Thursday, 23 July 2015

23rd International Duke Ellington Conference

23rd International Duke Ellington Conference Ellington and Strayhorn
A Celebration: 6-8 November, 2015, Reed College, Portland, Oregon.

Website is here.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Conny Plank Reviewed

The reviews are coming in for the newly released Conny Plank Sessions CD/vinyl.

First of all, Kevin Whitehead discusses the release with David Biancullli in this podcast:

Full transcription here.

And from the website Pitchfork, the following review by Ron Hart:

When the Conny Plank estate revealed that they have in their possession a recording of the experimental German producer and big band titan Duke Ellington in the studio together, it was indeed a surprise. But given the Duke's decades-long track record of taking creative risks, the two disparate minds coming together made a certain kind of sense.
Plank, who got his start as the soundman for famed German actress/singer Marlene Dietrich, was a maestro at multi-tracking, creating alien atmospheres for pioneering experimental rock acts such as Guru GuruClusterKraftwerk, and Neu! Plank wasn't entirely foreign to jazz, having done sound the year before for fellow countrymen Alexander von Schlippenbach on the piano great's seminal album The Living Music and Nipples, the free-jazz classic by saxophone colossus Peter Brötzmann. Ellington, meanwhile, usually worked with a large ensemble and an even larger imagination for where to take it, a combination that seemed custom-made for multi-track recording. As with the rest of Ellington's rich and storied career, a combination of fate, savvy, and mutual connections brought the aging bandleader and the vanguard engineer together for a brief time at Rhenus Studio in Germany's Harlem of kosmische muzik, Cologne.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this session, which contains three takes apiece of two different songs, is how Ellington's Orchestra comes across when filtered through Plank's audio setup. For a producer whose work is so affiliated with heavy doses of pitch bending, echo, controlled reverb, and other forms of early electronic sound manipulations in his work, it's wild to hear how natural this recording is, as though Plank—himself a great admirer of the Duke—knew not to trifle with music that writer Henrik von Holtum compares to Johann Sebastian Bach in the liner notes to this release. "With both Bach and Ellington, you can sit down at a piano simply to go through it building chords and something great always happens," he explains. "This music is so rich, and it is virtually indestructible."
On the three versions of "Alerado", it is the combo organ work of Wild Bill Davis that takes center stage. Here, Davis picks up where he left off upon joining Ellington in 1970 for a leading man role on "Blues for New Orleans", the opening track off that year's New Orleans Suite. By the time they get to the third take, Davis seems to have discovered his inner Billy Preston, taking the brass section to a church somewhere between a cathedral and a ballpark, running full stride in a way that wastes no second of the opportunity provided to him by Duke, who seems happy to let Davis take the wheel.
But if there is any evidence from this session of a direct creative connection between Duke and Plank it is on the set's second track, "Afrique". Duke is front and center, and there's a discordance in his playing that suggests an admiration for Cecil Taylor or Andrew Hill. This song would wind up, in its more percussion-driven form, on Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, a record revered for its excursions into African folk music, Southern R&B, and even rock'n'roll. But on the three versions of "Afrique" recorded with Plank, Ellington can be heard exploring minimalism as expertly as his most vibrant, Technicolor playing from the heyday of swing.
When Ellington entered Rhenus Studio in the summer of 1970, the story goes that his goal was to use the space to record some stock material for later use. He didn't realize that he was working with one of pop music's bold visionaries. In hindsight, it's a meeting as monumental as such fabled unions as Prince and Miles Davis or Keith Richards and Gram Parsons; the kind of gigs music nerds book in their heads. Only, for this one there's hard evidence of its existence, a coming together of a great American icon and an adventurous young soundman from Deutschland that's as beautiful as it is unorthodox.
Source: Pitchfork

Monday, 13 July 2015

Off the Wall

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: The Conny Plank Session has been released and reviewed in The Wall Street Journal by Martin Johnson (here).

There are one or two interesting comments posted following the review and an interesting discussion at the organismic Jazz Forum here.

For the record, the vocalist overdubbed on the final track, Afrique, I understand is the Swedish singer Lena Junoff who met Ellington in Göteborg a few days before the session and was invited to New York to sing with the band at The Rainbow Grill in August of that year (1970).

According to Kultur GT (and make of this what you will - it is taken via Google Translate):

"Lena Junoff was born in Gothenburg in 1942. She began performing at age 15, was recognized for his voice that spanned over five octaves and worked soon as an artist full time. But something Swedish breakthrough was never. She debuted under the name Adah Helene, but this passed the disc buyers fairly unnoticed. In the late 60s she launched in England under the name of Margaret Lee and 1970, she was discovered by Duke Ellington and went to the United States, cooperation only lasted a few months.

Why she never got that big breakthrough is difficult to know. In the press written that she had hot temper, drug problems and that she once starred in a porn movie.
But one can not fail to be impressed by her CV. She has played with Rod Stewart in his mother's apartment, was engaged to "byxspräckarkungen" PJ Proby, inaugurated color televisions in Germany together with Willy Brandt, and as mentioned previously sung with Duke Ellington. As for Sinatra I find no data, but it is probably not impossible.
After an accident in the early 90s was injured Lena Junoffs voice. After that, she has appeared increasingly blissful."

There is, too, this Swedish TV film I found...

The site says (again, courtesy Google Translate):

"Rock Legends, hot love affairs and impromptu cooking. If this is the book "prima donna of Hisingen" - something as unusual as a biographical cookbook in serial form.

It all began when journalist and author Bo Sjökvist would make a documentary on the old slapstick artist Johnny Bode.

For the film's behalf he went to interview the singer Lena Junoff - who long ago sang a couple of songs with Bode. But the interview was not quite as it was supposed to.

- The first thing we got from Lena was a kind of show. She begins to sing, took us around the whole apartment and shows photos of Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, PJ Proby and talk, talk and talk. Then she begins to invite us for canapés - it is jellied veal and strawberries - and she says that she wants to have a cooking show. We try to talk about Bode, but Lena did not like it. When I went away I thought 'maybe I should do something about Lena Junoff instead ", says Bo Sjökvist.

Peculiar cooking
Lena Junoff floored documentaries with stories from his own career - countless performances and tours in night clubs in Sweden and abroad, concerts of Duke Ellington and Hep Stars, love relationships with international rock stars - and their peculiar cooking.

Documentary film about Johnny Bode was shelved.

Contacted cartoonist
After a few failed attempts to record a cooking program with Lena Junoff contacted cartoonist Pontus Lunqvist.

- I always wanted to do just a comic book. When you tell these stories from way back in time, the series is the fantastic form of a documentary. You can put the settings, create and recreate and you do not keep up with complicated or expensive archives, says Bo Sjökvist.

Lena Junoff have long wanted to write a book about his life.

- Had I not been Duke Ellington's vocalist and singer of great theater in America so I would not have done this. But it is very fun to go back and look at his life as it has been, I would not like to have anything undone!"

You can read my earlier posts about The Conny Plank Sessions here and here.