Sunday, October 10, 2010

The King of American Jazz

While browsing through Amazon a few days ago, I came across a DVD title I was unfamiliar with. The release, Duke Ellington et son orchestre, had no accompanying information – date of recording, personnel, location, nothing. Since I didn’t want to buy a pig in a poke, I decided to Google the title. The full title turned out to be Le Roi du Jazz Americain – Duke Ellington et son Orchestre (The King of American Jazz – Duke Ellington and his Orchestra). Lo and behold, the source of the recording was the National Archives and Records Administration. Best of all, the video is in the public domain and can be downloaded legally and for FREE! Thanks, Uncle Sam! [There are other interesting videos on the site - Jack Teagarden with Hoagy Carmichael, Bobby Hackett, John Scofield, a cartoon featuring the voice of Dizzy Gillespie – (The Hole).]

In September of 1963, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra embarked on a goodwill tour of the Middle East sponsored by the US State Department. The stops included Damascus, Amman, Kabul, New Delhi and Tehran. Ellington was out of commission for some of the dates due to hospitalization for a virus.

Fortunately, Ellington is back by the time of this recording. The source of this film might be from a concert on November 14, 1963 in Khuld Hall, Baghdad, Iraq. According to Ken Vail’s Ellington diary book “This concert is televised live.” It definitely seems to be from a television broadcast, since Ellington is periodically checking to see if he needs to insert a break in the proceedings. A few days later, the tour was canceled upon the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The sound and video have a few blemishes here and there, but overall, it’s a great concert. Cootie Williams is an audience favorite with his showcase Tutti for Cootie. Billy Strayhorn gets a solo spot on his famous composition Lush Life and then takes things out with Take the “A” Train.

The songs are: Afro-Bossa; Stompin' at the Savoy; Guitar Amour; Perdido; Honeysuckle Rose; Tutti for Cootie; Kinda Dukish /Rockin' in Rhythm; I Got It Bad; Things Ain't What They Used To Be; The Eighth Veil; Hits Medley [Satin Doll, Solitude, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, Mood Indigo, I'm Beginning To See the Light, Sophisticated Lady, Caravan, Do Nothin’ 'Till You Hear from Me, I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart & Don't Get Around Much Anymore]; Diminuendo in Blue/Blow by Blow; Lush Life; Take the "A" Train .

The personnel is: Cootie Williams, Rolf Ericson, Herbie Jones, Cat Anderson – trumpets, Lawrence Brown, Chuck Connors, Buster Cooper – trombones; Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope, Jimmy Hamilton, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn – piano; Ernie Shepard –bass; Sam Woodyard – drums.