Monday, 21 April 2014

A Tone Parallel in Celluloid

From the website of The Daily Telegraph:

British Pathé, the newsreel maker which documented all walks of life on video during the 20th Century, has uploaded its entire collection of moving images to YouTube.

The archive of 3,500 hours of footage was digitised in 2002 thanks in part to a grant from the National Lottery, and is now freely accessible to anyone around the world for free.

Founded in Paris in 1896, Pathé launched in Britain 14 years later. It single-handedly invented the modern television news format but ceased recording in 1970. After that it was sold several times, at one point to EMI, but launched as an independent archive in 2009. Two years later it opened a YouTube channel and has today announced the final step in digitising and uploading its entire collection to Google's video sharing platform.

Alastair White, general manager of British Pathé, said: "Our hope is that everyone, everywhere who has a computer will see these films and enjoy them. This archive is a treasure trove unrivalled in historical and cultural significance that should never be forgotten. Uploading the films to YouTube seemed like the best way to make sure of that.
Here are just two Ellington-related videos. The footage of Duke at the piano, smiling, as they bring on the dancing girls was issued as part of Storyville's Cotton Club two disc set some years ago. Here it is in the context of the entire reel.

And this video, I am sure I have featured before, but with Villes Ville's French leanings, it is entirely appropriate to post it again. Duke would have been on his European tour when this film, Parisian Life, was shot in 1958. C'est magnifique!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Do the locomotion...

In his piece Fingers: Celebrating Ellington the Pianist, Reuben Jackson writes about Loco Madi from The Uwis Suite:

Shades of Myra Melford. Who knew an internationally celebrated bandleader (one who played "Satin Doll" nightly, for goodness sakes!) could "whup" a piano like Ali in his prime! But that is exactly what occurs in the intro (and throughout this infectious, shuffling blues) of this, the final movement of Duke's UWIS Suite, as he (in boxing parlance) "sticks and moves," shifts in and out of the key (F major), and virtually shuts the keys down, like an angry schoolchild shutting the lid of his desk. But what one what senses from this late period performance is not anger, but exhilaration -- no mean feat when one considers that by this juncture, Ellington had buried two of his most important interpreters, saxophonist Johnny Hodges (who died in 1970) and arranging-composing partner Billy Strayhorn in 1967.

The last chapter in Ellington’s characteristically affable but cryptic autobiography Music Is My Mistress is entitled "Retire To What?" and it's clear that this performance, which adds to his countless titles celebrating trains (and of course, motion) is his funky but polite refusal to depend on his Social Security card. The cadenza features Ellington and electric (!) bassist Wulf Freedman (providing delicious double stops) adding considerable fuel to this aural engine. Far hipper than AMTRAK, or even Japan's Bullet Train, Ellington's "Loco" like the Maestro in the midst of a concert ending finger snapping routine, seems to damn near saunter down the line.

Read the whole piece here

April in Paris...

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Art, if you like...

Duke Ellington was amongst the foremost artists of the 20th Century - the Pablo Picasso of the piano, if you will. Famously, he visited with Joan MirÓ in the south of France in 1966. A draughtsman himself, it is entirely appropriate that Ellington's work should be graced with the finest of art. 

Here, for example, and auctioned recently online, is art work after Matisse, again from 1966, which appeared on the printed programme for an Ellington performance. Details of the auction read:

"Up for auction is a Scarce, finely printed original program for Duke Ellington and His Orchestra.  Patrons of Art and Music at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor Present Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, September 15, 1966.  

Design and letterpress printed by Lawton and Alfred Kennedy, this handsome piece, printed in black, red and blue lettering includes works performed by Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and others.  

Cover design is an adaptation of “Cutouts” by Henri Matisse.  One large sheet folded twice to make a booklet with a listing of the Ellington Orchestra on the back of the program (including Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Mercer Ellington and others).  

Right edge deckled. In excellent condition with some small square of old sticker residue on the upper center of the back of program. An uncommon an scarce mid-1960s Ellington Bay Area program.  Measures h-10 ½ x w-7 inches." 

Saturday, 12 April 2014 the face

From Inside the Ellington Band by Nat Hentoff (October, 2006):
“I think,” says trombonist Walter van de Leur about the arrangements of Duke and his alter ego, Billy Strayhorn, “what made the music sound so very special was that you could be the second trombone and have the evening of your life.” Another trombonist, Art Baron, adds that in all the other bands he played in, “I felt like anybody could sit in that chair.” But the way Duke and Strayhorn wrote, “it really mattered what your personality was. You had to have an individual sound in your horn.”
In Stanley Crouch’s new book, Considering Genius: Writings on Jazz (Basic Books)—which will have a permanent place in the canon of jazz criticism—Stanley recalls “Ellington saying that when he heard a particular note, he always had to decide whose note it should be.”
“A man’s sound,” Duke explained to me long ago, “is his total personality. I hear that sound as I prepare to write, and that’s how I am able to write.” Accordingly, as Stanley Crouch continues, “A given note in Ellington’s three-trombone section could have at least as many different colors as players.”
And during the American Jazz Institute reunion, Art Baron, citing Billy Strayhorn’s arrangement of the standard, “Laura,” says that playing second trombone on that arrangement, “it feels amazing. You feel vibrations in your body. It wasn’t just a note. I heard a story.” And Art Baron was in that story.
And from the album Duke Ellington presents... on the Bethlehem label, here is Laura: