Monday, September 22, 2014

Doug Ramsay on Gerald Wilson

Following the death of Gerald Wilson on 8 September, Doug Ramsay posted an excellent piece on his Rifftides blog about Wilson's piece El Viti, one of sixteen charts the composer/arranger offered Ellington and which Duke featured during his engagement at La Côte d'Azur in 1966.

Doug writes:

"When I was working on the essay that accompanies the Mosaic box set of his Pacific Jazz recordings, Mr. Wilson and I discussed his development of eight-part harmony. He applied it to the piece he  wrote in honor of the Spanish bullfighter Santiago Martín, known as El Viti (born in 1938).

“El Viti was a great matador,” Gerald says, “different from any other I ever saw. He never smiled, and he was tough. I tried to trace a picture of him, as it gets down into a unique part where his stuff in the ring would get wild but not overbearing. It was a place for me to use my eight-part harmony. You’ll hear the brass playing it, with two different times going at once. You know, I invented eight-part harmony.”

Here, the muted trumpet is by Wilson, the only instance of his playing with his band on a recording. Anthony Ortega is the alto saxophone soloist.

Again, from the Mosaic notes:

Multi-part harmony in modern classical music starts with Debussy and Ravel and reaches monumental proportions in Bartok, Stravinsky, Ives and Scriabin. I asked the composer and orchestrator Jeff Sultanoff about the use of eight-part harmony in jazz, and about Wilson’s role in it.

“As Gerald defines it,” Sultanof said, “it means that in an eight-part brass section, all parts are different, no doubling octaves and such. He was probably the first to do this, although other arrangers had tried similar things. I can think of Pete Rugolo as an immediate example, but he did not start doing it until about 1946, whereas Gerald claims he was doing it as early as 1945. I can also think of Ellington and Strayhorn who did not voice ensembles in the ‘standard’ way. There are isolated examples of it in Eddie Sauter and Bill Finegan’s work, but I don’t recall anyone doing it on a regular basis before Gerald.”

In 1966 Duke Ellington recorded Wilson’s arrangement of “El Viti,” also known in the Ellington book as “The Matador,” in the Verve album of Côte d’Azur Concerts."

Read the whole post here.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

La Dolce Vita

I recently discovered, via Spotify, a recording of a Duke Ellington performance which has not been made available before. 

My best guess is that the recording is taken from Duke Ellington's appearance at XIV FESTIVAL INTERNAZIONALE DEL JAZZ which took place in Bolgogna, Italy in 1973 whilst Ellington was on his final European tour.

The festival continues, annually, to this day and the website  says:

Nei giorni 8-9-10 novembre 1973 si tenne il XIV Festival Internazionale del Jazz che presentò interessanti gruppi di giovani: uno italiano, la Big Band degli allievi del Conservatorio di Bologna diretta da Ettore Ballotta, l’altro americano, “The Young Giants of Jazz” con Jimmy Owens, Gary Burton, Cedar Walton e Roy Haynes. Furono inoltre presentati alcuni dei miti che negli ultimi cinquant’anni avevano fatto grande e reso popolare il jazz: la celebre orchestra di Duke Ellington, B.B. King, Sarah Vaughan, e, infine, Miles Davis.

Google translates this - very loosely - as:

'In the days 8-9-10 November 1973 was held the XIV International Festival of Jazz which showed interesting groups of young people: one Italian, the Big Band of the students of the Conservatory of Bologna, directed by Ettore Ballotta, the other American, "The Young Giants of Jazz "with Jimmy Owens, Gary Burton, Cedar Walton and Roy Haynes. They were also presented some of the myths that over the past fifty years had made great and popularized the jazz orchestra of the famous Duke Ellington, BB King, Sarah Vaughan, and finally, Miles Davis.'

From the ever-reliable Ellingtonia discography, full details of the engagement are as follows:

DUKE ELLINGTON AND HIS ORCHESTRA  Bologna, I       8 November 1973
Concert, Palasport
Mercer Ellington(t); Harold "Money" Johnson(t,v); Barry Lee Hall, Johnny Coles(t,flh); Vincente Prudente, Art Baron(tb); Chuck Connors(btb); Russell
Procope(cl,as); Harold Minerve(cl,as,fl,pic); Harold Ashby(ts,cl); Paul Gonsalves, Percy Marion(ts); Harry Carney(cl,bcl,as,bar); Duke Ellington(p); Joe Benjamin(sb); Quentin White(d); Anita Moore, Tony Watkins(v)
¬ Kinda Dukish                                    
_| Rockin' In Rhythm
Creole Love Call        
Satin Doll       
In A Sentimental Mood        
¬ Caravan     
_| In Triplicate (In Duplicate)         
New York, New York - vAMo           
I Got It Bad - vAMo   
Blem - vAMo 
Basin Street Blues - vMJ      
Hello, Dolly! - vMJ     
1. Don't Get Around Much Anymore          
2. Mood Indigo         
3. I'm Beginning To See The Light 
4. Sophisticated Lady           
Love You Madly - vTW        
Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me - vTW  
One More Time For The People - vAMo,TW          

Things Ain't What They Used To Be    

Courtesy of Spotify, here is the album, with half an hour's worth of selections from the concert programme, recorded - and released - by RAI Radio in Italy.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Solo Responsibilities...

Must I Fight City Hall?

Sights and sounds from New York City Hall. Forty five years ago today, a reception was held for Duke Ellington. Video footage from the event is posted below.

And from the same venue, some four years earlier, another civic reception in sound only.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ring Dobell's

Gone are the days when Saturday mornings might be spent browsing the local record shop. (Picture above, the famous Dobell's Record Shop in London).

The death knell was sounded, I suppose, by the internet and rummaging around recently on Spotify, it's not difficult to see why. 

There must be every album imaginable by every major artist available : everything the casual listener could want.

Scratch the surface, though - particularly for any music recorded fifty years or more ago, and one is confronted with a plethora of 'grey area', mis-labelled mis-catalogued recordings, the provenance of much of which is unknown. 

And for the listener whose attitude is less than casual, the catalogue does not run particularly deep. 

However, I've posted a selection of Spoti-fied albums from Duke's late period in the panel to the right.

Do browse the racks. If you haven't joined Spotify, you'll be prompted to do so by clicking on the links and you will have to download the Spotify gizmo. There's always a price to pay, of course: the music is interrupted by 'a word from our sponsor' between tracks, unless you choose to pay for an 'upgrade'. It gets the music out there - and legitimately so - that's the main thing. 

Feedback welcome via the 'Comments' section.

Friday, September 12, 2014

La Douceur du Tonnerre

In 1960, Joachim-Ernst Brendt heard Duke Ellington's album Such Sweet Thunder and convinced choreographer Maurice Béjart to stage the album as a ballet. La Douceur du Tonnerre was performed in the television studios of Südwestfunk, Baden-Baden and broadcast originally on 12 September, 1960.

Fifty-four years to the day, here is a video recording of that kinescope which originated with the splendid Crownpropeller's blog.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

... the Plaza, man

One of the rarest Ellington albums on the Columbia label is Jazz At the Plaza Volume II. The recording remained unreleased, I think, until the 1970s. Whilst what is essentially a needle drop of the album appeared in France in the eighties, the recording has never been released on compact disc in Duke's native USA.

It still hasn't but on 22 October, it is being released by Sony Japan who - one presumes - will have access to the master tapes. The CBS France release is, in any event, long out of print so this is an exciting release. It is a limited edition - available only until December 2015. It costs 1 000¥ - or about a fiver. Shipping costs are another issue, of course - but a desirable item for the Ellington aficionado nevertheless. Details from CDJapan here.