Thursday, May 7, 2020

British Big Band Jazz: The Duke Ellington-Influenced Alan Cohen Band Plays Oracle (1968)



Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Duke Ellington's Solo Piano at WWDC, 1946

Duke Ellington and Willis Conover

In the wee hours of April 21, 1946, Duke Ellington who was visiting Washington DC for a series of concerts at the Howard Theater, dropped in at WWDC station. 

The Duke's presence in his hometown was an auspicious event for Conover who recorded some shows and interviews with him for his radio station, celebrating Duke's homecoming. That day, at about two in the morning, Duke started tossing down some notes on the keys. Billy Strayhorn, Oscar Pettiford and some other members of his entourage were standing in the background. It was midnight music: heavy, messy, mysterious, rambling. Upon finishing the first piece, Willis Conover informed him that the whole thing was recorded on tape. Ellington sounded surprised but he kept playing while Conover and others chatted in the background. The chat died down, the music continued. When Ellington finished it was 2:35 AM. "Can I have a copy of that?," Ellington asked Conover.

Whether or not Ellington got a copy, we don't know. But we have a copy here to listen to:

Thursday, April 30, 2020

David Meeker's Ten Favourite Jazz Films

Duke Ellington behind the scene of NBC's What Is Jazz? (1958) episode#1 [Source: GettyImages]

David Meeker, the author of Jazz in the Movies (and its online, massively updated version, Jazz on the Screen, available on the website of the Library of Congress), has been kind enough to furnish me with the list of his favourite jazz films. I don't think anyone in the world has seen as many jazz films as David has and certainly no-one has bothered spending years retrieving information (including song lists and personnel) from these films, compiling the indispensable encyclopedia that he has given us. For that reason, I think this list should be cherished more than other similar listings — this is the work of a man who has almost seen everything! - EK




By my reckoning the first ever sound film of a jazz performance was produced in 1922, a short featuring pianist Eubie Blake. Therefore, faced with almost 100 years of world cinema and taking a degree of masochistic pleasure in sticking my neck out I have managed with considerable difficulty to reduce untold millions of feet of celluloid to a necessarily subjective choice of 10 favourite titles, undoubtedly quirky but hopefully not pretentious. Try and see them if you can - they all have much to offer both intellectually and emotionally.
David Meeker

Monday, April 27, 2020

Surprise Boogie (1956), a Short Jazz Film by Albert Pierru


Created by scratching the emulsion and painting on raw film, the fantastically joyous short Surprise Boogie (1956) is an homage to the 1949 Begone Dull Care (image by Norman McLaren, music by Oscar Peterson Trio), the latter known as the most famous example of abstract jazz animation. Conceived as an audiovisual jam session of colours, patterns, forms and volumes on celluloid stripe, Surprise Boogie is the work of filmmaker Albert Pierru who was known for his love for jazz music on which he made various shorts, all using the same method of "camera-less" filmmaking, painting directly on film.

View the film here, courtesy of the Cinémathèque française:

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

David Meeker's Ten Favourite Jazz Recordings


David Meeker, the author of world's most comprehensive jazz and film encyclopedia (regularly updated and available online at the website of the Library of Congress) and the former Head of Acquisitions in the National Film Archive (now British Film Institute's archive) has shared with me his list of ten favourite jazz recordings which I'm sharing with you here. They are sorted in chronological order.


1
Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra (1928)
There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth The Salt Of My Tears by Fred Fisher.


Saturday, April 11, 2020

4 Photographs of Jimmie Lunceford in the 1930s


Courtesy of University of North Texas, four raw negative scans of photographs by Byrd Moore, taken of Jimmy Lunceford and his orchestra in Fort Worth, Texas, possibly in the 1930s.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

"Earl Hines Celebrates 20 Years in Show Business"

Earl Hines
All-American News was a weekly newsreel produced for the African-American audiences, the first of its kind in the US. At the beginning, it served the war propaganda machine by encouraging the black Americans to join the war effort but in the process it managed to capture some other aspects of African-American life, including arts.

Some of these weekly items are available on the website of the Library of Congress. Surprisingly, jazz gets very little mention in them, even though the series ran until the 1950s. One exception is an episode from November 1944 which visits the legend of jazz piano, Earl "Fatha" Hines, catching up with him during his celebration of "twenty years in show business." There is a brief interview and scenes from cutting a cake. You can view this segment of All-American News#12 concerning Hines here:

VHS Diaries#1: Ellis Marsalis Trio


RIP Ellis Louis Marsalis Jr. (November 14, 1934 – April 1, 2020)

Syndrome, a composition by New Orleans pianist and father to Wynton and Brandford Marsalis, Mr. Ellis Marsalis,  first appeared in one of his early albums.

Here, with the assistance of a relaxed, grooving trio he performs the same song at Bern Jazz Festival, 1997. I couldn't identify the bassist and drummer. If you know their names, please leave a comment.