Friday, 27 December 2013

Capitol Idea

Here is a flyer announcing Duke Ellington's signing to the Capitol label in 1953. Long deleted and ripe for reassessment, these recordings were anthologised by Mosaic Records many moons ago. The two titles here listed in the flyer, Satin Doll and Without a Song were the very first to be recorded at Melrose Place. You can access the full discography for the Mosaic release here.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Ephemera Ellingtonia

Here is an interesting lot of Ellingtonian ephemera presently for sale on Ebay. The description runs: 

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 - May 24, 1974), American composer, pianist, bandleader and 12 time Grammy award winner, vintage collection of personal contacts, belongings and mementos. The following are included in this archival lot: two contact/address notebooks containing various entries, notes and inscriptions, many quite possibly in Ellington's hand; business cards for his contacts in the music industry including Capital Records, Blue Note Records, The William and Morris Agency and The Cotton Club; member passes for the Senate, House of Representatives, various clubs, venues and hotels; travel expense logs, tickets and receipts.
A major figure in the history of jazz music, Ellington's career spanned more than half a century, during which time he composed thousands of songs, recording for most American record companies, appearing in films, scoring several, and composing stage musicals. He created one of the most distinctive ensemble sounds in Western music and continued to play what he called "American Music" until shortly before his death in 1974. His last words were, "Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered." Ellington was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966. He was later awarded several other prizes, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, an Honorary PhD from the Berklee College of Music in 1971, and the Legion of Honor by France in 1973, the highest civilian honors in each country.
You can 'buy it now' for $595.00 Details here.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Liberian Suite

The Liberian Suite Columbia CL-6073

December 24, 1947. Liederkranz Hall, New York.

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra: Shorty Baker, Shelton Hemphill, Al Killian, Francis Williams, t; Ray Nance, t, vn; Lawrence Brown, Tyree Glenn, tb; Claude Jones, vtb; Jimmy Hamilton, cl, ts; Johnny Hodges, as; Russell Procope, as, cl; Al Sears, ts; Harry Carney, bs; Duke Ellington, p; Fred Guy, g; Oscar Pettiford, Junior Raglin, b; Sonny Greer, d.

I Like The Sunrise (Al Hibbler, vocal)
Dance No. 1
Dance No. 2
Dance No. 3
Dance No. 4
Dance No. 5

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

American Hustle

Christian Bale & Amy Adams Bond Over Duke Ellington in Clip From 'American Hustle'

From Indiewire: The Playlist...

"A brand new clip has dropped from David O. Russell's highly anticipated film and it finds conman Christian Bale bonding with Amy Adams over jazz legend Duke Ellington, who has just died (which would place the scene in 1974, FYI). And the song they both cherish? "Jeep's Blues" from Ellington At Newport, a live album which is largely credited with reviving the icon's career. Meanwhile, playing in the background is Chicago's "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"
So, check out the clip, followed by the Duke Ellington and Chicago tunes. "American Hustle" arrives in theaters on December 18th."

Edited to add from The L A Times by Gina McIntyre:

Has Duke Ellington ever saved your life?

David O. Russell knows the answer to that particular question because Ellington's music has rescued him many times. It happened yesterday. It'll probably happen again tomorrow. And it also happens near the beginning of Russell's latest movie, "American Hustle," when a couple of con artists, played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams, plop down on the floor and listen to Ellington's slow-cooker classic "Jeep's Blues" and look into each others' eyes and know they've found heaven on a cracker.
"That's a piece of music I've held in my heart for over 30 years," Russell says over dinner at Ross 424, the Hollywood Hills studio where, some 16 hours earlier, he finished the final sound mix on "Hustle." "You have a secret treasure chest of magic, and one day you say, 'Maybe this magic belongs in this movie. I'm going to share this beautiful thing, not knowing if anyone else is going to feel about it the way I do.' That's the danger in sharing something you love. But I don't have a choice. I need to convey that enchantment."
"American Hustle" (in theaters Dec. 13), loosely based on the Abscam FBI sting operation of the 1970s that ensnared seven members of Congress for taking bribes, shares much with Russell's last two movies, "The Fighter" and "Silver Linings Playbook." They deal with people whose lives have been broken apart and who now have to reinvent themselves or perish. They sport many of the same actors: Bale and Adams worked with Russell on "The Fighter," and Jennifer LawrenceBradley Cooper and Robert De Niro also starred in "Playbook."
But there's a connective tissue holding these movies together that goes deeper than plot and players. It's a bedrock belief that genius comes from madness. It's an expertly controlled chaos that careens from the mundane to the magical. Above all, it's a music of life, a desire to show people talking and arguing and dancing and living in a way that Russell says he wasn't awake to in his first four films.
"My whole goal is, when somebody walks out of these movies, is to have them say, 'I loved that world, and I loved those people,'" Russell says. "Regardless of the mistakes the characters may have made, to love them and love being with them, to love their love for life ... that's what I want to share through film."
Russell, 55, says he has never stopped reinventing himself, but his current phase, which has seen "The Fighter" and "Silver Linings" scoring with audiences and critics (each was nominated for best picture), began after "I Heart Huckabees," his 2004 "midlife crisis" movie, and a subsequent divorce. "Your world gets taken apart," Russell says of the end of his marriage. "I went through that and not trusting myself, not trusting my gut as a filmmaker."
There was no light-bulb moment paving the way to his current good vibrations, just a gradual realization that he couldn't afford certain ambivalences or darknesses (something he says he learned from his older son) and continue to have a career. At this time, he also couldn't afford to pay the rent, which is why he accepted the late Sydney Pollack's offer to adapt "Silver Linings Playbook" from the Matthew Quick novel. "There's nothing like being in debt to make you work and not be precious about it," Russell says.
When the financing for "Silver Linings" didn't come together, Russell made "The Fighter" and discovered in the neighborhoods of Lowell, Mass., a genuineness among the people that brought out a great affection and inspired him to undertake a new direction, going from his gut, or, as Bale's character in "Hustle" puts it, acting "from the feet up."
Not that the process is always smooth.
"He can't stand, as he's told me, sitting staring at [screenwriting program] Final Draft. He goes braindead," Bale says. "He said to me, 'I need to come walk around your garden with you. That's how I need to write the film. I need to walk around the garden, lay in the grass, chat with you, be in unorthodox situations, that's when I can write.' That's how he likes to work best and I think that's what makes his movies unique and that's why ultimately I enjoy working with him, even though there are moments where I feel like I could kill him. He probably feels likewise."
"With David, it's all about instinct," says Lawrence, who plays Bale's loose-cannon housewife in "Hustle." "He'll whisper something in your ear and inspire you to see something you didn't before. There's not really anything he can't do with an actor. He can take you to a million different levels, a million different planets. And if you go with it, it will be the best experience of your life."
"Enchantment?" Cooper considers Russell's fondness for the word. "Yes, I've heard it a time or two. But you listen to his voice and there is a little magic in it. So it's not surprising to find it in his films."
What might be surprising about Russell? He has seen "It's a Wonderful Life" so many times that he knows it by heart, referencing it frequently and even acting it out on occasion. ("I just do Lionel Barrymore though," he says with a smile.) He has a 2-year-old son, Leo, adopted as a baby with Russell's "better half," Holly Davis. And his favorite thing about "American Hustle" might just be the wide canvas it allowed him to bring to life — five specific worlds, each with its own music and decor. He furnished the Upper East Side apartment Bale shares with Adams with pieces his mother loved. And he bound the film's lovers together by Ellington.
Asked where he finds magic in his own life, Russell initially demurs. ("You say a thing and it's not your thing anymore.") Finally, he relents, speaking with great feeling about a park in Santa Monica that's next to a church and provides him with spiritual nourishment each time he visits.
"Even talking about it, a really good feeling comes over me," Russell says. "And that's sacred. And that's what I love to put in movies. There can be many great movies in any given year, but I'm happy to have a movie that has that love of life. I've got to have that enchantment!"

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


I'm presently re-posting quite  a lot of material from Terry Teachout's blog About Last Night simply to keep a record of the publicity rounds he is making to promote Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington.

Of the latest broadcasts and appearances, it took a little while to track down Mr Teachout's conversation with Jordan Rich of WBZ-AM, Boston but you can listen to that broadcast here.

Update: Another radio interview with Mr Teachout by Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up to Date (an early Ellington record label, coincidentally) may be listened to here.

Tom Nolan, author of Artie Shaw: Three Chords for Beauty's Sake, has reviewed Duke for the San Francisco Chronicle. Read that review here.

The review by Michael Glitz of The Huffington Post may be read here.

There is a full question-and-answer, too, with Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online here.

In this piece, Mr Teachout says:

"...too many of Ellington’s fans don’t want to know the truth about their hero, who was both a great man and a deeply flawed one. Me, I believe that the greatest tribute that a biographer can pay to a genius — and that’s what Ellington was — is to tell the truth about him, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts."

Well, avoiding the obvious riposte, courtesy of Pontius Pilate, What is the truth? I have to say that what worries me is not any details of Ellington's personal life - there may well have been more of the satyr than Satie about Ellington for all I know - but the emphasis Mr Teachout has given to the process by which the standards (Mood Indigo, Sophisticated Lady, etc)were created and his own perceptions of the limitations of Ellington as composer which led one reviewer to pen the following paragraph:

"Ellington wasn't formally trained or even well-versed in classical music, so he found it difficult to write hummable tunes or structurally develop themes with any complexity. But he could meld together disparate musical fragments from his band members' solo performances, mastering a "mosaic method of composition." While not a flagrant plagiarist, Ellington still took most of the credit."

Is that really the impression of Ellington's art Mr Teachout wanted to give to the world? Is that the truth?

That particular piece was written by a Mr Bill Desowitz. You can read his piece here.

Saturday, 2 November 2013


I hope the following item goes to a good home: the master tape for the 1973 album collaboration between Duke Ellington and Teresa Brewer. How do these things get into the public domain? It really should be in The Smithsonian!

This auction is for an original 15ips two track stereo master/safety master tape of the collaboration between Duke Ellington & Teresa Brewer. It was originally released on Flying Dutchman but the master was purchased from them by Columbia for release in 1983 on vinyl album (PC 37340) & CD (CK 37340). This was Ellington's last studio album. The Allmusic review awarded the album 4½ stars. IT IS A GREAT ALBUM!

The tape is recorded on PROPERLY dehydrated (baked) Ampex 406 recording tape and plays great with no sticking or shedding. It comes on the reel and in the box shown. There is a full tone set at the head of the reel including an extra 1kHz tone so this MIGHT be a Dolby "A" tape. It played great on my equipment without being decoded however. There is leader at the head & tail of the reel plus leader between the tone set/program start and between sides. Please note that there are 2 engineer splices in the reel. The splices pass through fine and can NOT be audibly heard. The tape comes with the data sheet copy as shown. The data sheet is very hard to read. 

Song listing is:
Side 1:
It Don't Mean A Thing
I Ain't Got Nothing But The Blues
Satin Doll
Mood Indigo
Don't Get Around Much Any More
Beginning To See The Light

Side 2:
Rug Cutter
I Got It Bad & That Ain't Good
Tulip Or Turnip
Kinda Lonesome Out Tonight
Poco Mucho

You can follow the progress of the auction here.

Friday, 1 November 2013

In The Round

Here is a rarity via the virtual cathode ray tube: an interview with Duke Ellington filmed in Vancouver in 1970. The interview with Ellington begins about eight minutes in and occupies the rest of the programme. Johnny Mathis introduces the show and there is a performance by ABBA.

Description from the Youtube poster:

ABBA and Duke Ellington were guests on two Mike Neun CBC Vancouver TV series. Mike was the host of "IN THE ROUND" which national Canadian critics raved was "the best variety series of the season" in the summer of 1970. In the first show, world renowned jazz legend Duke Ellington dropped by for a rare casual chat and performed his classic composition "Satin Doll" with the Doug Parker house band. The series led to other Mike Neun CBC series, here introduced by singer Johnny Mathis in 1976, NEUN AT NIGHT, with ABBA performing their two massive hits, "Dancing Queen" and "Fernando." Ellington was awarded The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966. At 76, he died of lung cancer in 1974, with over 12,000 attending the genius' funeral. Swedish pop/rockers ABBA (Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn, Anni-Afid) were one of the most commercially successful acts in pop music history, topping charts worldwide between 1972-1982, selling over 370 million records worldwide, making them one of the world's best selling artists of all time.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Surfing the net earlier today, I discovered the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University and details of a talk held there on 28 February 2013 by Professor John Szwed on The Story of Jazz. Ellington aficionados will know that this is the collaboration between Duke and Orson Welles which unfortunately never got off the drawing board. It transmogrified, eventually, and after a fashion, into A Drum Is A Woman. I've emailed Professor Szwed in the hope that the text of his talk is available. In the meantime, I discovered the video, below, which, I'm sure, in part, covers this fascinating project. 

The video and the programme notes copied below are from the Louis Armstrong Symposium held at The College of Staten island in 2009.

In 1941 RKO announced that "The Story of Jazz," an Orson Welles film, was in production, with Duke Ellington as musical director, and a cast that included Louis Armstrong, Hazel Scott, and Kid Ory. It was to be a bio-pic of Armstrong, and was a serious production, with several scripts, an interview with Bud Scott modeled on the 1938 Alan Lomax interview with Jelly Roll Morton, a short autobiography of Armstrong he wrote for the film, Ellington was under contract, and test shots had been made. But as often with Welles, things went wrong, and the jazz concept was sidetracked for the story of Brazilian Carnival in the three-part film, "It's All True," which was never completed. (Another Welles' 1941 production also failed, a film of Ellington's "Jump For Joy.") Many questions remain about the Armstrong film, including how it morphed into the infamous 1947 film, "New Orleans," and why the script of "The Story of Jazz" was so similar to that of another 1941 film, "The Birth of the Blues."
This talk is an attempt to explore the 1941 Welles' productions, and will look at some of the scripts by Elliot Paul, as well as his strange 1957 book, That Crazy American Music, the Bud Scott interview, the Armstrong letter-autobiography, the "Jump For Joy Script," and a later Welles radio history of jazz for the Armed Forces Radio Network.