Tuesday, 13 April 2010
A noble duke, in nature...
It may be my imagination, but do I detect a new found confidence in Ellington’s work – and indeed in the entire band’s performance during the set – as a result of their being ‘born again’ just a couple of weeks earlier? Certainly, the stars are all in place that might augur such success. In particular, Billy Strayhorn had returned to his role as Ellington’s constant composing companion and Johnny Hodges, too, had returned to the fold. In his comments during the course of the concert, as a preface to Hodges’ solo on I Got It Bad… the altoist had just returned from his own "exciting adventures leading a band" or words to that effect…
Paul Gonsalves delivers here another tour-de-force along the lines of the Wailing Interval that set Newport alight on an extended version of the band’s theme. It does not have quite the incendiary effect it did at the earlier festival, however. In fact, these rollicking extended solos of Gonsalves had been brewing quite a while, since such an excursion was featured on the original studio recording of the concerto version of A Train some four or five years previously. The boppish Betty Roche vocal is aped, too, by Ray Nance – one of his several party pieces. But the concert proves to be the usual embarrassment of Ellingtonian riches as the band members each exercise their ‘solo responsibilities’. Clark Terry – who blew through the band like a zephyr in the fifties, delivers a modish extemporization on a pianissimo version of Harlem Air Shaft; Harry Carney delineates the contours of Sophisticated Lady; Cat Anderson serves up one of those searing Flamenco-tinged specialities in La Virgen De La Macarena; Jimmy Hamilton’s own composition Clarinet Melodrama (which Duke likens to a western) is delicious as are the obligatti he serves up behind Duke’s recitation of Pretty and the Wolf which he never delivered with more élan.
The Japanese pressing of this compact disc (to my ears, a slightly smoother ride than its US counterpart) is very difficult to come by. The re-issue is quite rare, too, but used copies can be had here.
In celebration this month of both Ellington’s and The Swan of Avon’s birthdays, I will post selections soon from a special scrapbook pertaining to Ellington’s Stratford appearances.
In the meantime, the full text of Jack Chambers' article can be read in the bulletin of the Duke Ellington Music Society here.
A couple of fascinating links for further reading on the Ellington Shakespeare connection which I haven’t yet had time to investigate fully myself may be found here and here.
Posted by Ian at 14:09:00