Sunday, 18 July 2021

The Lady Vanishes...


Tony Bennett appeared with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra at Dane County Exposition Center on 25 April, 1968, as detailed in all the major Ellington discographies. No discography, however, lists these two songs - Who Can I Turn To? and The Lady's In Love With You. They feature on the reel-to-reel tape I acquired recently. 

The rest of the sets - a first half from Ellington and a second half from Bennett - are as featured in the discographies. This may be a different engagement to the tape recording that's listed in the discographies but I have no other tape with which to compare it. Alternatively and for some reason unknown, these two tunes have been omitted from the discographies. In any case, here is the performance. 

The Lady's In Love With You features a characteristically rambunctious solo from Paul Gonsalves...

Thursday, 8 July 2021

The Cosmic Seen...


1927 and Duke Ellington (In Person )is second on the bill... 

Read about the pageant itself and the selection of Miss Universe here...

Monday, 7 June 2021

Reminiscing Temporarily

Here is a photostat of a document Ellington researcher Ken Steiner shared recently on Facebook and which has since been incorporated into David Palmquist's Duke Where and When website.

It is a document of great historical significance, showing the effect the loss of his mother had on Ellington and the extent to which, however temporarily, it de-railed his career.  

Ken writes...

Daisy Ellington's death on 27 May, 1935 sent her son Duke into a deep melancholy. How many band dates were cancelled, and how long Duke was away from the band, are uncertain from newspaper reports. Mills publicist Ned Williams sent this telegram on June 5 to African American journalist Earl Morris requesting his assistance to get the word out that Duke had returned to the band. 

It reads:
June 5, 1935
From Ned G. Williams, 799 Seventh Avenue, New York, N.Y.
Circle 7-5217 or Circle 7-7162 
Cable – Jazz
Mr. Earl J. Morris
Metropolitan News
4506 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois
Please help me correct the impression arising from the story circulated in the ANP to all colored newspapers that Duke Ellington has cancelled all future engagements on account of the death of his mother. Duke has returned to his band, is playing dance engagements every night and opens Friday at the Shea Theatre in Toronto, Canada, to be followed by another extended dance tour. The false impression that Duke is not traveling with the band had seriously affected his box-office receipts on a number of engagements and has cost him a lot of money unnecessarily. I know that you will be happy to help us correct this error.
Cordially yours,
Ned E. Williams

Source: Claude A. Barnett Papers, The Associated Negro Press, 1918-1967; Drama, Theatre, and Motion Picture Materials in the Microtext Department; Boston Public Library.

Post Script:

Aftermath of Daisy Ellington's Death - follow up. Letter from Mills publicist Ned Williams thanking African American journalist C.A. Barnett for his help in correcting the impression that Duke Ellington's engagements had been cancelled.

June 11, 1935

Mr. C.A. Barnett
Associated Negro Press
3507 South Parkway
Chicago, Illinois

Dear Mr. Barnett:

I want to thank you for your courtesy in helping correct the erroneous impression regarding the cancellation of Duke Ellington’s bookings.

In my letter to various newspapermen, I did not intend to cast aspersions upon the accuracy of the ANP, but I was considerably upset by the demands of various dance promoters for adjustments on their contracts, based upon the stories which appeared in various colored newspapers.

Thank you again for your kindness and I hope that I may be able to reciprocate in some fashion.

Cordially yours,

ned e. williams

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Reelin' In The Years 6: Climbing Half Way To The Stars

Final post in this series, Reelin' In The Years and imagine my delight as I discovered that the tape transfer I had been listening was an engagement where the headline act was Tony Bennett with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra.

A little research when the CD had finished playing, led me to discover that the contents on the tape were likely a recording made on 25 April, 1968.

According to the eve-reliable Duke Where And When website, this, Ellington's second tour with Tony Bennett, began on 3 March, 1968. On this particular occasion, which took place at Dane County Coliseum, Madison, Wisconsin...

The Mayor of Madison proclaimed April 25 to be Duke Ellington Day and backstage, late during the concert, Ellington was presented with a citation and the key to the city.


Concert tickets were $5.50, $4.50, $3.50, $2.50.

The poster you see above is for the next engagement-but-one on the tour.

Prior to sourcing this tape, I had never heard any recordings from Tony Bennett with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. I suspect this is the only engagement from which recordings survive. It's possible it may be found on the odd torrent site but it was new to me.

From the engagement, here is Tony Bennett singing the Ellington standard I'm Just A Lucky So-and-So. Listen out for the alto solo by Johnny Hodges. I have never heard Rabbit play like this with the Ellington outfit before. It must have been an exciting evening.


Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Reelin' In The Years 5: Express Yourself

How do you follow an act like the monologue from Jack E. Leonard in the previous post?

Well, Duke pulled out all the stops.

From this same engagement, 25 April, 1968, here is a version of Take The 'A' Train that Ellington featured during this time. It's taken at breakneck speed and is more of an express. The familiar Cootie Williams ray Nance-inspired trumpet solo is replaced by a high speed fugue created by clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton.

In the next post, and the last in this series for a while, we will reveal the closing act of that particular engagement.

For now, here is quite the quickest way to get to Harlem!

Monday, 31 May 2021

Reelin' In The Years 4: Jack Emcee Leonard


Here are the last five minutes or so of Jack E. Leonard's opening act for the 
engagement discussed in the previous post. 

Of Leonard's performance at this particular engagement , Rosemary Kendrick of 
The Capital Times wrote:

"One either finds his type of humour hilarious, offensive or merely irrelevant, and apparently all three opinions were represented in the audience."

Leonard references several members of the orchestra and there is a tantalising opening note from Take The 'A' Train

We'll reveal a little more about this particular engagement in the next post and a full version of 'A' Train the like of which you may well never have heard before...

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Reelin' In The Years 3: Only Joking

 First of all, a shout out to Richard Moore of Mint Audio Restoration who kindly made flat transfers of the ten reel-to-reel tapes of Ellington material I took recently to him.

On Friday afternoon, I listened to a CD of some of the contents of the second tape he had transferred. When I picked up the tapes and CDs from Richard, the note in two of the CD sleeves read Contents Not As Listed on Box.

This was initially disappointing. I had been expecting a recording of one of Ellington's several engagements at the rainbow Grill in the summer of 1967. I knew among the haul of tapes I had purchased from eBay, there were a couple of boxes labelled with recordings of the Eddie Condon Town Hall Jazz variety and I had not taken these for transfer. I assumed that one of these had mistakenly been put in the Rainbow Grill box. As I listened to the CD, this turned out not to be the case at all. The contents of this recording were in fact listed nowhere at all among the haul.

Instead, I began to listen to a monologue the contents of which could variously be described as racist, homophobic, misogynist, nay (nay!) misanthropic. What on Earth had any of this to do with Ellington?  

What I was listening to was clearly a lounge act routine by a club comic in the tradition of Joe E. Lewis ('Post time!'), the kind of schtick in which  Frank Sinatra would rather leadenly involve himself in his 'tea-drinking' monologues at The Sands. (He portrayed Lewis, of course, in the very infrequently screened The Joker Is Wild in 1957)

I missed the name of the comedian as he was announced (the audio quality shows its undoubted boot-legged origin but is perfectly listenable - content aside!). A little Googling showed me that the comedian's name was in fact Jack E. Leonard.  I had heard of him but was unfamiliar with Mr Leonard's oeuvre (...)

Suffice it to say, Jack E. Leonard's work has not aged well. I write about it here only because his act occupied the first thirty minutes of the CD I listened to yesterday. 

I listened to the CD with increasing trepidation, however, when I was sure that Leonard name checked Johnny Hodges and Cat Anderson. Were the band in attendance as Leonard 'worked the room' on that occasion? Was this the orchestra that occasionally struck a brassy chord to accompany the act? When Leonard referred to Harry Carney as having been with the band for 41 years (which dates the recording very precisely to 1968), it became obvious they were and then Leonard introduces Duke Ellington...

In my previous post, writing about Vikki Carr, I was in 1968 then. On the second tape I listened to, it was 1968 again, a couple of months earlier. And here, coincidentally, too, the material reinforces the point that Ellington kept some... unpredictable company in the course of his professional appearances. Only Ellington and a handful of other 'jazz greats' would be likely to appear on the same bill as Jack E. Leonard. I find it difficult to imagine, say, Miles Davis on this engagement or Bill Evans or Dave Brubeck.

The context of Ellington's work is fascinating. Here is an example of Jack E. Leonard's routine. I include it because he cracks the same remark about Sinatra dating someone who was teething in the recording I have.    

In my next post, I'll include an extract from Leonard's routine at the Ellington engagement. And there was to be a bigger surprise still on the tape...