeper into the miracle of the LP of The Queen’s Suite. There is obviously more than one copy in existence, since one is in Buckingham Palace and Steven had another with him. Apparently Teo Macero, who died this year on 22Feb, had five copies. With all the rumours about other copies, Steven estimated that a total of ten copies were pressed.
The second part of Steven’s presentation was dedicated to Ivie Anderson. He read first an article by Paul Edward Miller published in Downbeat shortly before Ivie left the band. This article contained the facts as later published in John Chilton’s “Who’s Who of Jazz”. Steven went on to read to us many more reviews and articles about Ivie, first from the thirties and later from the twenties. Not everything in these articles was true, and there were too many for me to sum up. Steven is considering writing an article about Ivie. We hope that this plan materializes. Steven concluded his talk with an overview of Ivie’s marriages and invited Claire Gordon who knew Ivie in person to say a few words. Claire mentioned that in those days of racism it was not only Duke who as Harvey Cohen had pointed out, behaved with dignity; Ivie did so too. In 1944 Ivie invited Claire to visit her and to Claire’s surprise had prepared a whole chicken dinner. That was the last time Claire ever saw Ivie.
Steven Lasker has asked me to forward these two jpgs to you for the bulletin.
The lacquer letters are minorly intriguing. The mono side is -1A which would make sense for a very limited run. The stereo is -1D however which I take to be the fourth cut (from the 1st tape master) of the side. (For a usual issue if seems they'd cut several to begin with - maybe for different plants - and more as needed - I might have an incomplete understanding of this!).
14. Brian Priestley took over with a humorous presentation about Duke’s verbal descriptions of his compositions, both to his musicians and to his audiences. The instructions he gave to Sam Woodyard to play Half the Fun and to Clark Terry to play the role of Buddy Bolden are good illustrations. Brian discussed the difference between programme and abstract music. It seems that many people gain listening pleasure from the story behind the title. About Mood Indigo three different stories are known. Blood Count was first known as Blue Blood. Which title is preferable?
Brian closed his talk by playing East St. Louis Toodle-O from the recently released double CD AVID Jazz AMSC 937 (see 08/2-32).
15. The third speaker on the last day was Bill Saxonis. As he explained to us, Bill is not a musician but like myself a pure amateur listener to good music. Bill has other qualities however. Last April he made his ninth annual broadcast on the occasion of Duke’s birthday. Thanks to my new computer, I had the pleasure of listening to this broadcast. It was splendidly done.
Bill is apparently not only an admirer of Duke Ellington but also of Bob Dylan. He titled his presentation “Ellington’s Sophisticated Folk Music”. Bill saw many points of resemblance between Ellington and Dylan. He played for us both the Ellington and Dylan versions of Bob Dylan’s song Blowin’ in the Wind. It must be nice to find so many similarities between both your heroes. It was a refreshing perspective and Bill used it for an entertaining and personal talk.
One of his anecdotes was too good not to be documented: When Louie Bellson was occupied with marrying Pearl Bailey Ed Shaughnessy replaced him. There were (as we know) no drum parts. After the performance, Ed went to Duke and said: “Duke I am not good enough for this band.” Duke answered: “I don’t believe that anybody is good enough for this band.”
When I tried to find the name of Ed Shaughnessy in the New DESOR to avoid making any errors in the spelling, I couldn’t. Louie married on 19Nov52 in London. Benny Aasland was convinced that Ed replaced him during the broadcast at Birdland on 20Nov52. The New DESOR however mentioned Louie as drummer during that broadcast. Listening to How High the Moon, Lullaby of Birdland and Perdido convinced me that Louie was indeed back in time, but it is still a miracle how he managed to do that. If you have the CD Jazz Unlimited 2036 you may want to listen to find out whether you agree with me.
16. John Fass Morton couldn’t come o the Conference, but he had prepared a script for Ted Hudson to read to us. Ted received the text less than 24 hours before he left for London. He told us something about the author. John is a writer. He writes among other things manuals for the government. His father is a Navy officer who married an English woman. When John was once in England, people needed someone with an American accent and John was chosen to become an actor. He later appeared as an actor in the United States in the Star Wars films, and, asked if he was able to play the role, he said that it was not difficult since he was dressed in strange looking outfits and his face was almost totally covered.
With some doubts, I was looking forward to the presentation. I couldn’t believe that one could write a whole book about one concert (Newport) and even more so, concentrating on one single solo (the Wailing Interval). Ted’s presentation took away some of my doubts. The title of the book is not “The Backstory to Newport ‘56” as given to the presentation in the London programme, but “Backstory in Blue — Ellington at Newport ‘56”. Ted supplied us with some background information. John had worked 6 years on the book. Ted had not read the whole manuscript. It may be that this is why he spoke of 15 chapters, while we later learned that there are 20 in the completed book. I know now because in the meantime I have received a copy of the book to be reviewed in DEMS Bulletin (see 08/2-8). The book contains 150 photos, many of which have never been published before. John had planned to show us a few on the screen but yet again the equipment failed him. I know now that the script for Ted contained parts of chapters 10, 12 and 14. As of this moment I am still in the process of reading the book. I must have the review ready for this next Bulletin, which at the time of writing is on schedule. The book will be on the market in August.
17. The next presentation by Chris Howes was a bit gratuitous. When Antony was looking for presenters for his Conference, I offered to bring one or two video tapes, for instance the one with the brilliant presentation by Mark Tucker in New York 1993, about New World a-Comin’ or the one with the Television show, “Duke Ellington We Love You Madly” from the Schubert Theatre in Los Angeles in Jan73. He didn’t accept my offer, maybe because he didn’t want to spend money on the required equipment or because he realized that the hall would be totally unsuitable for video presentations anyway.
As a replacement for George Avakian, he invited Chris Howes. Antony should have told Chris that an introduction to Ellington, well suited for any other audience would not be of much value for us. It was not Chris’s fault that he couldn’t tell us much that we didn’t know. He had titled his presentation “My People”. He had to introduce himself, since obviously nothing was mentioned in the programme notes and nobody was there to introduce him. He has been a jazz enthusiast since he was fourteen. He worked for an insurance company, also as a plumber and he was the last 27 years of his career a teacher at a secondary school. Since retiring he has lectured about music, from Beethoven to the Blues. Brian Priestley had taught him to play the piano. He described Duke’s social attitudes. Duke took care of his family, his musicians, his audiences and his friends (he mailed 4000 Christmas cards). From an early age he managed to transcend the grotesque racial stereotype. As an example of this phenomenon Chris mentioned the song All Coons Look Alike to Me. It was written and composed by Harry von Tilzer. When I looked for this name on Google, to be sure to have the spelling correct, I found out that the words and music of the song were by Ernest Hogan. Harry von Tilzer was indeed a piano player and a composer but he had nothing to do with the song other than possibly having played it. A recording by George Gaskin on Berlin Gramophone was issued in 1896. About the relation of this song to the race question I read the following: “It is important to note that, in the song, a black person is saying the words to another black person, not a white person speaking the offensive words. Moreover, a black songwriter wrote this for black singers to introduce to audiences (white singers sang it after the song caught on).”
Chris had hoped to show us clips from the 1983 Russell Davies BBC documentary, “Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra”. He couldn’t do this because he was on the wrong day for using the video equipment. He possessed only a few clips and he would like to have a complete copy of the documentary. If he sends his home address to DEMS, we will take care of it.
He considered the opening song of “A Drum Is a Woman” as being of poor taste, but he played many selections from the LP. He had noticed a similarity in the introduction by Sam Woodyard to Half the Fun and to Rhythm Pum te Dum. Incidentally, the second title was not included in the television show itself, but only on the LPs.
Chris also mentioned the show “My People”, with Duke’s soap box speech and he read a transcription of an interview from the late fifties or early sixties by Ralph Gleason’s Jazz Casual program. What he read out however was actually part of Duke’s answer about “my people” to a question by Byng Whitteker on 2Sep64 in Toronto for the CBC television show, “A Gift for Boxing Day”.
From the LP “My People”, Chris played What Colour Is Virtue? He closed his presentation with the words of John O’Hara in his tribute to George Gershwin, borrowed by Alistair Cooke for his spoken letter from America for the BBC in May 1974: “Duke Ellington is dead. I don't have to believe it if I don't want to”.
18. Between this presentation and the next one a number of people stepped forward to use the mike.
Jan Falk asked if anybody had a video copy of the Michael Parkinson interview of 5Jan73. DEMS can only supply an audio copy, which makes it clear that during the interview clips were shown from the 1965 BBC documentary “Ellington in Europe”, from the picture “Check and Double Check” (Old Man Blues) and from the picture “Cabin in the Sky” (Things Ain’t What They Used To Be and Goin’ Up).
Claire Gordon spoke about the high costs of sending her books individually from the USA to the UK. She planned to send a supply of books to DESUK for subscribers who gave their names and addresses to the DESUK stand. She would send them a letter later with her signature.
George Ward expressed his love for Duke’s music in a very statement.
More time was spent by Lawrence Mirando, who spoke of a 2010 Conference. He asked me for an audio copy of his “speech”. DEMS will be happy to send one if he sends us his home-address.
See my comment at the end of this report.
David Palmquist expressed his gratitude for this conference and plugged his website www.ellingtonweb.ca with its many branches like http://www.ellingtonweb.ca/Hostedpages/CDCatalogue/CD-Lists.htm and
19. The last presentation of the day and of the conference was done by Ian Wellens. He is the leader of the group called Ellingtonia, which was scheduled to play for us that evening during the dinner party as first of the usual two bands each evening. His talk gave us a highly revealing look into the kitchen of a transcriber. After a short career as a furniture maker he was now involved in keeping Ellington’s music alive. He discussed the problems of doing this with Michael Kilpatrick and they came up with the analogy of an ice-cream parlour. Once people have tasted it, they will certainly come back for more, but the problem is, how to make them come in for the first time?
His talk was titled “14 Into Eight Does Go”. The question is how to play Duke’s music? Exactly or not? Using eight instead of fourteen musicians is a compromise: two brass, two reeds and four in the rhythm section (the fourth being his guitarist, who was too good to be left out). [In my humble opinion Duke should also have kept a guitarist in his band.]
Playing with a small group was not unusual. Duke did the same thing. Transcribing the pieces Duke recorded with his complete band into scores for eight instruments plus the occasional vocal was not easy. It is mostly guesswork. Then there is the question about possible errors. Ian has had the same experience which Gunther Schuller once described in one of his presentations: if you think you have found a mistake, it may be better to keep it in and not correct it. Ian was not greatly impressed by Duke’s arranging for small band. He found it a bit lazy. The bridges were mostly based on the harmonies of I Got Rhythm. A nice example of an exception is Boudoir Benny with nice cymbal work at the intro.
The backgrounds behind the soloist are another focus of interest. In I’m Beginning To See the Light the background has a melody of its own. Ian played I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart where Bigard’s solo and the background are of equal interest.
It is difficult to write in Duke’s style. Duke’s style is elusive. There are numerous Ellington styles, which makes it really difficult. Ellington did not explore the possibilities of a small band to the limit. We hear mostly four horns together or one horn solo and three others. Much more rarely we hear two reeds against two brass. Ian uses this solution for imitating the full band; an example is his transcription for small band of In a Mellotone.
In Bojangles, the relevant bit is the saxophone tune with Blanton backing, which works perfectly with a small band. Call and response are not repeated. Not all the recordings are the same. In the studio version of Bojangles the piano at the intro compared to the same piano at the end shows that there is a shift of two beats. In the Fargo version there is no shift.
Ian’s goal is keeping alive something like a reasonable representation of Ellington’s music. The prospects of doing that are however slim. Even with quite a number of “tribute bands” the whole thing is a niche within a niche. But Duke’s music is too good not to be played.
At the end of the day, Antony Pepper thanked everyone for coming to his Conference, for which he took full responsibility. He explained that it was not a DESUK activity, but Antony is [and all of us are] very grateful for the help given by DESUK.
20. I conclude this report of the 2008 Ellington Conference with a highly personal note. In the report I have tried to give you the facts, now I give you my opinion. I was extremely happy to see many of my old friends again after many years. I also was excited to meet for the first time several people whose names are well-known to me from the Duke LYM list. But I was also disappointed with the Conference itself.
The first conferences were almost exclusively devoted to presentations. In 1983 in Washington we spent the three evenings with a free concert by the Army Blues Band (thanks to Ray Knight), a film presentation of Duke in Mexico (thanks to Jerry Valburn for the film and Jack Towers for keeping the machine running) and on the last evening there was a recital by Brooks Kerr with George Duvivier (sponsored by Brooks) at the fraternity house. There was no dinner party. We held the daytime presentations in a local library. You can read the report in DEMS Bulletin 83/4-5.
The next year we went to Chicago. Musicians, playing for a local festival, who were so kind as to include some Ellington in their programs, delivered the music.
The third Conference was in 1985 in Oldham. Those who were there and are able to make comparisons, say that this was the best conference of all. Dear Eddie Lambert was astute enough to get the local television company (Granada) interested in making a documentary of the conference, but for that purpose live music was required. No problem. Granada paid for the documentary. It was clear after Ellington ‘85 that it would not be easy for future organizers to go back to conferences with little live music. I have nothing against change and progress. I fully accept that the conferences have evolved in the direction of more music. I am however against spending almost all the money on the luxury of having two bands each evening, and accepting a very inadequate hall with insufficient equipment for the presenters, with the end result that we are having to help out financially to write off losses. I know that not everybody has the same interest in these conferences. There was even one music lover who only came to the concerts and the dinner party.
I plead for a reasonable balance between what we do in the daytime and in the evening. Let us try to find the balance which will attract the greatest number of participants. That will help to keep the costs as low as possible, and to avoid losses.
I am also strongly against one-man shows. One man cannot organize an Ellington conference. (The only exception to the rule is Steven Lasker who almost single handled organized two successful conferences in Los Angeles.) Organizing a conference not only requires a group of people, but a group of people who are able to work well together. It should not be organized without the 100% support of the local Ellington Society, if there is one. The possibilities for a conference in New York in the month of May are terrific if we work in coordination with TDES and the organization of “Essentially Ellington” for the music and if maybe Wynton Marsalis and/or David Berger would give us a nice lecture. But I am apprehensive about the steel drum band which our friend Larry Mirando is dreaming of.
I have not yet said a word about the music in London. I will be brief. It was a real pleasure to see and hear Buster Cooper, John Lamb and Art Baron. I very much enjoyed John Lamb’s bass playing, exquisite as ever. I have heard the trombones of Buster and Art before and better, with less tricks and with more music.
The two performances of the first evening were rather disappointing. I do not object to hearing other music than that of Ellington, but I am not prepared to travel all the way to London to hear it. I shall mention only a few musicians by name.
Michael Garrick, who talked almost as much as he played, tried to be funny by quoting from the most despicable book about Ellington, the one by Don George.
On the second evening Michael Kilpatrick gave us a splendid concert. His band would be my first choice if I had to choose from all the bands involved. Let me say that I did not stay all day on Monday. I did enjoy Brain Priestley with the Ellingtonians, who were happily less acrobatic than on previous evenings. Then I had to catch the Eurostar to bring my grandson back to school. I would have loved to hear again “Echoes of Ellington”. This band made a tremendous impression in Leeds. There is only one musician who I want to mention separately: Simon Wyld, the trombonist of the Vo De O Do orchestra. He showed impeccable musicianship and full control of his trombone (my favourite instrument).
I hardly ever offer in DEMS Bulletins my personal opinion. I prefer to confine myself to facts. I make an exception in this case because I very much regret the way in which this conference turned out. I am not obliged to support Antony in clearing his deficit, in order to have the right to express my critique. I see however no reason for DEMS not to support this 2008 conference in the same way we supported, on our own initiative, Pittsburgh and Chicago, the two other cases where the expenses for entertainment were excessive. The equivalent of 1000 USD has been transferred in the meantime to Ellington 2008. (This gives you at the same time an idea of where the donations go which I occasionally ask from DEMS members for cassettes or CDs).