Duke Ellington Orchestra

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Duke Ellington and the Duke Ellington Orchestra 1943

The Duke Ellington Orchestra (also: Duke Ellington and his Orchestra , initially The Washingtonians ) was a swing jazz band from the 1920s to the 1970s in different line-ups, led by Duke Ellington .

The Washingtonians

The origins of the "Duke Ellington Orchestra" (hereinafter: DEO) lie in the rehearsal sessions of Duke Ellington around 1917 with the Miller brothers in the True Reformers Hall in Washington, DC Otto "Toby" Hardwick also participated in the rehearsals , first as Bassist, later with a C melody saxophone . He thus became the first member of the DEO; after him Barney Bigard joined the band, then Arthur Whetsol and the drummer Sonny Greer , to whom Ellington was closer than any other musician in his orchestra. The last entry of the first band was the banjo player Elmer Snowden , who, unlike the other musicians, had worked as a professional musician for a while and was the official band leader in the early days of the Washingtonians. Back then they played at dance events and background music at receptions, mainly popular ragtime songs, waltzes and hits of the time.

Original line-up 1923–1926
Piano: Duke Ellington
Saxophone: Otto Hardwick
Trumpet: Arthur Whetsol
Banjo: Elmer Snowden
Drums Sonny Greer

In the wake of the success of black bands and shows, Hardwick and Sonny Greer came to New York in the wake of clarinetist Wilbur Sweatman ; finally Ellington followed. You worked for Sweatman at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. Their attempts to gain a foothold in New York initially failed. Ellington, Snowden, Hardwick, Whetsol and Greer played in Atlantic City as the Washington Black Sox Orchestra . In the second attempt they got an engagement in a popular Harlem nightclub, the " Barron Wilkins' Exclusive Club "; there they mainly played background music and hits . In July 1923 the "Washingtonians" made their first recordings for the Victor label ; The composer Maceo Pinkard had songs recorded by himself. In September 1923 they moved from the “Barron” to the “Harper Dixie Revue” on Broadway , which took place in the tiny nightclub “Hollywood Inn”, later the “Kentucky Club”. “In the four years that the Washingtonians” spent at the Hollywood Inn , the whole constellation of the band - staff, music and management - changed drastically. When they finally left the club in the fall of 1927, they were Duke Ellington's band playing Duke Ellington's music. ”(Collier)

The "Hollywood Inn"

A decisive change was the replacement of Whetsol by James Wesley Bubber Miley as trumpeter. He was considered a specialist in the “plunger” or “wah wah” damper effect. Miley's style was in stark contrast to the rather smooth playing style of the "Washingtonians". In addition to Miley, John Anderson (trumpet and trombone) and Roland Smith (saxophone and bassoon ) joined the band; but they did not stay long in the group.

Occupation 1924
Piano: Duke Ellington
Saxophone: Otto Hardwick
Trumpet: Bubber Miley
Trombone: Charlie Irvis
Banjo: Elmer Snowden
Drums Sonny Greer

Ellington later said, “ Our band changed character when Bubber came along. He cultivated his “growl” the whole evening and really played “gut-bucket” on his horn. That's when we decided to forget about "sweet music" altogether. "With that, Miley was the main factor in creating the style that would make the group famous. During this time, when Snowden was still formally leading the group, Ellington began writing songs. With most of the money being made writing compositions, Duke Ellington's position in the group changed significantly. In March 1924, Charlie Irvis replaced trombonist John Anderson, a month later Elmer Snowden left the band; so Duke Ellington was head of the "Washingtonians".

1924 to 1926

During this period the DEO played “a kind of syncopated music like that played by black dance orchestras; a band just beginning to grasp the essence of jazz. ”During this period there were two major changes in the band: the first brought Freddy Guy into the orchestra as a banjo player ; he was to stay in the band for 25 years. In addition, the came New Orleans -Jazzpionier Sidney Bechet to the DEO.

Occupation 1926
Piano: Duke Ellington
Saxophone: Otto Hardwick, Harry Carney
Trumpet: Bubber Miley
Trombone: "Tricky Sam" Nanton
Guitar: Fred Guy
Drums Sonny Greer

Bechet had an essential effect on the band, "especially through his ability to get them out of the rhythmic jungle in which they got lost and to lead them onto the broad paths of jazz." In addition to the "Hollywood Inn", the Meanwhile "Kentucky Club" was called, they performed in various other clubs in the city and gradually became better known. In addition, radio broadcasts made the orchestra known; they were also mentioned in the music journals. In 1925, the banjo player and guitarist Fred Guy joined the band, who replaced Elmer Snowden. In 1925 Henry "Bass" Edwards also joined the tuba player, but in the spring of 1926 he switched to another band. His replacement was Mack Shaw , who was replaced by Wellman Braud in mid-1927 . Braud played both the double bass and tuba and his use of the bass, which was about to replace the tuba in jazz bands, helped the rhythm section develop a little more " swing ". A significant addition was Joe Nanton , known as "Tricky Sam", for his "plunger" and "growl" effects. He replaced Charlie Irvis. When the jungle style became the band's trademark, Nanton's voice, more than any other, was the defining sound.

The "Jungle Style"

Duke Ellington Orchestra: "The Mooche"

Louis Metcalf joined the band in the fall of 1926 and stayed until the spring of 1928 when Arthur Whetsol returned. Rudy Jackson arrived in the summer of 1927 . into DEO and strengthened the saxophone setting. From then on, the band should always have three or more saxophones. The third saxophonist was Harry Carney , who would stay with Ellington for 47 years without a break until Ellington died. As a baritone saxophonist, Carney was the basis of the saxophone setting for most of the band's existence.

By the end of their engagement the band had changed significantly - the most important change, however, was the association with music publisher Irving Mills from 1925. He knew that songs were big business and urged Ellington to compose, record and record promoted them massively. So the agreement with Mills forced Ellington to be creative all the time. Duke and Mills signed a legally binding contract in 1926; the "Washingtonians" became "Duke Ellington and his Orchestra". In March 1926 records appeared under the name of the "Washingtonians", a month later they were called "Duke Ellington and the Washingtonians", in November it came out under the name of "Duke Ellington and his Kentucky Club Orchestra". It was not until February 1927 that it was finally called "Duke Ellington and his Orchestra". Mills was now speeding up the sequence of admissions; Whereas there were only three meetings in 1925 and six in 1926, there were already thirteen in 1927. The "jungle style", particularly characterized by the growl effects on the trumpet and trombone, has now become the trademark of the Ellington band.

The Cotton Club

In 1927 the DEO was given the opportunity to work at the legendary Harlem Cotton Club . Her opening performance was on December 4, 1927. Duke immediately replenished the band to the ten required. Then there was the clarinetist Barney Bigard from New Orleans ; he was to stay in the band for fourteen years.

Occupation 1929
Piano: Duke Ellington
Saxophone: Otto Hardwick, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges
Clarinet: Barney Bigard
Trumpet: Cootie Williams, Freddie Jenkins, Arthur Whetsol
Trombone: "Tricky Sam" Nanton, Juan Tizol
Banjo: Freddy Guy
Bass: Wellman Braud
Drums Sonny Greer

The second new man was Johnny Hodges , who would become one of the leading soloists in the DEO. In May 1928 he replaced Otto Hardwick, who had injured his face in an accident. Hodges stayed in the band with one interruption until the 1950s. With his warm, swinging style, he had a major impact on the sound of the orchestra. Shortly afterwards the trumpet set was changed. In June 1928 Arthur Whetsol returned for Louis Metcalf. Ellington hired another trumpeter, Freddie Jenkins . The third new musician to join the trumpet set was Cootie Williams , who previously played in the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. No one should have as much influence on the form of Duke Ellington's music as he. He replaced the bubber Miley, who was dismissed in early 1929 because of his unreliability. Cootie, a man with impeccable manners, also had the job of reprimanding the "bad guys" if they didn't pay their full attention to the music. "I love music," he said, "and I can't watch someone screw up the music ... but I don't mind."

Cootie Williams.
Photography by William P. Gottlieb .

Duke Ellington hired a second trombonist, the Puerto Rican Juan Tizol , in 1929, probably also to catch up with Fletcher Henderson . He stayed with the band for fifteen years with small interruptions. Because of the familiarity with the music of Duke Ellington and his musical skills, he became a kind of "vice boss"; sometimes he rehearsed with the orchestra in Duke's absence. 1927 succeeded in persuading the radio station CBS to broadcast nationwide from the Cotton Club; these broadcasts were of crucial importance for the establishment of the DEO. In 1929, after a year in the Cotton Club, the band had become widely known; they starred in a Florence Ziegfeld Broadway show called "Show Girl"; In March 1930 the band accompanied Maurice Chevalier and took part in a first film, "Black and Tan Fantasy".

In 1928 the specialist press published benevolent reviews of the pieces " East St. Louis Toodle-Oo " and " Black and Tan Fantasy ", which would have significant consequences for the band's uptake in Europe. The two pieces were also the first in a series of their top 30 hits . Series Other popular works of this phase were the titles " Creole Love Call " and "The Mooche". In addition to the "jungle" numbers, the band played a lot of faster swing pieces like "Hot and Bothered". With the song " Three Little Words " recorded in August 1930 with Bing Crosby as the singer, the DEO achieved its first number 1 hit in the Billboard Top 30 . The song was known from the Amos'n'Andy film comedy Check and Double Check (1930), in which the DEO also participated in their Besch in Los Angeles in the summer of 1930. "There the Ellington trumpeters mimed the singers with megaphones to the playback singing of the Rhythm Boys ."

Early 1930s

From January 1931 the band was touring more and more and Duke Ellington began to experiment with longer suites. In 1931 singer Ivie Anderson appeared in DEO, because when the band left the Cotton Club, a singer became a necessity. Anderson stayed in the orchestra for ten years. In addition - at Mills' insistence - another trombonist was added, Lawrence Brown, and with his rather sweet style, Duke Ellington expanded the variety of sounds.

Duke Ellington Orchestra: "Mood Indigo"

When Ellington's band recorded "Rockin 'in Rhythm" in late 1930, they played for ten different labels; for Victor , their “Exclusive” partner, they were “Duke Ellington & His Orchestra”, for Brunswick the “Jungle Band”, for Perfect , Banner , Rex and Oriole they were called the “Ten Blackberries”, for Velvetone they were “Mill's Ten Blackberries ”, for Hit-of-the-Week the“ Harlem Hot Chocolates ”, for Odeon the“ Memphis Hot Socks ”, and for Okeh and Odeon the“ Harlem Footwarmers ”. As "Georgia Footwarmers" they accompanied Melotone Chick Bullock . The last entry - there were 14 men - was Otto Hardwick, who returned in the spring of 1932 after an absence of three years. In 1933/34 the trumpeter and singer Louis Bacon briefly belonged to the band. In 1935 there were other changes in the line-up; then the band remained essentially the same for another eight years and, according to Collier, is considered the classic Duke Ellington Band : “The sound of Nantons, Hodges, Bigards, Williams and Carneys is the heart of Ellington's music.” Important compositions of this phase were “Rockin 'in Rhythm ”and“ Echoes of the Jungle ”as well as swing numbers like“ Ring Dem Bells ”. There were also melancholy pieces such as “Blue Mood”, “Blue Time” and “Clouds in My Heart”, which Collier calls “pastels”. The most famous piece in this direction was to become “ Mood Indigo, ” which Barney Bigard claimed to have written most of it. This track became Ellington's first big record. "Mood Indigo" was recorded in three sessions up to December 1930, in January 1931 the suite "Creole Rhapsody", Ellington's first longer composition, which was spread over two sides of a 78 . A first version was released on Brunswick in July and only reached # 18. The second version recorded for Victor was more successful and climbed to number 6 in the charts.

In 1932 Ivie Anderson heralded the era of swing as a singer in the DEO with her record debut " It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) ". Ellington later recorded the song several times. It has often been claimed that this recording was the first to have the word swing in the title, but that was already there in 1924 with a recording by New Orleans cornetist Johnny De Droit ("The Swing") and in 1928 with "Georgia Swing" by Jelly Roll Morton .

Rex Stewart with the Duke Ellington Orchestra (1943)

The tour of England in 1933

On June 12, 1933, the first concert took place in the London "Palladium"; after further concerts in the "Trocadero" the band went to Holland, where they played in Scheveningen . On July 22nd and 29th she performed at the Salle Pleyel in Paris . The European tour decisively promoted Ellington's recognition as a composer. On his return he expressed this in August with the recording of the piece “I'm Satisfied”. In the fall of 1933 they toured the southern states for the first time, probably under pressure from Mills for economic reasons. Ellington had refused to go on such a tour until then.

1935 - The swing bands

The style of the DEO did not quite correspond to the swing pattern, which was based on the orchestral style of Fletcher Henderson. The Ellington Band was seen as a swing band, but didn't quite fit that model. In 1934 Freddie Jenkins and Arthur Whetsol left the band due to illness; Rex Stewart was added as a replacement in December 1934, and Charlie Allan in early 1935, who soon left when Whetsol returned a year later. In 1936 he was replaced by Wallace Jones . Cootie Williams and Rex Stewart were now the trumpet stars in the band. In early 1935 bassist Wellman Braud left the band; he was replaced by Billy Taylor . Shortly thereafter, Duke added another bassist, Hayes Alvis (he left in 1938). Freddie Guy switched from banjo to guitar during this time. When he finally left, Duke no longer occupied the guitar part.

Occupation 1938
Piano: Duke Ellington
Saxophone: Otto Hardwick, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges
Clarinet: Barney Bigard
Trumpet: Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart
Trombone: "Tricky Sam" Nanton, Lawrence Brown
Bass: Billy Taylor
Drums Sonny Greer

In 1935 the group began to record music in smaller formations (" The Duke's Men "). Spurred on by Benny Goodman's success , the Ellington musicians Williams, Stewart, Bigard and Hodges recorded music under their own names. These small line-ups made some of the best jazz recordings of the period. During this time, when Ellington wrote relatively little, the suite "Reminiscing in Tempo" was created. Due to the artistic failure, he did not tackle any longer pieces for the next eight years. But there are short “concerts” for star soloists like Cootie Williams and “Echoes of Harlem”, which was originally called “Concerto for Cootie”. One of the DEO's greatest hits, “ Caravan ”, written by Tizol , also dates from this period . This was typical of his musicians giving away the rights to their pieces to Ellington and Mills for a small fee. Tizol was also responsible for the piece "Lost in Meditation", which was one of the orchestra's most successful tracks. In 1938 the band played in the newly opened Cotton Club on Broadway. The main attraction was the track "Braggin 'in Brass". In 1937 the DEO played again for one season in the newly opened Cotton Club and in the Apollo Theater ; they also had a film appearance in " A Day at the Races " by the Marx Brothers . The trumpet set was temporarily reinforced by Harold "Shorty" Baker , who was then a permanent member of the band between 1943 and 1951. Important compositions of this time were “ Solitude ” (1934), “Diminuendo / Crescendo in Blue” (1937), “ Prelude to a Kiss ” and “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart”.

1939: "The Blanton-Webster-Band"

During this period up to 1939, eighty-four titles were created in a smaller line-up. The bands were called "Rex Stewart and his Fifty-second Street Stompers" or "Barney Bigard and his Jazzopators"; the line-up of the small bands was pretty much the same. One of the most famous recordings of this type was Jeep's Blues by Johnny Hodges.

Occupation 1939/40
Piano: Duke Ellington
Saxophone: Otto Hardwick, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster
Clarinet: Barney Bigard
Trumpet: Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart, Wallace Jones
Trombone: "Tricky Sam" Nanton, Lawrence Brown, Juan Tizol
Bass: Jimmy Blanton
Guitar: Fred Guy
Drums Sonny Greer, Sam Woodyard
Singer: Herb Jeffries
Arranger: Billy Strayhorn (next to Ellington)

In March 1939 the band embarked on a successful European tour; the high level of recognition for being a successful composer cheered Duke on after his return. So he created his most famous works such as Ko-Ko , Cotton Tail , C Jam Blues and In a Mellotone . In 1939 there was also a final break with Irving Mills. At the same time, the contract with Columbia expired . At the end of 1939 Duke switched to the Victor label , mainly because he didn't get along with John Hammond , who tended to have a decisive influence on his musicians. During this time there was an agreement between Earl Hines and Ellington on the exchange of musicians; most of Ellington's vocalists had previously worked at Hines, such as Ivie Anderson , Betty Roche and Ray Nance . Ellington and Hines then selected two black ballad singers together, Billy Eckstine , who went to Hines and Herb Jeffries , who came to the Elington Orchestra. Flamingo , made in December 1940, was "the first example of a hit record by a black singer with a real ballad".

At the turn of the year 1940/41 important changes took place: The first new addition was Billy Strayhorn , who was to become Ellington's assistant. Not only did he write a lot of compositions for Ellington, but he also rehearsed with the band and played the piano. The second addition was a young bass player named Jimmy Blanton , which led to Billy Taylor leaving soon. In the two years of his membership, Blanton revolutionized the playing of the bass in jazz. The third addition was just as important as Strayhorn and Blanton, namely Ben Webster . In the meantime the tenor saxophone had become the main instrument in jazz. "Webster's attitude gave Ellington a voice he'd never had before, a strong, smoky tenor sound to balance out the smooth, lighter voice of Johnny Hodges, " said JL Collier. At the end of 1940 the legendary concert took place in Fargo, North Dakota , which was only released on record in 1978; In 1941 the DEO starred in a show in Los Angeles called Jump for Joy . In the years after 1940 the DEO was at its peak; Jimmy Blanton and Ben Webster proved to be a decisive sonic and rhythmic enrichment of the band. In the Down Beat survey, the orchestra was first and second in the “swing band” category, and in 1946 it was the winner in the “sweet band” and “swing band” categories. In 1943, after the musicians' strike, she recorded a number of records for Decca .

The music of the Duke Ellington Orchestra of the "Blanton-Webster Years" can be heard on the compilation The Blanton-Webster Band .


Duke Ellington Orchestra: "Ko-Ko"

From 1940 a number of the most important DEO recordings were made, on March 6th “Ko-Ko”, on May 4th “ Cotton Tail ” and “Never No Lament” (later “Don't Get Around Much Anymore”) July “Harlem Airshaft”, as well as the classics “ Things Ain't That What They Used to Be ”, composed by Ellington’s son Mercer , “Warm Valley”, “In a Mellotone” and in 1941 the DEO’s second and final signature tune , “ Take the "A" Train ", a composition by Billy Strayhorn. "Main Stem" was recorded on June 26, 1942, shortly before the musicians' strike was banned from recording. In November the band had a hit on the new "Harlem Hit Parade" (the forerunner of the R&B charts) with "Hayfoot, Strawfoot". From 1943 the annual Carnegie Hall concerts took place. The focus was on suites such as the most important work of this phase, the “Black, Brown and Beige” suite. After 1944 the vigor of the band (and with it their musical performance) decreased significantly, also because Ellington devoted himself more to composing.

Occupation 1946
Piano: Duke Ellington
Tenor saxophone: Jimmy Hamilton, Al Sears
Alto saxophone: Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope
Baritone saxophone: Harry Carney
Clarinet: Jimmy Hamilton
Trumpet: Shelton Hemphill, Francis Williams, Taft Jordan, Harold Baker, Cat Anderson, Ray Nance
Trombone: "Tricky Sam" Nanton, Lawrence Brown, Claude Jones, Wilbur De Paris
Guitar: Fred Guy
Violin: Ray Nance
Bass: Oscar Pettiford or Junior Raglin
Drums: Sonny Greer
Singer: Al Hibbler , Toya Sherrill, Kay Davis
Junior Raglin, Lawrence Brown, Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington, Ray Nance, Sonny Greer, Fred Guy, and Harry Carney, Aquarium, New York, circa November 1946.
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb .

As early as 1940, the band gradually crumbled apart; Cootie Williams was poached by Benny Goodman. Ray Nance joined the band for him . Blanton died in 1942 and was replaced by Junior Raglin , who worked in the band until 1947. In 1942 Barney Bigard also left. Ellington hired Shauncey Haughton , who had worked for Ella Fitzgerald , for him. After a year he left the DEO again when he was drafted into the army. Jimmy Hamilton came as a replacement . Then Ben Webster left the band in an argument. The next to leave was Juan Tizol in 1944, as Harry James promised him a higher salary. Duke replaced Tizol with Claude Jones , who stayed with the DEO for four years. Finally Rex Stewart left the band, only briefly in the summer of '43, then finally in December 1945. In 1946, other musicians of the old line-up left: Otto Hardwick (who was succeeded by Russell Procope ), Tricky Sam Nanton died two months after Hardwick's departure July 21, 1946. The loss of Nanton was the greatest damage after the Ellington biographer Collier; because many of the classic pieces from "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" to "Ko-Ko" depended on Nanton's work with the "plunger". Various trombonists, such as Quentin Jackson or Tyree Glenn , took his place in the orchestra, but none was able to replace the melancholy sound of Nantons.

In 1942 Ivie Anderson could no longer sing because of her asthma; she was replaced by Betty Roche , who stayed with the band for most of the 1940s. At the same time, Ellington hired the young singer Joya Sherrill . In 1944 the DEO was # 1 in the R&B charts with “Do Nothin 'Till You Hear from Me” ; In 1945 she had a hit with " I'm Beginning to See the Light ". In addition, Herb Jeffries worked until 1943 , then Al Hibbler as a singer in the DEO. In the mid-1940s, the band's staff was in a complete mess - changes now happened monthly. Between 1942 and 1949 the DEO recorded records with 15 different trumpeters; various substitute musicians were added, such as u. a. also Dizzy Gillespie . Although Junior Raglin succeeded the late Blanton, the actual successor to Blanton was Oscar Pettiford in 1945 , who was only present at the record meetings until the end of 1947. The most important titles of this phase were next to "Black, Brown and Beige" (1943) "Frustration" (1944), "I'm Just a Lucky So and So" and "Magenta Haze" (1945).

With the departure of Cootie Williams, Tricky Sam Nanton, Ben Webster, Jimmy Blanton, Barney Bigard and Rex Stewart, the orchestra lacked the individual voices that were necessary for the Ellington sound .

The descent in 1946

Django Reinhardt with musicians from the Ellington Orchestra: Al Sears , Shelton Hemphill , Junior Raglin , Reinhardt, Lawrence Brown , Harry Carney , Johnny Hodges in the New York Jazz Club Aquarium, around November 1946. Photo by William P. Gottlieb .

The loss of these musicians came at a difficult time for all big bands ; and Woody Herman and Count Basie had to reduce drastically their orchestra for economic reasons at this time. Duke Ellington also continued to rely on an increasingly concertante program that was rooted in the swing style . That made the situation worse. It could no longer attract the more highly paid musicians from other bands. Taft Jordan and Wilbur De Paris left the band in 1947 because they were unwilling to accept a reduction in their salaries. In November 1946, the contract with Victor expired; after a few failures with companies like Musicraft or Sunrise , Duke returned to Columbia Records in the fall of 1947; In 1953 he went to Capitol .

In 1950 the band's personnel changed at an alarming rate from month to month; rarely did two consecutive recording sessions have the same cast. In March 1951, Sonny Greer, Al Sears , Johnny Hodges, and Lawrence Brown went together to work in a band under Hodges' direction. This departure brought the DEO into serious trouble. “The musicians realized that the band was becoming an appendage to Ellington's other ambitions, especially composing longer pieces. The musicians were no longer the stars in a joint company, but employed workers who had to do what they were told, ”says Collier, describing the ensemble's situation at the time. However, Hodges' band was only moderately successful; after four years the saxophonist returned to Duke Ellington. Lawrence Brown also came back a little later. Shortly after Hodges' departure, it was arranged that Juan Tizol should leave Harry James and return. In addition, Tizol was able to persuade soloists from the Harry James Orchestra such as Willie Smith and the drummer Louie Bellson to join the DEO. However, neither Smith nor Bellson stayed with Ellington long; Bellson set important impulses through his dynamic playing and brought the compositions "The Halk Talks" and "Skin Deep" into the band's repertoire. After Bellson's departure in 1953, Butch Ballard and Dave Black took the place on drums until Sam Woodyard joined the band in 1956.

During the early 1950s, Duke gradually succeeded in bringing stability to the line-up of the band, which from 1953 also operated under the name "Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra". He soon had a core group that would change slowly from now on: the trumpeters Cat Anderson and Clark Terry as well as the trombonist Quentin Jackson stayed in the band for the decade. The old band members Jimmy Hamilton , Harry Carney and Russell Procope stayed even longer ; In 1955 Johnny Hodges returned. Then there were Willie Cook and Britt Woodman and Jimmy Woode .

The Newport Jazz Festival 1956

Paul Gonsalve's entry into the DEO, who was to play there until his death, was of particular importance .

Occupation 1956
Piano: Duke Ellington
Saxophone: Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope, Jimmy Hamilton, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney
Trumpet: Willie Cook, Ray Nance, Clark Terry, Cat Anderson
Trombone: Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman, John Sanders
Bass: Jimmy Woode
Drums Sam Woodyard

He replaced Al Sears, who was in the band from 1943 to 1951, but was never a major jazz musician. He went to the newly formed Hodges band. Gonsalves has been one of the main soloists for the last 25 years of the DEO's existence. Above all, it was thanks to Gonsalves that “everything suddenly turned around”. In 1956 the DEO was invited to play at the Newport Jazz Festival . Ellington's idea was to have Paul Gonsalves play a solo between the two arranged parts of the piece "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue". The fans went mad; the reactions of the audience and the jazz press were enthusiastic. Contemporary witness George Avakian describes the events: "Around the middle of Paul's solo, the crowd became an enormous, single, living organism that reacted in waves, as in gigantic waves, to the music that was being played in front of him."

The last band

Johnny Hodges 1965

The midnight hour in Freebody Park in Newport marked the turning point and revival of the band. Drummer Sam Woodyard was a new addition . With a new contract with Columbia Records and the beginning of the LP era, Duke Ellington had the opportunity to record some of his larger compositions, such as Such Sweet Thunder . There were also television appearances such as in Goodyear Jazz Concert . At the same time, the band leader began the tradition of making private recordings of his band, which later appeared under the title "The Private Collection" . After Hodges and Tizol, Lawrence Brown returned in 1960 and stayed until 1970. Eventually, Mercer Ellington managed to get Cootie Williams back. The saxophone set from Hodges, Hamilton, Carney, Gonsalves and Procope remained unchanged from 1955 to 1968 until Hamilton dropped out and was replaced by Harold Ashby . The trombone setting was also stable from 1962 when it consisted of Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper, and Chuck Connors . However, the trumpet movement was exposed to frequent changes; between 1960 and Ellington's death in 1974 a total of 22 trumpeters worked in the DEO; there were also a large number of temporary substitutes.

Occupation 1967
Piano: Duke Ellington
Saxophone: Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope, Jimmy Hamilton, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney
Trumpet: Cat Anderson, Mercer Ellington, Herbie Jones , Cootie Williams, Clark Terry (flugelhorn)
Trombone: Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper, Chuck Connors
Bass: Aaron Bell, Jeff Castleman
Drums Sam Woodyard, Steve Little

In 1964, trumpeter Mercer Ellington became a permanent member of the band and "Road Manager". Due to the decreasing interest in jazz in the USA around 1965, the DEO went on tour more often; So to Japan 1964, North Africa 1966, South America 1966, Eastern Europe 1969, the Soviet Union 1971 and again to South America. In the late 1960s, Ellington took the band (at his own expense) into the studio to work through pieces with him that were in the process of composing, especially the longer works he recorded. At this time, recordings were made with guests, including a. with Ella Fitzgerald , Louis Armstrong , in a smaller cast with Coleman Hawkins and Count Basie . Billy Strayhorn died in May 1967 ; One of the last significant albums was the homage to Strayhorn ... And His Mother Called Him Bill, with numerous compositions by the trusted colleague, including his last work, "Blood Count", which was written shortly before his death , after his death in August 1967 , a feature for Johnny Hodges.

Duke Ellington Bigband in Munich 1963

Strayhorn had planned to contribute the arrangements for the long-planned joint album of the Ellington band with Frank Sinatra ; when it came to the recording sessions in December 1967, Billy May took over this task.

The last major line-up change took place in 1969: New names such as Harold Ashby, Norris Turney , Booty Wood , Julian Priester , Money Johnson and Joe Benjamin accompanied Duke Ellington in his final years together with the "old fighters" such as Cootie Williams, Paul Gonsalves and Harry Carney until the end.

Continuation in family hands

After the death of Duke Ellington, his son Mercer Ellington took over the leadership of the Duke Ellington Orchestra . He undertook two European tours with the orchestra (1975, 1977). He received a Grammy Award for the album Digital Duke ( GRP Records , 1987) and a Grammy nomination for Music Is My Mistress (Musicmasters, 1989). After Mercer Ellington's death in 1996, his daughter Mercedes took over the business, later his son Paul and Barrie Lee Hall Jr.

Quotes on the Duke Ellington Orchestra

Ellington plays the piano, but his real instrument is his band. For him, each member of his band is a specific timbre and a specific range of emotions that he mixes with others, equally characteristic, to create something third, which I would like to call the “Ellington Effect”. (...) Ellington is about the individual musician and what happens when all individuals combine their musical idiosyncrasies. When a listener watches him on the podium, he can easily get the idea that he is doing the usual routine movements like anyone else in front of a band. But if you observe very closely, we are sure to discover how a tiny twist of the finger is often enough for him to get the desired sound out of a musician. "

You have to do the right thing in the right place in front of the right people at the right time. "

I want to have them (my musicians) around me and hear them play my music. I don't care if I create music for posterity. The only thing I want is for it to sound good right now. "

"The Sidewalks of New York" 78 by the Duke Ellington Orchestra from December 1940

See also



Sam Woodyard
  1. ^ To this group around the brothers Bill, Felix and "Brother" Miller belonged William Escoffery, Lloyd Stewart, Sherling Conaway, Ted Nickerson and u. a. Musician, see Collier, p. 43.
  2. cf. Collier, p. 76, Ruland, p. 13
  3. Collier ,. P. 75. He cites Mercer Ellington's assessment that Miley "made" the Washingtonians. (P. 76)
  4. cf. Collier, p. 86. In the summer of 1924 they played in Salem Willows Park in a dance hall called Charleshurst
  5. cf. Collier, p. 89. Bechet only stayed with the band in the summer of 1924. The members of the DEO had great difficulty dealing with him
  6. cf. Collier, p. 93. After Nanton's death in 1946, Duke Ellington had great problems finding a substitute for Nanton's own sound.
  7. Compared to Ellington, the musician Rudy Jackson issued the piece "Creole Love Call" as his own composition. After Ellington's version was published and King Oliver made legal claims, but could not enforce, Ellington fired Rudy Jackson because of this incident and brought Barney Bigard to the orchestra as a replacement. See AH Lawrence, Duke Ellington and His World (London: Routledge, 2001) page 112 ISBN 0-415-93012-X , ISBN 978-0-415-93012-3
  8. Collier, p. 100: He describes how Duke created the best compositions under the pressure of Mills
  9. Irving Mills used numerous other names for the record releases on the various labels; In 1927 they played the track "Chicago Stomp Down" as "The Chicago Footwarmers", in 1928 the track " Diga Diga Doo " as the "Harlem Footwarmers" (both on Okeh Records ). As "Whoopee Makers" they accompanied the singer Ozie Ware in October 1928 . In 1929 they traded as "Duke Ellington and his Memphis Men" with the song "That Rhythm Men" and as "Sonny Greer and his Memphis Men", under which they had a hit in 1929 with "Saturday Night Function". In 1930 they played as the accompanist of the singer "Sunny" Smith (Irving Mills hid behind this pseudonym) as the "Ten Black Berries".
  10. cf. Collier, p. 127. Cootie Williams also wrote a number of important compositions for the band, such as "Do Nothin 'Till You Hear from Me"
  11. In March 1926, Ellington had already replaced the trumpeter on recordings by Harry Cooper and Leroy Rutledge. See Mark Tucker: Ellington: The Early Years . Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press 1905, p. 136.
  12. Collier's collective term for the problems faced by many band members; Drug addiction, alcoholism and notorious unreliability often let Ellington get away with longtime band members because he preferred to avoid conflict, as often described in Collier's book.
  13. cit. after Collier, p. 133
  14. Another recording from August 20, 1930 with Ellington and the Emmanuel Hall Quintet as the vocal group was discarded.
  15. Quoted from Gerhard Klußmeier : Jazz in the Charts. Another view on jazz history. Liner notes (9/100) and companion book for the 100 CD edition. Membrane International GmbH. ISBN 978-3-86735-062-4
  16. ^ Gerhard Klußmeier: Jazz in the Charts. Another view on jazz history. Liner notes (10/100) and accompanying book for the 100 CD edition. Membrane International GmbH. ISBN 978-3-86735-062-4
  17. Collier, p. 193
  18. Collier, p. 210
  19. Collier, p. 232. In the closing words, however, Collier relativizes the meaning of Ellington as a composer in the real sense.
  20. See W. Friedwald, p.184. Friedwald cites Stanley Dance as a reference . Using the example of the ballad singer Harlan Lattimore , who worked with Don Redman , and Roy Felton, who sang with Benny Carter , the author has shown how little accepted black artists were in this profession just a few years earlier in racist American society.
  21. ↑ When Billy Taylor switched to Jimmy Blanton, Adolphus Alsbrook played in the orchestra for a short time .
  22. Collier, p. 301
  23. ^ Billboard November 21, 1942, p. 24
  24. Collier, p. 357.
  25. Collier, p. 360. In addition to Sherrill and Roche, Ellington had employed other singers, such as Marie Ellington (not related to DE, she later married Nat King Cole ) and Kay Davis . Sometimes Ellington also had Davis, Sherril and Roche sing in a trio.
  26. From 1948, Wendell Marshall was another bass player until joining Jimmy Woodes . Occasionally, Pettiford also played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1950, 1953 and 1954. See Ruland, p. 106
  27. Collier, p. 362
  28. Collier, p. 371. Collier. He quotes Ellington in 1949: "Our band is working at a loss".
  29. Ellington founded Sunrise with his friend, doctor Arthur Logan, and record producer Mayo "Ink" Williams . See Collier, p. 372.
  30. This band was founded by Norman Granz ; see. Collier, p. 374
  31. Collier, p. 374
  32. Collier, p. 378. Collier describes the situation before this happened. In 1955 the band had an absolute low point when they were supposed to play in an amusement temple called "Aquacades", a water show. A string section was hired, another pianist replaced Ellington, and a conductor led the band for most of the evening. The reviews for the DEO at the time were correspondingly devastating.
  33. Avakian, cit. after Collier. P. 381. Collier goes on to say that organizer George Wein tried several times to get the band to quit because he feared the situation could escalate and riot the crowd. "Once on board the triumphal march, with the crowd behind him, Duke didn't want to stop," wrote Avakian on the Down Beat .
  34. Collier, p. 398. Countless tape recordings with hundreds of studio sessions were made in this way.
  35. On the Sinatra album with Ellington cf. Will Friedwald : Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art . New York City: Scribner, 1995. ISBN 0-684-19368-X . Pp. 299-309; for the cast list of the orchestra during the recordings with Sinatra cf. Luiz Carlos do Nascimento Silva: Put Your Dreams Away. A Frank Sinatra Discography . Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000. ISBN 0-313-31055-6 . Pp. 418-420
  36. Duchess Ellington  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. at nydailynews.com, March 17, 1996. Retrieved June 18, 2010@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.nydailynews.com  
  37. Paul Ellington at dukeellington.com. Retrieved June 18, 2010
  38. Billy Strayhorn. Quoted from Shapiro / Hentoff: Jazz told, Munich, Nymphenburger 1956
  39. a b Ellington quoted from Ruland: Duke Ellington, Gauting, Oreos, p. 55

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