Saturday, May 30, 2015

Art, if you like...

Further to my post on Clark Terry's stay in Paris and the music he made there (which you can find here ), following finally the chance to sit down last night and view the film Si le vent te fait peur, I discovered a web site devoted to the film's director  Emile Degelin here from which I appropriated the striking photograph above. The DVD I watched contained also Degelin's short film from the same period, Sirènes and a fascinating documentary, including an interview with Degelin, still with us, at 88 years old.

This DVD edition is available here.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Outside the tent

Table tent from Duke Ellington's early 1940s orchestra. Appears to be from a club performance. Ben Webster, Jimmy Blanton, Ivie Anderson and others listed with songs performed. Ellington signature in pencil on exterior.
8 1/2" long by 5 1/2" wide unfolded.
Cream colored with discoloration.
See photos.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Seven Ages of Duke

The Seven Ages of Duke

Here’s my handy cut-out and keep guide to the various stages of Duke’s career. It is, of course, utterly ridiculous to try to reduce the work of a genius in this way and it’s true that if you listened to a recording made in 1923, you would evince the same mind at work behind a recording made in 1973 – but this is offered just in the spirit of fun as a starting place for further exploration if you are new to Duke…

The Standards

From the late twenties to the mid-thirties, this is the period those songs most associated with Ellington’s name were written, Mood Indigo, Sophisticated Lady, In A Sentimental Mood, etc. How they were written and by whom – well read Terry Teachout’s ungracious biography for a cynical and over-simplified account of that. Suffice it to say, the truth – like Prospero’s sea-change – is altogether something more rich and strange than that.

The Blue Period

Mid- to late-30s. I reckon this is the period of Ellington’s music which drew Billy Strayhorn, in particular, towards the flame. British composer Constant Lambert drew a direct line between the music of Ellington and that of Delius in particular – but also Ravel and Debussy. It was that Impressionist aspect of Ellington’s music the classically-trained Strayhorn took up and ran with so brilliantly in the forties and fifties.

The Swing Era

Talking of Billy Strayhorn, he was a good friend and mentor to Bill Finegan (his mother, also, called him Bill), chief arranger for Glenn Miller. In that fastidious reed sound, the quotation from other musical sources, the complexity of the arrangements, you can hear Strayhorn’s tutelage. Anyway, the period of Miller’s great commercial success coincided perfectly with the the era of what many consider to be the greatest incarnation of Ellington’s band, the Blanton-Webster band named for revolutionary bassist Jimmy Blanton and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster. Jack the Bear, Ko Ko, Sepia Panorama and Strayhorn’s Take The ‘A’ Train all date from this period when ‘jazz’ and popular taste coincided to incendiary effect.

The Suites

Beginning with Black, Brown and Beige in 1943, a ‘tone parallel’ as Ellington called it to the history of the black American, the mid-to late forties saw a whole series of longer form pieces – The Perfume Suite, The Deep South Suite, New World A-Comin', The Symphomaniac, The Tattooed Bride as Ellington and Strayhorn stretched their wings.

Water water everywhere, nor any drop...

They were hard times for the big bands as the flame of the Swing Era guttered and all but burnt out in the early fifties. Ellington lost key men – Billy Strayhorn and Johnny Hodges for a while – Tricky Sam Nanton, the plunger trombonist and Ellington’s drumming man from the beginning, Sonny Greer. The replacements – Louie Bellson, Willie Smith were brilliant technicians but I don’t think had the soul of the originals. If Ellington’s band ever had a tendency to sound like all the other big bands, then this was the period that happened. The low point must have been playing for the swimmers at Blly Rose’s Aquacade.

The Renaissance

Hodges and Strayhorn returned. Tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves’s barnstorming twenty-seven choruses at Newport 1956 saw the Ellington band renew itself in the public consciousness. Classic albums – the Shakespearean suite Such Sweet Thunder, Anatomy of a Murder et al – followed. Ellington was back and roaring across all six continents.

The Dissolution

Even Ellington could not defy gravity forever. Billy Strayhorn was lost to cancer in 1967, Johnny Hodges died in 1970. The old man kept going but the road was taking its toll. Don’t think that even as the band began to break up there weren’t more than moments of brilliance and beauty, however – The New Orleans Suite, The Latin American Suite. Ellington was performing, making, writing music to the last which came on 24, May, 1974.  The rest is silence...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Duke Ellington Indigos on Limited Edition Gold CD from Impex Records 

Contains the Complete Stereo Album Plus 8 Bonus Tracks!

All Tracks Remastered from the Analog Master Tapes / Original Stereo Tracks by Kevin Gray / Monaural Bonus Tracks by Mark Wilder

Duke Ellington and his all-star ensemble lay back on this beautiful set of swinging, romantic ballads now available for the first time on limited edition 24K Gold CD from Impex Records. In addition to the complete 1958 stereo album (remastered from the analog master tapes by Kevin Gray) this edition also includes eight bonus tracks including alternate takes, a track from the monaural album and unreleased recordings. The monaural bonus tracks were remastered by Mark Wilder

Ellington was often imitated, never equaled. There's a clear "blue mood" at work in these sessions and Kevin Gray's mastering brings out a nocturnal mood, while keeping things warm and mellow. A deep and wide soundstage, mellifluous lows and crystalline highs make Indigos a perfect accompaniment to your late night listening. The sophisticated 9-song affair features definitive readings of such jazz standards as "Mood Indigo," "Autumn Leaves" and "Prelude To a Kiss" among others.

Deluxe hard cover book packaging with accompanying booklet which comes complete with archival photographs and notes. 

Duke Ellington (piano)
Johnny Hodges / Harry Carney / Russell Procope / Jimmy Hamilton / Paul Gonsalves (saxophone)
Ray Nance / "Cat" Anderson / "Shorty" Baker / Clark Terry / Willie Cook (trumpets)
John Sanders / Britt Woodman / Quentin Jackson (trombones)
Jimmy Wood (bass)
Sam Woodyard (drums)

• 24k Gold CD from Impex Records
• Contains the complete stereo album plus 8 bonus tracks
• All tracks remastered from the analog master tapes
- original stereo tracks by Kevin Gray
- Monaural bonus tracks by Mark Wilder
• Deluxe hard cover book packaging with booklet, archival photographs & notes

Duke Ellington Indigos Track Listing: 

1. Solitude
2. Where or When 
3. Mood Indigo
4. Autumn Leaves
5. The Sky Fell Down
6. Prelude To a Kiss
7. Willow Weep For Me
8. Tenderly
9. Dancing In the Dark 

Bonus Tracks TBA