Monday, November 1, 2010

Classics 1217: Duke Ellington 1950

Classics 1217
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra
Release Date: 2002

Other notable musicians in this CD: Wild Bill Davis, Billy Strayhorn, Mercer Ellington and other usual Ellington gang members.
Label(s): Mercer, Columbia
Number of sessions: 6
Unissued materials: None
Track Highlights: a 12 minutes The Tattooed Bride, a 15 minutes Mood Indigo

About the period: Undeniably the early fifties were difficult years for Duke Ellington. Despite having a contract with Columbia the band was rather infrequently recorded. In addition, the peaks of Ellington's creativity have always paralleled the degree of public acceptance of his compositions and general appreciation of his band. Never since the early twenties. had the wider public cared less for big bands than around 1950. In spite of his economical problems Ellington continued to record music of very high quality.

The Album: Opens with ten tracks for Mercer. Eight of these suffered a strange fate, Originally conceived as 78 singles, they were made at a time when the industry was gradually switching to LPs and were thus issued on a very obscure 10-inch LP, which had limited distribution as Mercer left business soon after. This music was next re-issued in 1964 on Riverside just before this label also stopped issuing records. This same LP was finally again on the market in the mid-eighties - when CDs came along. No wonder these outstanding piano-duo shave attained near mythical reputation. Two additional tracks were issued under Wild Bill Davis' name with the Duke sitting in on Things Ain't What They Used To Be. The three next performances for Columbia are not very well known either. Love You Madly features a vocal by Yvonne Lanauze and a fine tenor solo by Paul Gonsalves.

Paul Gonsalves

November 1950 session must be one of the first (if not the first) Gonsalves appearance with Duke on record. Ellington, who had been having trouble with the tenor saxophone chair, finally stabilized it for the next two decades with the addition of Gonsalves. He easily filled the gap that followed Webster’s departure. Gonsalves had a breathy, rich tone that identified him as a Coleman Hawkins disciple, and had put in tours of duty with Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. “When he came in the band, he knew every Webster solo by heart,” later said Harry Carney. Gonsalves himself once stated, “If I die tomorrow, I’ll consider I’ve been successful, because when I began to study it was with the idea of being with that band.”

Flamingo, Ellington& Strayhorn on piano, Wendell Marshall on bass, N. Y. C., October 3, 1950.

Other Major Replacements

Gonsalves was one of so many replacement in Ellington's orchestra, from 1949 to 1950. The course of the orchestra during this period is hard to plot, the changes within the band being so numerous. The situation can be summarized briefly: Fred Guy left and was not replaced, Ellington having subsequently kept his rhythm section down to three pieces. Ben Webster left and Paul Gonsalves came. The trumpets wavered between four and five pieces, sometimes
the band having to carry two lead men owing to Al Killian's lip trouble. Quentin Jackson came to the trombone section in place of Claude Jones, but Tyree Glenn ceased to be a regular member of the band. For the European tour of 1950 (with the full band this time, but omitting England from the itinerary owing to the union ban) Ellington was without Tyree Glenn and he brought two drummers with him, Greer and Butch Ballard. The tenor sax chair was vacant so he signed up ex-Basie tenor man Don Byas, who was resident in Europe, for the duration of the tour. Oscar Pettiford had left and been replaced by Wendell Marshall, cousin of the late Jimmy Blanton into whose old chair he now moved. This was a bad period for big bands and both
Count Basie and Woody Herman, Duke's keenest rivals since the mid-forties, had been forced to disband their groups. In February, 1950, he was presented with an award from the magazine Downbeat, in addition to which he was presented with a parchment scroll commemorating the fact that Ms was the only leading band from the magazine's 1949 poll still in existence!

Duke Ellington (p), Billy Strayhorn (p), Wendell Marshall (b).
New York, October 3, 1950.

Cotton Tail 5710
C Jam Blues 5711
Flamingo 5712
Bang-Up Blues 5713

Duke Ellington (p), Wild Bill Davis (org),Johnny Collins (g), Jo Jones (d).
New York, late October, 1950.

Things Ain't What They Used To Be M-4023

Wild Bill Davis (org),Johnny Collins (g), Jo Jones (d).
New York, late October, 1950.

Make No Mistake M-4024

Duke Ellington(p), Billy Strayhorn (p), Joe Shulman (b).
New York, November 1950.

Tonk M-2479
Johnny Come lately M-2480
In A Blue Summer Garden M-2481
Great Times M-2482

trumpet section: Harold Baker, Nelson Williams, Cat Anderson, Andres Merenguito and Ray
Nance (also Vln)
Trombone: Lawrence Brown, Quentin Jackson.
Jimmy Hamilton (cl,ts), Johnny Hodges (as), Russell Procope (cl, as), Paul Gonsalves (ts), Harry Carney (cl, barsax), Duke Ellington (p), Wendell Marshall (b), Sonny Greer (d), AI Hibbler (voc), Yvonne Lanauze (voc).
New York, November 20, 1950.

Build That Railroad CO-44662-1
Love You Madly CO-44663-1
Great Times CO-44664-1

Mercer Ellington (flugel horn),Tyree Glenn (tb), Billy Strayhorn (p).
New York, December 18, 1950.

The Tattooed Bride CO-44749-1
Mood Indigo CO-44750-1

Total Time: 66 mins. (approximately)

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