Monday, 19 April 2021

Who is Sylvia?

Canadian singer Sylvia Murphy died on 24 February this year. Sixty years ago today on 19 April, 1961, she recorded an appearance with Duke Ellington on the television variety show Music Makers. The show was broadcast on 24 April, 1961. Three excerpts from this show were recently posted to YouTube and here they are...

From the Sylvia Murphy YouTube channel:

Sylvia Murphy (1931-2021) was one of Canada's most popular singing stars in the 50s and 60s, appearing weekly on live Jazz, Swing, Big Band and variety shows to an audience of millions.  This channel shares some of her video and audio musical performances.


Her career began singing in nightclubs, then on the Coca-Cola "Refreshment Time" radio show.  She then moved to TV as featured signer on Billy O'Connor's TV shows.    From there, she worked with Jack Kane on shows such as Music Makers 58 and 59, Music 60 and the Jack Kane Show.   She also was a regular on the Wayne and Shuster Hour and Parade in the early 60s, as well as a number of variety shows and specials.


Almost all shows here were broadcast live on the CBC from 1957 to 1962.   Live programs were recorded by "kinescope" (a film camera pointed at an in-studio monitor) and later those kinescopes were converted to videotape, and now digital.  There were no re-runs, so these are the first return to wide audiences.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Ellington 2021: Registration Open

Registration for the on-line conference Ellington 2021 is free and is now open. Full details here. 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Ellington 2021


April 29

7:00 PM CET Ulf Lundin and Bo Haufman (SE) 10 min

Welcome to Ellington 2021

7:10 PM CET Invited keynote speaker: Dr. John E. Haase (U.S.) 30 min

Unmasking Ellington: How The Smithsonian Opened His Massive Archive

7:40 PM CET Leila  Olivesi (FR) 45 min

Ellington's piano performances : a laboratory for composition (preliminary title)

8:25PM CET Music Break 10 min

8:35PM CET Samantha Wright (UK) 45 min

Ellington’s Clarinet Players (Preliminary title)

9:20 PM CET Jesse Lindgren 20 min

Kustbandet - 60 Years With Duke Ellington

May 3

7:00PM CET David Berger (U.S.) 60 min

Flaming Youth: Ellington’s 1920s compositions

8:00PM CET Music Break 10 min

8:10PM CET David Berger Q&A 20 min

8:30PM CET Ken Steiner (U.S.) 40 min

Never-issued rarities from Steven Lasker's collection.

9:10PM CET Marilyn Lester 40 min

Duke Ellington and The Great American Songbook

9:50PM CET End of Day Music  15 min

May 5

7:00PM CET Loren Schoenberg (U.S) 45 min

Truly Wonderful: The Lesser-Known Ellington Small Band Recordings, 1936-1941

7:45PM CET Michael Kilpatrick (UK) 45 min

The new Ellington of the 1930s: identifying and hearing the manuscripts

8:30PM CET Music Break 10 min

8:45PM CET Brian Priestley 45 min

Ellington and the Sound of Africa

9: 30PM CET Laurent Mignard Duke Orchestra 45 min

Performing Duke Ellington today - From Ellington French Touch To Duke's Ladies

May 7

7:00PM CET Steve Bowie (U.S) 45 min

Cootie Williams - the bandleader years 1942-1962

7:45PM CET Music Break 10 min

7:55PM CET Jan Bruér (SE) 45 min

Otto – Hotter Than Sweet (preliminary title)

8:40PM CET Music Break 10 min

8:50PM CET Jack Chambers 45 min 

Figuring It Out. Working With Ellington 1969-1973

9:35PM CET Invited closing address speaker Dr. Matthias Heyman 30 min

Are You Stickin’ (Around)?: Ellington in the 21st Century

Monday, 29 March 2021

Having a Ball

Another date for Duke's diary, 11 April, 1947 when the Orchestra played for the Class of '47, Northwestern University at their senior dance in The Grand Ballroom of the Stevens Hotel in Chicago.

This was recorded in the Northwestern Yearbook for 1948, a copy of which is currently for sale on eBay and from the listing for which, these images are taken. The vendor's description is also posted here.

Vtg 1948 Northwestern University Syllabus Yearbook, Paul Lynde, Duke Ellington

You are bidding on a vintage original 1948 Syllabus yearbook, from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. It was published by the Junior Class (Class of 1949) in 1948 and contains individual photos of the Junior Class.

Four notable students who went on to become successful actors or actresses are pictured in the book. Claude Akins was a character actor with a long career on stage, screen and television. Paul Lynde would become a comedian and was known for his role as Uncle Arthur in Bewitched and as a regular on Hollywood SquaresJeffrey Hunter (Henry McKinnies Jr.) was a film and television actor best known for his role as Jesus in the box office hit King of KingsCharlotte Rae Lubotsky, shown in a group photo, was best known as Edna Garrett on TV sitcoms, Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life.

Also pictured in the book are composer, pianist and jazz orchestra leader Duke Ellington, who performed at the Senior Ball; actor, singer and dancer Ray Bolger(the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz), who performed at the Junior Prom; and Charlie Spivak, trumpeter and big band leader who also performed at the Junior prom.

The yearbook has these features:
  • Dark blue and gray fabric over hardcover boards, with gold lettering/decoration on front cover and spine
  • Special section of photos of campus beauties
  • Illustrated with individual photos of all junior students, and many group photos of sports teams, clubs, activities, fraternities, sororities and much more
  • 398 pages, including an extensive advertising section
  • 12.25 inches by 9.25 inches by 1 - 3/8 inches
This 73-year-old book has a tight binding with no missing pages. One page is partially torn from the binding but is still attached. There is no handwriting, underlining or highlighting. The interior colors of the graphics remain bright. The cover has some wear with scuffing, bumping, small tears and losses, mostly at corners and edges.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Ellington 2021

Ellington 2021

Duke Ellington Society of Sweden (DESS) and DESScafé will organise an Ellington 2021 Meeting April 29 and May 3, 5, 7.


It is a Zoom-based event building on the experience of DESScafé launched in October last year as a place for DESS members to meet and listen to Ellington music.


The Ellington 2021 event will offer presentations by leading Ellington experts on different aspects of his music.


Themes like Ellington – The Composer, Ellington On Records, Performing Ellington and Ellington’s Sidemen will be covered in the program.


It will also include reflections on Ellington’s music in today’s world and in the future.


Daily sessions will last three hours and take place from 7 PM to 9 PM CET. The time has been chosen to make it convenient for Ellington friends in as many time zones as possible to attend the event.


The Organising Committee responsible for the event is composed of


Ulf Lundin – Editor and DESScafé owner, Bo Haufman – Chairman of DESS and Editor of the DESS Bulletin, Göran Wallén – Founder of DESS and Member of DESS Board and Anders Asplund – Co-editor of and Treasurer of DESS.


The committee has had valuable and much appreciated support and advice from a Program Advisory Group with Ian Bradley (London), Marilyn Lester (New York, NY) and Joe Medjuk (Santa Barbara, CA) as members.


More details here.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Terry's All Gold

From Faine Books...

Every once in a while a book arrives that offers new insights—sheds new light—on the personalities that populate the sub-milieu that is jazz. One such recently published book is Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends: On and Off the Record with Jazz Greats by Italian jazz singer, radio and TV journalist, and producer Lilian Terry.

Making an artist feel at ease came naturally to her, and that, along with a superb journalistic sense, allowed her to uncover fresh understandings of the likes of Duke Ellington, Abby Lincoln and Max Roach, Horace Silver, Ray Charles, Bill Evans, and Dizzy Gillespie.

You can sense that her subjects admired her for her talent, as well as for her innate ability to give as well as take without a trace of intimidation felt by either party. We learn anew of the various ticks, quirks, and idiosyncrasies of Master Ellington as if learning about them for the very first time—his playfulness, flirty attitude, attentiveness, literary sense, generosity, and superstitions.

We also learn how “La plus belle Lil” came to record one of the gems in the Ellington/Strayhorn canon, the focus of this review.

“Star-Crossed Lovers”
In July 1966, Lilian arrived at the Antibes Juan-les-Pins Jazz Festival on the French Riviera where she would sing with her trio and conduct interviews with Duke Ellington and other artists for her weekly radio show on the Italian radio network.

Backstage one afternoon, she approached her favorite soloist with the Ellington orchestra, altoist Johnny Hodges:

“I’m a passionate fan of your rendition of ‘Star-Crossed Lovers.’ . . . Is there any chance you could play it tonight?”

“Nope, sorry, we haven’t played it in years . . . Let’s go ask [Duke].” [1]

They did, and received his go-ahead.

That night, our inquisitive interviewer joined the French TV crew in the wings to watch the band’s performance. The maestro steered the orchestra through their lengthy set, wrapping it all up with a long closing number featuring Johnny Hodges:

The audience sent wave after wave of enthusiastic applause [in his direction]. Hodges, standing in front of the orchestra, turned to Ellington and then motioned with his head toward [Lillian in the wings. With an amused smile, Ellington then went to the microphone.] “A lady has come all the way from Rome and she’s asked for a couple of numbers from our Shakespearean Suite “Such Sweet Thunder” . . . let’s do the one which is Romeo and Juliet. And the Bard called them the star-crossed lovers!” [2]

At concert’s close, Lil waited for the orchestra leader to descend the stage steps. Duke graciously acknowledged her thanks and invited her to an after-party at his hotel suite where he introduced her to the song’s composer, Billy Strayhorn. She took the opportunity to confirm her passion for “Star-Crossed Lovers”:

“I’m glad you asked for it; it’s one of my favorites too.”

“I’m only sorry that it has no lyrics. I would love to sing it. And I would try to have that special, sensuous ‘Hodges sound.’ Heavens, when he blows those long, languid notes . . . it’s an actual caress.”

“And you would like to sing it? . . . Tell you what I’ll do . . . I promise I’ll send you some lyrics as soon as I get back to New York.” [3]

And he did.

Six months after the Antibes festival concluded and out of the blue, Duke informed Lil that she would be receiving an air ticket to join him and the band in Milano, Italy, for a Teatro Lirico concert in January 1967. She accepted, and when she arrived, Ellington fussed over her as other members of the band waved by, trumpeter Cat Anderson calling out: “There we go again . . . star-crossed lovers, I bet!”

The evening concert [at the Teatro] was excellent . . . Ellington was  enjoying himself, smiling at [Ms. Terry] from time to time as she stood in the wings, waiting for the moment when Hodges would play . . . Suddenly [she] realized they were actually playing their closing signature tune. [She stepped on the stage and] whispered to Ellington as he sat at the piano. “If there is no ‘Star-Crossed Lovers’, then I’ll take my sandals back” [she had gifted them to him the prior evening] . . .

The very moment the signature tune ended [Duke] went to the microphone and informed the public. “We have a request from Miss Lillian Terry, the greatest singer in Italy. She would like to hear the Romeo and Juliet theme from ‘Star-Crossed Lovers,’ the melody played by Johnny Hodges!”

Hodges got up with his alto sax and smiled at [Terry], going to the microphone. [4]

As the Bard would say, all’s well that ends well.

Some 15 years later, Lil found herself sitting at a dinner table across from jazz pianist Tommy Flanagan, Ella Fitzgerald’s accompanist for several years. A lively conversation ensued that led to Tommy asking her what songs she’d like to sing with him at the piano. “Loverman” and Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” came up first, and then Lil said,

“Ellington and Strayhorn bring to mind Johnny Hodges and his sensuous way of playing a particular ballad that has never been sung before. I told Billy of my disappointment that it had no lyrics; he promised to send me a text, and a month later . . . there it was.”
“And what song was that?”

“It’s from the suite Such Sweet Thunder” . . . Lil leaned over the table toward pianist Flanagan and he met her halfway to say in unison: ”Star-Crossed Lovers.”

He exclaimed, “I knew it! Why, do you know that’s my favorite ballad and hardly anybody plays it? And [Strayhorn] gave you the words himself? OK, let’s do it. Now which recording date would you have in mind?” [5]

On April 17, 1982, Lil recorded Lilian Terry Meets Tommy Flanagan—A Dream Come True with the Tommy Flanagan Trio, with Jesper Lindgaard on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums, for the Italian Soul Note label. Six songs were recorded, including those mentioned above plus Peggy Lee’s “Black Coffee,” Benny Golson’s “I Remember Clifford,” Monk’s “Round About Midnight” and a Billie Holiday favorite, “You’ve Changed.” [6]

George Avakian, at the time an independent record producer and top-line jazz artist manager, wrote flattering liner notes for the album. He noted that Europe had produced many fine instrumentalists but very few vocalists. Among them, Lilian Terry sounds the most American.

He cited her appearances at the prestigious Antibes Festival, where Lillian was the only European singer to participate, sharing the stage with Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day, Nina Simone, and Mahalia Jackson [7].

The recording was an immediate success, especially in Japan but also in the United States. The ballad that surpassed—and therefore was played on the air—was “Star-Crossed Lovers. [8]”

  1. Lilian Terry, Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray and Friends: On and Off the Record with Jazz Greats(Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2017), 4.
  2. Ibid., 5–6.
  3. Ibid., 6–7.
  4. Ibid., 14–17.
  5. Ibid., 18.
  6. Ibid., 19.
  7. George Avakian, Liner Notes, Lilian Terry Meets Tommy Flanagan: A Dream Comes True, 1982, Soul Note LP.
  8. Terry, Dizzy, Duke, 19.
More on Lilian Terry here.