Allergy advice: this record contains no Steve Hoffman or Music Matters engineering, but may contain traces of British Jazz nuts.
Selection: Lay By (Ellington/Strayhorn) from Suite Thursday.Tony Coe pulling off a passable impersonation of a Paul Gonsalves smeared-sax solo.
Another selection: In a Sentimental Mood – Joe Harriott (alto) – tune found on the epic Impulse Duke Ellington John Coltrane collaboration.
Ellington classics, draped in a Union Jack.
Acker Bilk (clarinet), Ian Carr (flugelhorn), Tony Coe (tenor sax), Joe Harriott (alto sax), Don Rendell (soprano sax,) Stan Tracey (piano), Derek Watkins, Paul Tongay, Kenny Baker, Eddie Blair, Les Condon (trumpets), Keith Christie, Don Lusher, Chris Pyne, Bobby Lambe, Chris Smith (trombones), Lennie Bush (bass), Barry Morgan (drums), recorded Lansdowne Studios, London, August 20/21 1968. Supervision – Denis Preston, engineer – Adrian Kerridge.
We are a small island in the UK but we have a big heart when it comes to jazz in the ’60s (ignore the next five decades, especially the last, in which stage-school kids perform karaoke Americana, prodded by ambitious mums. Assembled, the cream of British jazz (but the absence of Tubby Hayes) who perform their affection for Ellington. That’s not karaoke jazz, but the best big-band we could muster, with solo performances that step up to the plate, from the aristocracy of British Jazz.
Producer Denis Preston’s own words, liner notes (abridged), better than mine:
“Were there such things as a Jazz Lover’s Diary.. one page thereof would surely be especially gilt-edged… notably that bearing the date, April 29th. For it commemorates a singular occurrence in jazz history – and possibly one of the half-dozen most significant anniversaries in the whole of that world of music – the birthday of Duke Ellington, born Edward Kennedy of that ilk in Washington DC in 1899. Which means further that April 29th 1969 marks a particularly important anniversary – the seventieth birthday of a man still active, vital and contributory in a business generally regarded as a relatively youthful pursuit.
When this album was conceived, as a dedication to a great man on a great occasion, I turned instinctively to Stan Tracey for co-operation, for I could think of no British Musician more deeply wedded to Ellingtonia in all its aspects, nor one – despite the highly originality of his own writing and playing – more deeply infixed by the Ducal influence.
The selection of soloists was self-evident. All are musicians long associated with my own recording career: all shared my personal enthusiasm for this project. Acker Bilk first recorded with me in 1958; Ian Carr in 1960. Don Rendell is one of my oldest mates in the business: he broadcast for me in BBC Radio Rhythm Club back in the ‘Forties, and recorded with me for the first time in 1956. Joe Harriott has recorded with me ever since he first came to this country from Jamaica in ’52, and Tony Coe has been a much-appreciated associate on many a session – off and on – since the old clarinet-alto days with Humphrey Lyttleton.
It is not coincidental that the oldest piece in this album, Creole Love Call, and the most recent, Lay By, are both blues, for this album is a form which Ellington has utilised more effectively, more adventurously and, indeed, more frequently than any other noted jazz composer.
There were at least twenty active Ellington enthusiasts within the environs of Lansdowne Recording Studios when this album was being made – twelve bandsmen, five soloists, Stan Tracey, Adrian Kerridge and myself. And we like to think that our mutual veneration of this titanic jazz figure and the excitement we shared in this project have been transmitted to the grooves of these recordings, whose overall title is expressive of all our feelings, and those of tens of thousands more… DUKE ELLINGTON… WE LOVE YOU MADLY!”
Though not a big-band fan, numbers here like Lay By, and the Oliver Nelson performance for Prestige, Main Stem, (blogged 2013) hint at the big band excitement pool I have been dipping a toe in to. Young people, by which I mean people considerably younger than me, tell me there is a new music fashion called Punk Swing. Since teen fashion changes hourly I can’t vouch for it still being here as I write, but it seems to have potential. Move over the ’60s, the 40’s are back?
Vinyl: SX 6320 Columbia Magic Notes – Lansdowne Series – stereo
Another sample of exciting works for the EMI-Lansdowne series, under the licensed Columbia Magic Notes label. Quite why the US giant Columbia licensed its name in the UK to EMI is beyond me, but it left US Columbia scrambling to by-pass its own agreement to release Columbia recordings in the UK through Philips Fontana and later its new creation, CBS.
EMI pressing, factory sample, EMI, Hayes, Middlesex. Yes, Middlesex. Long before the arrival of gender-politics, “trans” and LGBT, England boasted a county called “Middlesex“. Ahead of the curve, eh?
British jazz on vinyl is fiercely expensive and has a fanatical following, I guess, based on a fatal combination of sentiment and scarcity. Few people at the time followed it, and fewer records still survived our Dansette portable record player. This recording features all the premier British jazz performers of the day apart from Tubby. The only artist wounded by commercial success was clarinettist Acker Bilk (Stranger On The Shore), unkindly judged. It’s a good romp, with some great if all too brief solos.