Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, Mercer Ellington, Harold "Money" Johnson (t); Lawrence Brown (tb); Chuck Connors (btb); Russell Procope (cl,as); Norris Turney (fl,cl,as,ts); Johnny Hodges (as); Harold Ashby (ts,cl); Paul Gonsalves (ts); Harry Carney (cl,bcl,as,bar); Duke Ellington (p); Wild Bill Davis (o); Victor Gaskin (sb); Rufus Jones (d); Tony Watkins (v)
0:23 Take The A Train 6:39 Cottontail 10:31 Up Jump 13:59 La Plus Belle Africaine 21:37 Come Off The Veldt 23:51 El Gato 27:14 Don't Get Around Much Anymore 30:08 Solitude 32:25 It Don't Mean A Thing 33:32 Be Cool And Groovy For Me 36:16 Ocht O'Clock Rock
recent reissue of the Storyville album The
Jaywalker, anthologised in Duke Box 2
(reviewed this issue on page 18) set me thinking about the play for which
Ellington composed this music. In an issue focused so strongly on the theatre
and with 2017 being the fiftieth anniversary of the work’s alleged première at Coventry
Cathedral in July 1967, it seemed appropriate to look a little
further into this theatrical piece.
Research into the background of the play
reveals the fascinating confluence of high art and high living centred around
the ‘bright young things’ of the twenties and thirties who could well have
stepped from the pages of a novel by Evelyn Waugh.
Jaywalker was written by the former actress Barbara Waring who eventually
became Lady Cunliffe through her second marriage to the chairman of British
Aluminium, Geoffrey Cunliffe. Her first marriage was to the theatrical agent
Lawrence Evans and Barbara Waring was steeped in theatre. She had appeared in
Nöel Coward’s Cavalcade and graduated
to work in the film industry, her most famous appearance being made in the film
In Which We Serve. She was also an
habitué of art critic Arthur Jeffress’ social circles, going on from clubs such
as the Blue Angel to frequent parties he held at Orchard Court. Was it at one
of these gatherings she first heard Ellington’s music? The critic was used to
auditioning ‘hot’ records he had brought back from America on such occasions in
the company of fellow jazz enthusiasts like Constant Lambert. When Ellington
first visited Britain in 1933, he had been lionised by and later met teenager
Renee Gertler, neice of the artist Mark Gertler. As Mrs Leslie Diamond, in the
1950s Renee entertained Ellington at her Park Lane home and it was through this
mutual friendship that Ellington came to write the music for Waring’s The Jaywalker.
his book Duke Ellington’s Music for the
Theatre, John Franceschina describes the plot of The Jaywalker as follows:
play tells the simple story of a boy named Mac who wants to stop the traffic on
the highway so that people on one side of the road can have the freedom to
cross to the other side. After being bullied by a gestapo-like policeman, and
witnessing the callousness of the crowd at the sight of a hit-and-run accident,
Mac decides to take it upon himself to stop the traffic by running out into the
road where he is ‘crucified between a lorry and a Rolls Royce.’ ”
The tune Mac (which means ‘Son of…’) subsequently found its way into
Ellington’s Second Sacred Concert as TGTT
or The Biggest and Busiest Intersection.
Whilst the connection to Ellington’s sacred work is, of course, obvious, I’m
sure there are connections to be discovered, too, to the narrative drive of
other Ellington works as diverse as Monologue
(Pretty and the Wolf), A Drum is a Woman and The Golden Broom and the Green Apple,
all works which might be said to address the idea of congress in the widest
sense of the word: the nature of the exchange between man and woman; man and
God – Morality
and mortality, if you will. I’m sure there’s an academic paper in there
somewhere… Duke Ellington and his Orchestra recorded the music for The Jaywalker in a single ‘stockpile’
recording session in New York City on 23 March, 1967. The first recording of TGTT was made by Ellington alone,
however, at the piano almost a fortnight earlier in Paris. The performance was
part of a tape, Pianists in Paris play
for Billy Strayhorn, made for Ellington’s composing and arranging companion
who was seriously ill during this time with the cancer that would cost him his
life. Little wonder that TGGT and the
moving Meditation would become
centrepieces eventually of the Second
What of the play itself, however, for
which the music was destined originally? John Franceschina writes:
“… for some reason by 17 July, the author
had not yet received permission from Ellington to use the score in production.
With Duke’s touring schedule during the summer of 1967, it comes as no surprise
that Lady Cunliffe had difficulty in pinning him down. Ultimately the
production proceeded as planned, received warm notices, and except for the
echoes of the score in Ellington’s Second
Sacred Concert, disappeared forever.”
Hello. Up for sale is an original 16mm print of an NBC/NET television program from 1958 titled, The Subject is Jazz. Excellent condition with Near Mint image, SUPERB SOUND, complete from start to finish with Head, Countdown and Tail, no splices, no vinegar odor. It is a near perfect print. The film is 1100 feet in length, and the show runs 30 minutes. This is a print and not a telecine. This, the first show in the series, is titled, What is Jazz?
Note that my photos came out a bit dark because my aperture opening was incorrect. The two films listed after this one depict a more accurate resolution/brightness.
The Subject is Jazz was an innovative 13-week series hosted by Gilbert Seldes. It featured some of the giants in the world of jazz, both in live performance and in conversation. The guest for this premiere episode was Duke Ellington. The sound and mix the engineers got from this live jazz ensemble in an early studio setting is phenomenal. Here’s a list of the performers:
Billy Taylor – Piano (also musical director)
Osie Johnson – Drums
Mundell Lowe – Guitar
Eddie Safranski – Bass
Carl Severinsen – Trumpet (as “Doc” he led The Tonight Show band from 1967-1992)
Tony Scott – Clarinet
Jimmy Cleveland – Trombone
Here’s a quick rundown of the program. Note that the songs played in their entirety are quite long, featuring many solos:
Intro music and opening with host Seldes.
RoyalGarden Blues. The entire number from start to finish.
Seldes introduces and talks with Duke Ellington.
A Dixieland number is performed in its entirety (I didn’t catch the title).
More conversation with Duke Ellington that turns into a tribute as Billy Taylor plays portions of three of his songs: Drop Me Off In Harlem, Sophisticated Lady, and Caravan. Ellington comments how great his songs sound in the hands of Billy Taylor (and it’s true).
Cottontail. The entire song is heard with plenty of solos all around.
Ghost Town: Civic Television and the Haunting of Coventry
is an exciting new project organised by Helen Wheatley, Centre for Television History, Heritage and Memory Studies, as part of Coventry's bid for the title City of Culture in 20121.
The project "programmes a series of civic screenings or hauntings in cinemas and other more unorthodox venues around the city to unleash the city’s ghosts and to bring past and present (and future) Coventry together."
The presentation includes the following...
Ellington in Coventry: A collaboration with Nicolas Pillai (Birmingham City University), Coventry Cathedral, Danny Greene (Coventry City Council), the Birmingham Conservatoire, and our archival partners, this event will incorporate a screening of Celebration (ITV/ABC, Sunday, 10 Apr 1966, 18:30 (55 mins)), the television programme of Duke Ellington’s performance of his suite ‘In the Beginning, God’ at Coventry Cathedral, on large screens placed next to the Sutherland tapestry, and a live performance of Ellington’s music at the Cathedral itself.
This is exciting news and Villes Ville will post news updates as they become available. The date for screening the television programme and the concert of Sacred music is early April next year. Full details of the project may be viewed here. There will be more postings on Ellington's links to the city of Coventry later in the week.