DUKE ELLINGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
08/2 August-November 2008
Our 30th Year of Publication
FOUNDER: BENNY AASLAND
Voort 18b, 2328 Meerle, Belgium
Telephone: +32 3 315 75 83
Ellington in Umeå Sweden
Here's a short interview in 1973. I can't recall if it's been posted here.
This interview was done by a reporter from Finland on Duke's arrival in Umeå in northern Sweden on 27oct73. The interview was shown on Finnish TV (YLE). Notice that Duke in the first seconds of the recording refers to "Sweden" several times.
Backstory in Blue
Ellington at Newport ‘56
by John Fass Morton
We did not have the privilege of meeting the author in person at the recent Duke Ellington Conference in London (see DEMS 08/2-6). He was unable to come, so he arranged for Ted Hudson to read a script to us introducing his new book. Shortly after I came home from London, I received from Bob Lemstrom-Sheedy Publicity an advance review copy of the book that will be published by Rutgers University Press in August for $ 34.95 in hardcover. If I hadn’t been rather pre-occupied with watching my conference videotapes and writing my conference report, I would have read this book at one sitting. It is amazing. It is different from all other books about Ellington. Other books describe Duke’s career chronologically, but this book describes one evening in Duke’s career from every angle. Like in a crossword puzzle this books interconnects with Duke’s biographies at the single point of Newport on 7Jul56. It gives us literally every detail one could ask for concerning that evening. It seems impossible that anyone could write a 336 pages book about one solo in one selection at one concert 52 years ago. However John Fass Morton tells us everything related to this famous happening. Don’t be afraid that this will be boring. It is an exciting story and it reads like the most thrilling fiction. It isn’t fiction however. It is the truth. John has studied every source that is available and he has interviewed everybody who played a role in this exciting story, even if that role was very small. The way all these testimonies are brought together is masterly.
There are many more remarkable Ellington recordings than the one at Newport ‘56, too many to be mentioned. For an Ellington collector it seems a bit odd that this single one alone has been considered important enough to be the subject of a complete book. It is however a fact that this performance and the subsequent LP had a tremendous impact. There is no doubt that the event was of enormous importance for Duke’s career. As Harvey Cohen describes in his own forthcoming book, 7Jul56 was a very important date for Ellington:
“The smashing success of the Ellington Orchestra’s 7Jul56 Newport Jazz Festival appearance initiated an artistic and commercial rejuvenation for Ellington. It allowed him once again the latitude to develop his art in ways that deviated from his peers and previous traditions in popular music, while retaining audiences large enough to support the big band he preferred to compose for. This career-long Ellingtonian balance between the creative and commercial looked threatened in the mid-1950s during his artistic nadir at Capitol and Bethlehem Records and during the Aquacade engagement. After his Newport success, Ellington responded with an outpouring of challenging and often excellent new compositions and suites.”
John Fass Morton’s book is not specifically chronological. It starts with the anticipation of something mythical, increasingly exciting until we arrive at the key moment; and even when we believe we are there, another chapter, about Paul Gonsalves, means we have to wait a little longer.
The first chapter describes the encounter of Elaine Anderson, the heroine of our story, with Duke on the occasion of the First Sacred Concert in San Francisco. It sets Ellington and his music in the context of other kinds of popular music, and it introduces to us some of the important persons and some record companies involved.
The second chapter, titled “Ellington’s Long Road to Newport”, is more or less an Ellington biography. It ends where Ellington had his weakest period.
The third chapter is a description of the 1956 band.
Chapter four deals with the different record labels.
Chapter five is devoted to George Avakian.
Chapter six describes the plans for making an outdoor live recording.
Chapter seven is about Mrs Elaine Lorillard, who was very much involved in the creation of the Newport Jazz Festival ’54 and its evolution into Newport ‘55.
Chapter eight starts with a description of Newport ‘54 and the development into Newport ‘55.
Chapter nine is titled Newport ’56.
Chapter ten is titled “The Saturday Night”. It ends at the point where Duke announced Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.
Chapter eleven is dedicated to Paul Gonsalves. It describes his ancestry and his life up to the Newport ‘56 Festival.
Chapter twelve finally gives a description of “The Rhythmic Groove of the Century”.
Chapter thirteen is completely dedicated to Elaine Anderson “The Gal Who Launched 7000 Cheers”. It is almost a complete biography of her and her family.
Chapter fourteen describes the reaction of the audience and it introduced the notion of “the fourth wall”, being the separation between those who perform and those who witness the performance. The other three walls are the three walls of the stage. This chapter contains 17 pictures of Elaine dancing. It is a pity that the pictures are not numbered and that the description of each picture and each photographer does not refer to these numbers.
Chapter fifteen tells us everything there is to know about the LP.
Chapter sixteen describes the development of Columbia Records after Newport ‘56.
Chapter seventeen continues with the biography of Elaine Anderson until her death in April 2004 (if I have made my calculation correctly).
Chapter eighteen describes the relationship between Duke and Paul, which as we all know was a special one.
Chapter nineteen covers the VoA broadcast and the important role of Willis Conover. At the end of this chapter it is said that Terry Ripmaster is writing a biography of Conover. That is not correct. The biography has already been published, in 2007, and the book was reviewed in “Ellingtonia” of January 2008. (See 08/2-9)
Chapter twenty gives a description of the evolution of different festivals, ending in the famous one at Woodstock.
At this point you have arrived at the end of this story, but you should not stop reading. There are a lot of interesting notes which have not been numbered. Each note carries the number of the page and the relevant text in Italic, like in Hasse’s book. If you read this review before you start reading the book you might consider reading the notes while you are going through the pages. As I read these notes I understood why some quotes sounded so familiar to me. Some have been taken from DEMS Bulletin 02/2-9 where we combined a question from David Palmquist on the Duke LYM list with an answer by Jack Heaney, who was there and who is mentioned several times in the book. We further combined it with a long reaction by George Avakian who included in his answer quotes from a recent letter to him by Elaine Anderson.
Several queries which I noted while reading the book were answered in these notes. One is the mention on page 121 of Herbie Jones as fifth trumpet player during the second set. I wanted to make the point that another trumpet player claims to have played in the band that night: Jimmy Maxwell. (See DEMS 97/1-5 and Stuart Nicholson page 309.) But the note at the top of page 277 of the book clarifies this. I needn’t have worried, had I consulted the notes while reading the book.
There are however a few things I think I should say. On page 22 Jimmie Blanton is spelled Jimmy Blanton. We spell it as Jimmie did himself. The statement on the next page that the last Blanton-Webster recording session was in July 1942 is wrong. Jimmie left in November 1941. The recording session of 28Jul42 was made with Junior Raglin. The name of Louie Bellson is repeatedly spelled as Louis, which Louie doesn’t like.
I also wanted to mention Charles Waters who has made a serious study of the interludes between Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. But the note on page 278 mentions him (referring to page 146 in the main text). I couldn’t find the reference to Charles on page 271 though. I also cannot believe that Al Lucas blew two intros on Honeysuckle Rose with Anita O’Day. Lucas was a bass-player. My guess is that Harry Edison did the blowing, because one of Anita’s numbers in Newport ‘56 was Pick Yourself Up, which was recorded for Verve in December ‘56 with Harry on trumpet.
Some of the notes are rather lengthy, but the lengthier they are the more I recommended that you read them. Some of them may sound familiar if you have read the Gunther Schuller literature, but others, like the one on page 281 referring to page 157 Woodyard started to swing, are very revealing. I never understood why the band played so well in Newport. I knew it couldn’t just be Jo Jones’ Christian Science Monitor. I never heard that sound, not even on Phil Schaap’s complete release. What I did hear was Sam Woodyard and now I understand a bit why it sounded so good.
My conclusion is this: as an Ellington collector you won’t “need” this book, but you would certainly regret it not having read and enjoyed it. And I cannot recommend it more highly than that.
Willis Conover: Broadcasting Jazz to the World
by Terence M. Ripmaster
New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2007. 218 pp. $18.95
Reviewed by Ben Pubols
There are many non-musicians well known for their roles in promoting jazz, individuals such as George Avakian, Norman Granz and George Wein. There is another such promoter, equally as important but less well known in the Western hemisphere, and that man is Willis Conover, who was the Voice of America's "Voice of Jazz" for 40 years, from his first broadcast in January 1955 until shortly before his death in 1996. His program, Music USA, was beamed to as many as 80 foreign countries, but, by Congressional decree was not available to listeners in the United States. Conover travelled extensively, including many trips to Iron Curtain countries, where he was often hailed by his admirers as a saint. He spoke in a slow, deliberate, deep baritone voice. He had a particularly strong impact on listeners behind the Iron Curtain. As one commentator put it' "If I had to list the five people most responsible for the dismantling of the Soviet Union, Willis Conover would be at the top of the list."
His programs consisted primarily of playing jazz recordings, from the infancy of jazz through the swing era and into the "modern" period. His theme song was Duke's classic recording of Take The A Train. The programs included many interviews, with jazz musicians (e.g., ten with Louis Armstrong, fifteen with Duke Ellington) and others (e.g., several U.S. presidents, Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson and Leopold Stokowski).
The author of this biography, Terry Ripmaster, a retired professor of history, takes detailed advantage of the vast amount of primary material on Willis Conover. His principal sources are VOA tapes of Conover's Music USA programs and interviews, many now at the National Archives, and Conover's personal papers, including extensive notes for an autobiography, now in the North Texas University library. Extensive use is also made of correspondence and interviews. Among the latter are interviews with our own Jack Towers and with the author of this review, Ben Pubols. (Disclosure: I was friends with Willis while I was in high school in the late 1940s, during Conover's pre-VOA, radio station WWDC days).
The book itself is arranged topically rather than chronologically. After a brief introduction on Willis's personal life, including his time as a student at Western High School (now the Duke Ellington School of the Arts) and his stint as an announcer at station WWDC, there are chapters on the formation and history of the Voice of America and Willis's activities there. A lengthy chapter deals with his influence on many listeners from abroad, including details of his trips behind the Iron Curtain and the many fans he met there. Also included is a chapter on his non-VOA activities and excerpts from many of his interviews. But the most exciting chapter is the one entitled "Conover Under Fire: Black Nationalism and Jazz." "Black Nationalism" is perhaps too strong a term in this context, as the chapter deals primarily with the Black Power movement of the 1960s, not the earlier Marcus Garvey Black Nationalism movement. In particular, Willis encountered many problems as a white man promoting what began as black man's music. But, as Ripmaster states, "He had a deep appreciation of what can be called the black roots of jazz. He devoted his life to understanding, playing, and promoting jazz."
As is well known, Conover was instrumental in organizing the 1969 75th birthday tribute to Duke Ellington at the White House. Ripmaster quotes H. R. Haldeman to the effect that "When President Nixon heard about the plans for this tribute to Duke, he told us to invite all the jazz greats, like Guy Lombardo."
The book is not without its shortcomings. For example, dates are not given for the many interviews and letters cited. At one point Conover is quoted as saying that he was making "between twenty and thirty thousand dollars a year" (when was this?), while elsewhere it is stated that, by the 1990s he was making close to $100,000 a year. And the book could have profited by another round of proof-reading. There are many instances where a source is quoted, but there are no close quotes (including a "quote" from this reviewer). Also, "he" is often mentioned without a clear referent.
In the opening chapter, Willis is quoted as stating that during his childhood he was enamored of the Wizard of Oz books. In the final chapter, James Lester, writing in 1999, states that "... it is hard not to think of Conover as the Wizard of Oz, a gentle, reticent sort of person hidden behind a curtain, projecting through the turning of dials and pushing of levers, a powerful image, rather different from himself, that ends up changing lives. He seems to have been the perfect person for the job." A fitting and insightful statement.
There remains a vast amount of material on the mysterious, majestic Mr. Conover, waiting to be tapped by the next author. Meanwhile, Mr. Ripmaster provides an overdue, pioneering book on this individual who did so much to promote and spread American jazz throughout the world.
© ~ 2007, Ben Pubols
As I told Ben some months ago, the VoA's Jazz Hour was not introduced by the 'classic' A Train (assuming this to be the 1941 Victor). It was the start of the extended Columbia version, as I recall, in which Betty Roché sang. I used to listen to it most nights as a reward for finishing my homework for school, on short wave, beamed from a transmitter in Tangier.
I am very grateful to Ben Pubols for giving me permission to print his review of Terence Ripmaster’s book that appeared in Ellingtonia, the publication of the Duke Ellington Society of Washington D.C. of January of this year.
When I saw the name of Terence Ripmaster mentioned in the book by John Fass Morton on page 256 (see 08/2-8), I was curious to see what he had to say about the Newport Jazz Festival. It struck me at once that on page 135 he placed the long solo by Paul Gonsalves in the wrong year, at the 1957 festival. It seems that Ripmaster consulted “Newport Jazz Festival: The Illustrated History” by photographer Burt Goldblatt. I do not have that book, otherwise I would have checked if the wrong date came from Goldblatt. According to Ripmaster Duke also played King Fit the Battle of Alabam’. This came (according to Ripmaster) from the Conover notes. This is even more wrong, by seven years.
Another error is on page xiii. It says that Conover was speaker at the Duke Ellington Conference in Chicago in 1983. The 1983 Conference was in Washington and indeed Willis was one of the speakers. The next year he came back to the Conference in Chicago and again he made a presentation as first speaker on 19May. During that presentation Willis recited a poem that he had written, titled “Come Monday”. It was a tribute to Ellington who had died ten years before. It was beautiful. When Ripmaster asked people who knew Willis to contact him, I wrote him (indeed on 5oct04) and told him among other things about this terrific poem and asked him to look for it in Willis’s papers. I hoped to see it in print in Ripmaster’s book, but I am afraid it got lost.
It went like this:
Edward Kennedy, Duke Ellington, born April 29 1899, died at 10 minutes after 3 in the morning of May 24, 1974.
He smiled, he bowed a perfect angle, brushed the cheeks and found the phrase from ages gone
Never was nobody like him
He introduced us, knew our pulse, made us dance, shaped our moments
He was there and we were young
Love you, sadly
Never be nobody else
Taller, deeper, faster, fuller, wiser, older, younger longer
No one knew him
No never, never no Duke
After the poem we listened to Ray Nance playing Take the “A” Train on the violin. There was no applause until Don Miller thanked Willis for his words. Willis Conover with his terrific voice made a huge impression on all of us.
I severely pitied dear Andrew Homzy who was the second speaker of the morning with “Ellington Materials at the Library of Congress”.
Ben Webster in Denmark (1965 - 1971)
Emarcy 06025 175 464-2 4
Released March 24th, 2008
From the archives of the Danish Radio vaults, presented here for the first time on any media format, CD or DVD, are three great concerts plus the documentary “Big Ben”.
These stunning archive classics feature some of the most talented musicians in jazz: Kenny Drew (piano), Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Alex Riel (drums), Teddy Wilson (piano), Makaya Ntshoko (drums), Inez Cavanaugh (vocals), Charlie Shavers (trumpet), Finn Ziegler (violin), Niels Jørgen Steen (piano), Jørn Elniff (drums) plus the Danish Radio Big Band & String section.
01 Ben Webster 1965 (TV-Byen)
02 Ben Webster & His Music 1968 (TV Byen)
03 Timme Rosenkrantz Memorial Concert 1969
04 Big Ben 1971 (TV-Byen) (Jazzhus Montmartre)
Milo van den Assem
Duke Ellington at the Côte d'Azur with Ella Fitzgerald and Joan Miró
See DEMS 08/1-8
I think you should have mentioned that
- an approx 3min30 presentation by Nat Henntoff is added
- the DVD seems to run slightly faster thaan the Toemi VHS TVS182: 62:40 instead of 65:25
- The Old Circus Train (3:08%) reheearsal just before 6664s (%3:13) from the evening concert still didn't find its way into the New DESOR, but should be added.
Derek Jewell is certainly right concerning Ella on Monday, 25Jul66. Ella was indeed booked for a midnight appearance "sur les terrasses fleuries" in Antibes and this obviously was a kind of summer outdoor (concert) place. Anita O'Day was booked for 27Jul and a photograph showing the announcing ad was published in French Jazz Magazine in Jan07. This Ella performance was cancelled.
The Ella Fitzgerald Show
See DEMS 06/3-25
23May08. I just saw this DVD: http://www.jazzmessengers.com/ProductInfo.asp?ref=118599
It contains the Ella Fitzgerald Show of April 1968 with Duke. There are some other videos of her with Benny Goodman [from 1958].
From what I know of this label, I would not be the least bit surprised that this was issued on a VidJazz VHS video tape, all they did was copy it.
If anyone else has further information about this DVD, please tell us.
3Jun08. I just got my copy of this DVD yesterday. It is on the Impro-Jazz label [IJ 540]. Now this DVD is in black and white. The video quality is what I will term acceptable. Now, you can see clips for the same broadcast in colour on You Tube. Does anyone know if this video was ever issued in colour? If you have any opinions about this DVD's quality, please state them.
I received from my Italian friends the corrections to be made in the New DESOR. They say that the Impro Jazz 540 does not contain the two following selections, which are on my tapes: Oh! Lady Be Good and Lush Life. Is that correct?
I have a PAL copy of the same show in colour, but it was not an official release (see Klaus Götting’s description in DEMS 06/3-25). On the contrary, it seems that it was still non-edited material.
Neither track is on my DVD. They both can be found on You Tube in colour.
Change of Mind
See DEMS 06/3-9
Now in my 83rd year, many past events are no longer recalled clearly. However, I did, at one point have a 16mm print of “Change of Mind”, which I sold! But first I made a good VHS copy; subsequently I transferred the VHS to DVD. Like yours, my DVD copy is quite satisfactory. That is not why I'm trying to locate the owner of the 16mm print. While Duke-ophiles seem to be uninterested in Duke's last film project, nevertheless the film, if it can be located, should be digitally remastered, and released on DVD in the highest possible quality. There are several companies (such as Kino) that do a fantastic job in rescuing obscure, rare films of the past. Before the remaining 16mm prints (perhaps there are no more than 1 or 2 in existence!) vanish for- ever, I am simply attempting to stir up interest, which may result in the owner surfacing, and agreeing to provide his or her print, for issuance on DVD. The digital process is truly remarkable. I have some DVDs of ancient films, that amaze me by the clarity of both audio and video.
Pleased to hear from you again, and hope you will spread the word, so to speak, about the need to 'rescue' “Change of Mind”.
Irv Jacobs, firstname.lastname@example.org