Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Conference, Birmingham: Jeremy Price


Jeremy Price is Head of Jazz at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and leader of the Conservatoire's Ellington Orchestra which will performing the live music for the forthcoming Duke Ellington Study Group Conference. The Orchestra performs every two weeks in the Conservatoire's dedicated jazz space, the Eastside Jazz Club.

Ellington's music is an integral part of the studies in jazz the Conservatoire offers. I an interview with Sebastian Scotney of London Jazz News in 2017, Jeremy said:


" The more I explore Ellington, the more fascinating I find it. From the Ellington/Strayhorn conundrum to the individual soloists to all the Ellington music in the context of jazz history.

But I'm not just indulging my intellectual and musical interest! The important thing for the ethos of the Jazz Department and the development of the students is that Ellington inhabits that crucial space between art and entertainment that is so important to jazz. Whenever you play Ellington, it's an object lesson in communication and reaching out to an audience.

It's especially good that Ellington speaks to the man/woman in the street as much as the educated jazz aficionado. It's always groovy, soulful, danceable even, with constantly beguiling orchestration. It's dramatic and showy but when quiet is often very moving and deliberately sensual and beautiful. We could do with a lot of these qualities permeating through contemporary jazz, which is why I want it installed as a regular fixture, so that students are permanently around these qualities, and somehow it will influence their own music and how they communicate with an audience. The important thing for me to emphasise here is that the Ellington orchestra isn't a retro step, it's to bolster the contemporary scene which is still our main aim."
 

You can read the full text of the interview on the London Jazz News website here...

The Ellington Orchestra led by Jeremy Price will be performing four concerts across the three days of the conference. Past successes have included performances of The Far East Suite, Such Sweet Thunder, The Nutcracker and selections from the Roulette album Live At The Blue Note. The depth of the Orchestra's repertoire, the leadership of Jeremy Price and the facility of some of the finest young musicians studying in the UK at the moment all make for a scintillating aspect to the programme on offer at the conference.

Here are videos of Jeremy Price in conversation and  footage of the original iteration of the Conservatoire's Ellington Orchestra in rehearsal last year for their full house concert at Birmingham's Town Hall.













Monday, 23 April 2018

Conference, Birmingham: Dr Nicolas Pillai





Dr Nicolas Pillai, Birmingham School of Media, Birmingham City University is the organiser of the 25th International Duke Ellington Study Group Conference. He is the author of Jazz as Visual Language: Film, Television and the Dissonant Image. He is also co-editor of New Jazz Conceptions: History, Theory, Practice. He wrote the ‘liner notes’ which accompany the BFI’s recent re-issue on Blu-ray of the film Paris Blues for which, of course, Ellington and Billy Strayhorn created the music.

Dr Pillai’s major research project at present is to recreate the conditions under which jazz was originally filmed for television broadcasting in Britain during the 1960s. You can read about the project here. Some insight into Dr Pillai’s five best moments in jazz on British TV can be found at the BFI website here.

As part of his research into jazz and television, Dr Pillai discovered a film of Ellington’s appearance at Coventry Cathedral in 1966 in the cathedral’s archive. The film had been unseen for fifty years and was damaged but thanks to the efforts of Kaleidoscope, a company which specialises in archival research, the film has now been restored to its former glory.  His presentation, Duke Ellington in Coventry: discovering television and jazz in the cathedral archive is sure to be one of the highlights of the conference. 

You can read an interview with Dr Pillai about his work on the London Jazz News blog here.

A discussion between Dr Pillai and Professor Tim Wall on the famous BBC series Jazz 625 may be found here.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Half-Nelson Riddle...

Visit David Palmquist's superb website The Duke Where and When, devoted to Ellington's itinerary, and you will find there is something of a mystery surrounding Duke's activities in September 1949...


The week beginning 9 September, saw the orchestra arrive in Canada but entries for the week following read 'activities not documented'.

Well, that mystery can now, perhaps, be solved in part by a document presently for sale on eBay.

Of this document, which seems to be a programme for a wrestling bout, the vendor writes...

Wrestling  program from Canadian promoter productions cool cards about the wrestling world. Excellent value for collector or re-sale. All very solid with no major blemishes; Advertising local on the rear of magazine item.Major league  programs 1of these are including line up inside .Rest a random grouping of stars from smaller  promotions! Virtually all stars of the era 1950's Texas stars Frank Taylor , Cowboy Len hughes, Les Hendick, Togo, Moquin are here for your enjoyment ; great value here look at my feedback and see what you are buying!

It would seem that the Ellington Orchestra played a date on Sunday, 11 September. It isn't clear where this concert - or dance? - took place as no venue is mentioned - unless it was a where the wrestling bout took place? Anyway, here are the photographs illustrating the item...






You can follow the progress of the sale here.


Saturday, 21 April 2018

Treasury Shows: Volume 25



From the Storyville website, the final volume in the Treasury Shows series has been released...

Storyville Records presents: Volume 25 in the Duke Ellington Treasury Shows series, the final volume of this collectors’ special broadcast series. In April 1945, to promote the sale of war bonds, the US Treasury Department contacted Duke Ellington to do a series of 55 min public broadcasts. These sessions would give Ellington a wide choice of material to perform including his older work; new instrumentals and pop tunes and his extended works as well. And now it is 2018, and we have made the home run: This volume is the final one of this series of 50 CDs altogether, with all the known Treasury shows from 1945 to 1953, and new, hitherto mostly unreleased bonus broadcast material from the 1940s.
 In his liner notes to vol. 1 (in 2000), Bob Bamberger quoted the late Klaus Stratemann who in Day By Day and Film By Film wrote that the release of these unedited Treasury broadcasts represented ”the most dedicated effort ever to preserve for posterity a musician’s achievements of a specific era and make them available…Its documentary value is inestimable… it provides a vivid portait of the band and it’s leader…” And Bob Bamberger commented: ”It is no exaggeration. And just think. This is only the beginning.” This final double CD contains a series of different radio NBC broadcasts from the famous Blue Note club in Chicago, Illinois and The Hurricane Club in New York from the summer of 1953. The CD set also incudes bonus recordings from The Hurricane Restaurant from the spring of 1943 and 1944. The broadcasts are featured complete with radio speaks and encouragements to buy bonds read by Duke himself, plus bonus material and liner notes.
The Second World War had ended, and the “swing era” was also coming to a halt, as musical tastes had changed. Many big bands disbanded, and in 1953, Ellington was the only big band leader still playing, but the emergence of jazz clubs like Blue Note, Birdland and Storyville helped him find engagements and play for a more listening than dancing audience. Furthermore, the clubs were well-connected with radio stations and networks, allowing for the Treasury Show tapes to come to life. The departure in 1951 of some of the long time members of the band, notably Johnny Hodges and Lawrence Brown did not in any way mean the decline of the Ellington band, that some feared. On the contrary Ellington took advantage of the new situation by hiring great musicians of a younger generation, like Clark Terry on trumpet and Britt Woodman on trombone, building a new band, and a renewed repertoire.
CD 1 begins with the last known Treasury broadcast. It is from The Blue Note in Chicago, recorded in June 1953, and broadcast on August 1st 1953, as part of the series All Star Parade of Bands, launched by NBC to promote bonds sales. From April 1st, 1943 Duke Ellington had an engagement in New York’s Hurricane Club at 49th and Broadway, originally meant to last 6 weeks. But it wound up to last no less than 6 months, with 6 weekly radio broadcasts. Some of these feature as bonus material on this volume. They were broadcasts on Sunday nights at 7 p.m. and called the Pastel Period, and featured the band playing slower numbers, mood pieces, ballads etc. for listening more than for dancing. 6 months later, Duke Ellington was at the club again, this time for a 10 weeks’ engagement. CD2 contains broadcasts from April 22nd 1944 and from May 5th 1944 at the Hurricane Club in New York.
The whole Duke Ellington Treasury Shows series is now complete with 25 double CDs. The Treasury Shows form an indispensable addition to the history of Duke Ellington and jazz big bands in the 1940s.



Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Conference, Birmingham: Dr Katherine Williams

Dr Katherine Williams of Plymouth University is our second keynote speaker at the 25th International Duke Ellington Study Group Conference.

Dr Williams is author of books on Rufus Wainwright  and, with Justin A Williams, she edited The Singer- Songwriter Handbook and The Cambridge Companion To  The Singer-Songwriter.


Dr Williams has written and lectured extensively on the subject of Duke Ellington's music. On 27 April, 2016, she appeared at the Words and Music Festival, Stratford-upon-Avon with a presentation entitled Such Sweet Plunder: Or Whose Line Is It Anyway, which explored "the balance of authorial power between composer, band leader, musicians, improvisers and record producers."


Dr Williams is presently writing a book about Duke Ellington and will be addressing the conference about the researches she undertook as part of this project at The Smithsonian.
You can read Dr Williams's interview with Catherine Tackley about Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall concert here.


Improvisation as Composition: Fixity of Form and Collaborative Composition in Duke Ellington's Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue by Dr Williams gives an indication of the insights conference delegates can expect to look forward to.


There is further interesting reading too, here,  in Dr Williams's essay, What Can Duke Ellington's Recordings Tell Us About Jazz History?

And here is an opportunity to listen to an interview with Dr Williams about her Ellington research.


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Conference, Birmingham: Dr Harvey G. Cohen


Dr Harvey G. Cohen, one of our keynote speakers at the 25th International Duke Ellington Study Group Conference, Birmingham, is the author of the seminal work, Duke Ellington’s America.
    
Published in 2010, the book is a fascinating study of the social, political and cultural milieu in which Ellington lived and which informed his work.
    
“There are not many artists whose lives can bear the weight of such a non-art-oriented treatment,” Peter Keepnews wrote in his review for The New York Times, “Ellington, who for much of his career was not just a musician but also a symbol — of jazz as high art, of America as a land of opportunity — is one of them, and the story of his place in the world turns out to be well worth telling. Cohen’s in-depth examination of Ellington and civil rights is especially fascinating. Those who don’t know much about Ellington might assume from his charming but aloof public persona that he floated serenely above worldly matters like the struggle for racial equality. Cohen demonstrates otherwise, expertly detailing Ellington’s contributions to the cause — as a composer who addressed racial pride in ambitious works like Black, Brown and Beige and My People, and as a high-profile exemplar of dignity in the face of prejudice.”
    
In 2008, Dr Cohen addressed the 20th 
Ellington Conference in London. For Sjef Hoefsmit of the Duke Ellington Music Society, this was “by far the most interesting presentation” of the conference.

In Birmingham on Saturday, 25 May, Dr Harvey will doubtless have some fascinating insights to share about the writing of Duke Ellington’s America. His latest book, Who’s in the Money?: The Great Depression Musicals and Hollywood’s New Deal has just been published and will no doubt prove to be as timeless and prescient as his work on Ellington. 

A flavour of Dr Cohen’s presentation is given in his broadcast Duke Ellington’s America: Musical Genius And Then Some, available on Radio Open Source.



Further reviews of Duke Ellington's America:







Tuesday, 10 April 2018

25th International Duke Ellington Study Conference



Ticketing has gone live for the 25th International Duke Ellington Study Group Conference, 25th to 27th May, 2018 at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Tickets may be purchased here.

The page dedicated to the conference may be found on Royal Birmingham Conservatoire's website here.

You can read more about the Conference in the latest edition of What's On at The Eastside Jazz Club here.