Monday, 17 October 2011

Perchance to dream...

The time: 30 January, 1966; the place: the stage of the Theatro Lirico, Milano.

Classical actor Vittorio Gassman recites the famous soliloquy from Hamlet whilst Ellington plays in accompaniment the opening piece from his Shakespearean suite, Such Sweet Thunder.

It is a consummate performance...

Monday, 11 July 2011

Suites to the sweet

Students of literary and classical influence on the work of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn have much to look forward to in the coming months.

Anna Harwell Celenza Thomas E. Caestecker Professor of Music at Georgetown University, Washington DC, is currently finishing work on a study entitled Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and the Adventures of Peer Gynt in America which will be published in the journal Music and Politics. News of its publication and links to a copy as soon as we have them.

And October 1, 2011 sees the publication of Professor Celenza’s book for children, Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker, illustrated by Don Tate. The charming cover is reproduced below. The book is available for pre-ordering here.

Quite by coincidence, idling away a couple of hours on the internet yesterday as I am wont to do, I chanced upon this video from the CBS series Playback.

I like to think I am familiar with most of the catalogue available of Ellington on video but this little promotional film came as a complete surprise. The quality is splendid and the opportunity to see Ellington in his post-Newport renaissance (the quintessential period of the Ellington Strayhorn collaboration for me)at work in the studio with his band is priceless!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Eastern promise

I can happily lose a couple of hours to the internet simply following lines of enquiry: one interesting reference will lead to a hyperlink or a Google search and, before you know it, an evening has gone by…

In this way, I recently happened upon precious footage of Duke Ellington in India which was filmed during his State Department sponsored tour of the Middle and Far East in 1963.

The tour inspired, of course, The Far East Suite – amongst the most iridescent works in the Ellington/ Strayhorn canon. Had I but time…

Anyway… The video is embedded in a blog called Blue Rhythm the main purpose of which is to raise funds for a proposed documentary, Finding Carlton: Uncovering The Story of Jazz in India. There are untold riches to explore there. A particular jumping off point for Ellingtonia is here.

This is an extract from Finding Carlton with some precious footage from the National Archive of the Ellington band's appearance.

The Blue Rhythm blog may be found here.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Proust One of Those Things...

The creation of Ellington’s extended work was recently celebrated as one of fifty Great Moments in Jazz by John Fordham of The Guardian. His piece begins…

"The death of Duke Ellington's beloved mother in 1935 drew from the great composer a work that provided the first serious indication that his gifts could not be confined to the glittering multifaceted miniatures with which he had made his name.

"Reminiscing in Tempo, 12 minutes long, reflected the state of contemplative melancholy into which Ellington, then aged 36, had fallen following his bereavement. Given the technical limitations of the day, it had to be spread over all four sides of a pair of 10-inch 78rpm discs, and perhaps the inevitable discontinuity of the listening experience lay behind the mixed critical response it provoked in usually sympathetic quarters. With the benefit of subsequent developments, we can, of course, listen to it as a single unbroken piece and can therefore appreciate the subtle fluctuations of mood as it flows gently, and with a purposeful absence of rhetorical flourishes, through a sequence of carefully supported solos by Ellington's great soloists, including the trumpeter Rex Stewart, the trombonist Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton, the clarinetist Barney Bigard, the alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges and the baritone saxophonist Harry Carney.

"Ellington was on the road, undertaking a series of one-nighters, when he heard the news of his mother's demise, and he stayed up all night in his Pullman car, "all caught up in the rhythm and motion of the train dashing through the south", to lay the foundations of his musical tribute. The interlude for Ellington's unaccompanied piano allows the composer to evoke the sensation of a mind gently slipping in and out of grief. With this piece, he articulated the extent of an ambition that ranged far beyond his reputation as the leader of a popular big band."


The idea that, in fact, this piece can be incorporated by dint of its conception amongst Ellington’s locomotive pieces is fascinating and testament to how Proust-like the composer drew incessantly upon the memory and direct experience of everything about him.

The more I listen to this piece, the more I am moved by it, that sweet, cupped cry of the trumpet articulating plaintively the word ‘momma’ like a motherless child.

John Fordham’s 50 Great Moments in Jazz has reached number forty nine. You can find the entire series – which comprises a wonderful primer for those new to jazz or a bone of contention, perhaps, in talk over dinner for more experienced hands – here.

And for more on Ellington and Proust, there is a lovely piece from one of my favourite blogs here.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

About Timme

Jazz attracted not only passion but patronage from Europe. The support given to Thelonious Monk by Pannonica de Koenigswarter is well known. A new book, Nica’s Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness was published just last week. My copy is winging its way across the Atlantic as I write these words, I hope.

And another book is to be published shortly, too: this, a translation of the memoirs of the ‘Jazz Baron’, Timme Rosenkrantz the centenary of whose birth we celebrate this year. Rosenkrantz came from Denmark and said he could trace his lineage all the way back to the Rosenkrantz of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Timme went to the United States in search of jazz in 1934 and became an habitué of the Harlem speakeasies, of dance clubs, recording studios and theatres. He was a spectacularly unsuccessful entrepreneur: a magazine he began called Swing Music lasted only a single issue, his record shop closed after only twelve months and the two jazz clubs he founded Chez Inez (named for the love of his life, vocalist Inez Cavanaugh) and Timme’s Club soon folded. The tragedy of Rosenkrantz and guilders, perhaps...

He was, perhaps, an amateur in the best and truest sense of the word – he did what he did for the love of the music.

In Music Is My Mistress, Duke Ellington wrote of him:

“Baron Timme Rosenkrantz was of noble Danish blood, but he was not known to us by his formal title in Harlem, on Broadway, the Champs Élysées, State Street, or Central Avenue. To us he was known simply as Timme.

Although he was an artist in his own right, a writer, a poet, and a wit extraordinaire, you will not find volumes of his works that are truly representative of his literary stature. The reason for that is that he was a very unselfish man who dedicated himself to the great musicians he loved and to the music they played.

There is therefore no way now of properly evaluating this man’s potential, because his patronage of music consumed most of his time.”

Timme’s greatest legacy, in many ways, is as the Boswell of the big bands, as it were, chronicling the lives of the musicians through his writing for such journals as Down Beat and Metronome and in his photographs, collected in the book poignantly entitled Is This To Be My Souvenir?

Now, Fradley Garner, International Editor of Jersey Jazz, the journal of the New Jersey Jazz Society, has translated the memoirs of Timme Rosenkrantz. dus med Jazzen: mine Jazz memoirer was published originally in Copenhagen by Chr. Erichsens Forlag in 1964. The English translation will be published in the Autumn by Scarecrow Press as part of their Studies in Jazz series. You can read more about Timme Rosenkrantz and the forthcoming book at the website devoted to its publication here.

In 1938, Timme persuaded the president of RCA Victor Records to let him cherry pick the cream of session players to make a record. In the event, two 78 rpm records were issued which introduced vocalist Inez Cavanaugh, tenor player Don Byas and trombonist Tyree Glenn.

The full recording details are as follows:

Timme Rosenkrantz And His Barrelhouse Barons, recorded in New York 27 May, 1938

Pers.: Rex Stewart, Billy Hicks (tp); Tyree Glenn (tb,vib), Rudy Williams, Russell Procope (as); Don Byas (ts); Billy Kyle (p), Brick Fleagle (g), Walther Page (b), Jo Jones (dm).

And to celebrate the occasion, for your listening pleasure, here are those four sides. Happy Birthday, Timme Rosenkrantz!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A Rose by any other name

Like fine wine, much can be deduced about jazz from the label.
And the label is the clue to the kind of jazz you’re likely to find.

My own favourite, Columbia, is a case in point. It came to prominence – along with the other two of the ‘big three’ record companies, RCA and Decca – during the period when jazz and popular music meant pretty much the same thing. And despite the signs after the war, that jazz was beginning to grow up and take itself a little more seriously – when smaller independent labels sprang up which existed for jazz and jazz alone, such as HRS, Commodore, Blue Note, later Prestige and Fantasy – the big three labels continued to promote jazz in the mix – along with classical, light music, ‘pop’ and folk – as part of the mainstream.

Uniquely, though, there were artists recording for Columbia in the fifties and sixties who had been there in the thirties – Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington. These artists were no longer at the cutting edge of modern jazz, perhaps – newer members of the stable such as Dave Brubeck or Miles Davis took up the vanguard, there. But during the fifties, Columbia was able to issue both the latest recordings of these great, mainstream artists and, thanks to far-sighted producers such as George Avakian who understood the importance of cherishing – and re-issuing- the music’s heritage - their earlier pioneering work from the swing era.

On one occasion, whilst Ellington was in the studios recording music for his latest album, the Columbia engineers were re-mastering a side his band had cut twenty years before. And this re-mastering effort actually appeared on the same charge sheet as the newly recorded work!

In 1957, Columbia issued an album entitled The Jazz Makers which was a compilation of sides recorded, largely, in the thirties. The album contained the following numbers:

Savoy Blues by Louis Armstrong
Lonesome Miss Pretty by Count Basie
Christopher Columbus by Fletcher Henderson
Soft Winds by Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian
The Sergeant Was Shy by Duke Ellington

Foolish Man Blues by Bessie Smith
Shoe Shine Boy by Jones - Smith Inc.
57 Varieties by Earl Hines
Back in Your Own Back Yard by Bille Holiday
Blues in C-Sharp Minor by Teddy Wilson and Roy Eldridge
Basin Street Blues by Louis Prima and Pee Wee Russell
I Can't Get Started by Dizzy Gillespie

Columbia, however, could not at that time trace the original metal part for Ellington's The Sergeant Was Shy.Writing in the bulletin of the Duke Ellington Music Society in 1983, Ellington authority Jerry Valburn explained:

“At the time this record was being produced, Columbia could not find metal parts for this item. The record was borrowed (78 copy) from none other than Boris Rose and it was transferred during an actual Ellington recording session at the Columbia Studios. It is from the New York session of 9September 1957 and this is exactly how the recording ledger reads:

Job # 34715 - 9 September, 1957

CO59716 COMMERCIAL TIME (B. Rose, use of recordings, $60.00
CO59717 (SM41526) TENDERLY (Jimmy Grissom)
CO 59718 AUTUMN LEAVES (Ozzie Bailey) (Remade October 1, 1957)

So not only was Rose’s material transferred at this session, but the time and payment to Rose were charged to Ellington’s session and even assigned a Master Number!”

The entire contents of this particular bulletin from the estimable DEMS is available as adownloadable PDF here and you can access the whole archive of this amazing Society here.

Boris Rose was legendary - an omnivorous collector of jazz recordings which he cut to disc himself from  radio remote broadcasts and live performances, some of which he bootlegged on vinyl issues in the sixties and seventies. He died in 1999 and his vast collection was bequeathed to his daughter. You can read more about his collection and its fate here.

And here is an excerpt of film showing writer and historian Will Friedwald visiting the archive:

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Sketches of Mex

Sketches by Paul Gonsalves are currently up for auction by one of the sons of Joe Castro.

The lot comprises eight studies. The listing reads:

“These are the only drawings (sketches) by Paul Gonsalves (Mex), one of the greats, created in 1967 when my Dad was with Duke Ellington and the whole band.

"He drew these for my father Joe Castro. My father was very close with Duke. I have many things over the years he sent my father and many pictures.

“These are very special and are known as the only sketches or drawings by Paul Gonsalves. They are 100% genuine with a COA and if you need more references for authenticity. I have already asked two very prominent people in the jazz community who knew Paul and my father's life. If you wiki his name it will give you an outline of who he is.

“I'm selling these to finish a body of jazz created in the 50's to 60's at Doris Duke and my father's home's Falcon Lair and Duke Farms. The transfer of the masters has taken 11 years 500+ masters never heard soon to be released all very high quality. Zoot-Getz-Mulligan, Gene Ammons, Teddy Edwards, Leroy Vinnegar, Lucky Thompson, Oscar Pettiford, Dexter Gordon, everyone. The only master I sold was to Fantasy called Zoot Sims and The Joe Castro Trio (Live at Falcon Lair). My Father was very close with many prominent people in every area of Life.

“These are once again 100% genuine.... money back no questions. They’re 13x6 on blue ink. Mex wanted to become an Artist and studied. His famous signature is very hard to find and with a self portrait! It's the one and only self portrait with the famous sig with a sax. The Duke Loves Me Sketch is to me historic. If it doesn't sell I will be giving them or donating them to a Museum Of Art, because they are historic. My friend who is a sax player knows everything about Mex. He told me for sure they are the only ones. There is one LP with Duke he has supposedly with a tiny sketch but it's not original, it's a reprint of a doodle he did, and it's not anywhere to be found…

“I'm selling these way under what I think they should be worth. They are completely the only drawing sketches in existence and with the complete rarity I'm sure I don't even know what there really worth. My collector friend said with the condition they are in, and the unique appeal and overall rarest of rare - could fetch anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 from the right buyer. I'm starting them at 10,000 for 8 Original Drawing/Sketches from The Master Mex, Paul Gonsalves.

Sketch 1757 is The Self Portrait of Paul with his sig with the sax.

Sketch 1760 is an Abstract Picassoesque Render (I love this one)

Sketch 1761 is an Abstract Sketch of Duke Ellington (Reading Duke Loves Me) Very Endearing

Sketch 1759 is a drawing of my father (Paul calling him Maestro) With a JC and P and a drunk attempted G. He used to say to my father Maestro Castro Castro Maestro.

Sketch 1763 is a sketch of my mom, she said he always flirted with her, but what girl didn't he flirt with ;)

Sketch 1762 is a Render of Sketch of Paul Sleeping after he drank the whole bar. My dad said it has him passed out in the bed with the zzzzz there is an ashtray and a bottle and what appears to be just his feet coming out of the bed.;)

Sketch 1765 is a sketch of when they were jamming my father at the piano with cig, Duke in the front and paul just squashed drunk as my dad said with the xx's for his eye's from being way bombed.

Sketch 1766 is the House my dad was renting in Reno where they were Duke and all the cats, I asked my dad about these, and asked why he would draw the cabin house where they partied, he told me Mex would get so loaded he would just walk outside and sit across the street and blow the horn. So I assume he was just doing a perspective drawing of the place.

Maestro Castro Castro Maestro.”

The auction page is here.

These lines are particularly interesting:

"I'm selling these to finish a body of Jazz created in the 50's to 60's at Doris Duke and my father's home's Falcon Lair and Duke Farms. The transfer of the Masters has taken 11 years 500+ masters never heard soon to be released all very high quality. Zoot-Getz-Mulligan. Gene Ammons, Teddy Edwards, Leroy Vinnegar, Lucky Thompson, Oscar Pettiford, Dexter Gordon, everyone."

I have contacted the vendor for details of the release of these live recordings and will update if I receive any information. Certainly Zoot Sims And The Joe Castro Trio Live at Falcon Lair is available here.

I must admit to having heard neither of Falcon Lair nor of Doris Duke. A little research, however, opens a vista upon a fascinating world of tobacco heiresses, silent movie stars and, of course, Duke Ellington, pictured here with Doris Duke.

I shall look for a copy of Joe Castro’s Lush Life album – the sole release on the Clover Records label. It may be a long search…

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Madness in great ones...

Would that I had chanced upon this excerpt in time for Duke Ellington's birthday last month. Better late than never, I suppose.

This is from Duke Ellington... We Love You Madly a television special from the early seventies produced by Quincy Jones who assembled a stellar cast, including Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Peggy Lee to celebrate the Duke.

And here, Quincy Jones discusses the impulse behind creating this television spectacular...

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Beyond Catalogue

On May 11, Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers are auctioning memorabilia from the collection of Al Celley, Duke Ellington’s friend and manager from 1942 to 1964.

Their site says:

"Composer of iconic jazz standards like Sophisticated Lady and Mood Indigo, Duke Ellington is widely considered to be one of the most influential figures in American jazz. Ellington represented the epitome of elegance, style, and cool during his times. Today his music is a staple of the Great American Songbook and is loved by millions around the world. His legacy transcends his role as musician and band leader, placing him squarely in the category of an American legend.

For Duke Ellington fans and jazz lovers, the chance to own a piece of jazz history is coming up on May 11th when Skinner will be offering memorabilia from the collection of Al Celley, Ellington’s friend and manager from 1942 to 1964.

Al Celley handled every aspect of the band’s business for those 22 years, and his collection of Duke Ellington memorabilia includes unpublished personal photos, letters, publicity materials, 78s and LP records spanning a large portion of Ellington’s recording career. Celley even kept Duke Ellington’s 1933 and 1939 U.S. Passports with stamps from his world travels.

Other interesting items in Celley’s collection include a collection of Christmas cards, a concert poster from a tour in Italy, a recording of an early live performance on TV, and a charcoal portrait of Duke Ellington by Los Angeles artist Cal Bailey, a prominent member of the black L.A. arts scene. The image depicts the intersection between art and jazz in this era.

Photographer Don Bronstein, famous for his 1963 Grammy for the cover of Barbara Streisand’s album “People” and the original staff photographer at Playboy, spent some time photographing Duke Ellington and his band in the recording studio. A collection of Bronstein’s photographic contact sheets will be available at auction, along with many other images of the band that have never been seen by the public before.

Duke Ellington’s ambitious jazz symphony, Black, Brown and Beige, was his first performance at Carnegie Hall in 1943, and he introduced the piece as “a tone parallel to the history of the Negro in America.” His handwritten narrative for the Beige movement of the symphony is included in the auction.

Auction estimates for pieces in the Celley collection range from $75 to $2,500. Material like this, offered in our monthly Discovery auctions in Massachusetts, affords anyone the opportunity to own a piece of history. The recordings, letters, photos and publicity materials capture singular moments of this legendary jazz master’s life and times. We’re really honored to be able to bring this collection to auction."

The catalogue is here...

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Going Dutch

“You're young and growing and I'm old and going. So have your fun while you can…”

Added recently to the Roll of Honour, opposite is the weblog Keep Swinging – a bilingual affair in English and Dutch edited by Hans Koert.

There is a fascinating piece there at present about Ben Webster’s final performance which took place in Lieden, South Holland on Thursday the 6th of September 1973 at De Twee Spieghels.

From Keep Swinging:

"On the 6th of September 2010, thirty seven years after Ben's last concert, four "aged" men joined for a concert at the Twee Spieghels in Leiden to play a tribute to Ben Webster: Bob Rigter, who played at the 1973 concert on Ben's original tenor saxophone; Rob Agerbeek at the piano and the original 1973 rhythm section with Peter Ypma on drums and Henk Haverhoek, on double bass."

Film director Flore Deroose made a recording of the concert which forms the centrepiece of her new film Tribute to Ben Webster.

The first twenty minutes of the film, with subtitles in English, have been posted at the blog. You can read all about the documentary and watch this first part here.

I don’t know if there are plans to post the rest of the film with subtitles but you can see Part Two at the First Flore Production’s own Youtube channel here.

More about Ben’s last years from the excellent Keep Swinging blog can be found here.

Ben’s final performance was captured, fortuitously, by a student on cassette. It has since been made available commercially on EMI/ Blue Note.

I’ve included a picture of the original LP issue here. The susurrant (from Webster’s Dictionary!)tones of Ben’s tenor are invariably experienced best in this medium – but the double album is next to impossible to find.

Copies of the compact disc version – called Ben Webster Holland Sessions -were legion until a few years ago but that, too, is now out of print and has disappeared from sale at the usual online retailers. It can be downloaded, however, from here.

Tenor saxophonist on the tribute concert was Bob Rigter. He was also present at Ben’s last performance. At his own website here, Rigter recounts the experience of being asked to play ‘Betsy’, Webster’s tenor saxophone, for the penultimate number of the night.

Ben Webster died two weeks later on 20 September, 1973. On the same day, Bob Rigter’s son Simon was born.

A professional musician himself, now, Simon’s site can be found here.

And here is the saxophonist with the Dutch jazz Orchestra performing Day Dream.

Ever up and onward…

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Hi Fi Fo Fum

The search for quality music inevitably gets bound up in the search for quality sound.

I do not have the budget to indulge my hi-fi tastes to the limit, but I do have a proper ‘separates’ system and a turntable. Whilst I don’t have the specialist knowledge either to build a perfect system, I do appreciate the language of the hi-fi enthusiast which often borders on the poetic.

So, audio engineer Steve Hoffman’s discussion board (here) is one of my favourite stop overs on the old information super highway. It was a discussion thread which led me to this article by Henry Rollins about the supremacy of vinyl over compact disc and download.

My favourite lines read:

Sitting in a room, alone, listening to a CD is to be lonely. Sitting in a room alone with an LP crackling away, or sitting next to the turntable listening to a song at a time via 7-inch single, is enjoying the sublime state of solitude.

And Solitude is the most tenuous of links to this: part of a report by David W. Robinson from the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2007: The Audio Oasis! complete with photograph of one mean hi-fi rig and a couple of choice Ellington albums:

USA's Dan Meinwald demonstrated the playback of some choice mono LPs that he had brought with him.

"My personal favorite was the original 1950(!) pressing of Duke Ellington's Masterpieces by Ellington. Via the Dynavector mono, the sound was incredibly immediate, very clean, and spilling over with real presence. Not only that, but I got to hear a performance of "Mood Indigo" that went on for some eleven minutes, allowing Ellington and company to really explore some variations that were new to me. To say that this session was the personal highlight of the show for me is an understatement. It was an exceptional experience, one that furthered my audio education."

Dan Meinwald with a monoraul pressing of Ellington Indigos (left) and the marvelous 1950 monoraul Masterpieces by Ellington (ML 4418). Sublime! Many thanks, Dan.

"It was also a revelation of the glories that great performances on mono can have: layering (you don't need stereo for that, surprisingly enough), texture, rich enveloping tone, and atmosphere by the ton. Dan was sharing with anyone who has EARs to hear (not everyone does!) how good such mono LPs can be, properly played back. Dan even did a comparison of mono playback via mono vs. stereo cartridges. The Dynavector stereo did a good job, but the noise floor was noticeably increased (more tics/pops) with a stereo MC. This demonstration made it clear to me that if you're serious about mono, invest in a good mono setup. In the case of the Disc Master, getting a second tonearm is quite feasible …just the thing for the serious collector."

Interested parties can read the full report here.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Only Connect

January 23 last, a couple of weeks ago saw the sixty eighth anniversary of Duke Ellington’s first concert at Carnegie Hall. Centre piece of this event was the performance of a piece written specifically with this occasion in mind – Black, Brown and Beige.

Whilst the work was previewed the night before at Rye High School, Westchester County, New York the previous evening, Carnegie was the occasion, effectively, of its world premier.

A further performance of the work took place at Boston’s Symphony Hall on January 28 and then Ellington never performed the work in its entirety in concert ever again.

Listening to that first Carnegie Hall concert from the original vinyl issue (the transfer to CD is not done well –vinyl is the way to go to hear these recordings), B, B and B occupies both sides of the second of the three discs. It comprises, then, an entirely self-contained experience. I know that over the next few weeks I shall be returning to these sides again and again to reflect on the significance the composition – perhaps the major work of his career - certainly had on Ellington himself.

It is interesting to reflect, too, on the life the work enjoyed beyond these initial performances. There is the 1958 Columbia album, for example and the way certain pieces from the work would recur throughout Ellington’s work, the sublime Come Sunday, signally, which is featured both in Ellington’s 1963 My People and the Sacred concerts. These matters of heritage and faith run deep.

I was particularly gratified to receive a comment following the recent, brief piece on the passing of Barrie Lee Hall Junior posted here. The comment was signed Maurice. A little research on line confirmed me in my thoughts that its author was Maurice Peress who amongst his many accomplishments through his work with the Aaron Copland School of Music, is the author of Living with American Music: From Dvorak to Duke Ellington and who worked with Ellington himself on orchestrating Black, Brown and Beige in the sixties.

Thank you, Mr Peress for your comments. As with all the support, interest and kindness I receive here, they are very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Barrie Lee Hall Junior

Barrie Lee Hall, trumpet player invited whilst still a college to join Duke Ellington's orchestra, has died at the age of sixty one years.

From Barrie Lee Hall Junior’s own site:

“My interest in jazz got started in high school where I was in the school's big band under the direction of Sammy D. Harris whose insight pointed a few of us in the direction of jazz. I studied music with trumpet being my principal instrument and piano second at Texas Southern University and after winning a few soloist awards in national big band college jazz festival competitions around the country, Duke Ellington came to Houston.

Arnett Cobb, a jazz legend, call to ask me if I would take him to see Duke and in the process I would get a chance to meet Duke. Arnett introduces me as, "This is Barrie Lee Hall a trumpeter in the Texas Southern University Jazz Ensemble ". And Duke's reply was, " Ah, how come you're not playing in my band?" After waiting and calling around the US, I joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra June 8, 1973. I am at the present still a member of that organization. Mercer Ellington died February 8, 1996. Barrie Lee Hall Junior conducted the Duke Ellington Orchestra for one year after and he is the director of the orchestra sometimes in Paul Mercer Ellington’s stead.”

Ellington signed Barrie Lee Hall Junior in 1973, when the composer was most particularly involved in performances of his sacred works. Barrie Lee Hall Junior had a particular affinity for Duke’s spiritual writing which makes his association all the sweeter, his passing all the more poignant.

In tribute, here is Barrie Lee Hall Junior performing one of those works – The Shepherd.

Thank you for Barrie Lee Hall Junior.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

In Dino Veritas

A recent hard drive crash has meant the temporary loss - amongst other things - of a cache of photographs and documents I intended to publish here. They await some sort of replevin - when I have sufficient funds.

Before I suffered any further losses, I thought I had better publish copies of these images - for sale, recently, at a notable on-line auction house - without further ado.

It doesn't surprise me that the paths of Duke Ellington and Dean Martin (however mazy the latter) should have crossed at some point.  Here is the evidence in this merry gathering. I have no details of the occasion, nor indeed the identities of the other parties. I treasure the association, however.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Bespoke here

I could wish for a happier reason to share this film of Dr Billy Taylor, playing Perdido in conjunction with Willie 'The Lion' Smith and Duke Ellington, than recent news of his passing. This performance is forever joyous, however.