| THE INTERNATIONAL|
DUKE ELLINGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
04/3 December 2004 - March 2005
26th Year of Publication
FOUNDER: BENNY AASLAND
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Telephone: +32 3 315 75 83
The Jazz Baronby Mike Matloff
See DEMS 03/1-13/1
The fact that DEMS Bulletin is accessible through internet has resulted in several interesting reactions from people who have encountered DEMS Bulletin for the first time. One of these people is Mike Matloff, who found references to previous articles about Timme which were from the pre-internet period of DEMS Bulletin. He is a university student and asked us in July of this year for copies of these articles to use for his term paper on Timme Rosenkrantz for a jazz history class. After receiving our copies he asked permission to share these with Fradley Garner, who was currently doing a translation of Timme's memoirs "Dus Med Jazzen". Fradley mentioned DEMS to Bente Rosenkrantz Arendrup, a 80 year old nice of Timme. She also asked for copies of the articles in DEMS Bulletin. She wrote us a long letter, not for publication and she promised to write something about her beloved uncle for DEMS Bulletin as soon as she would be back home and could consult her files. In August DEMS received a copy of the paper by Mike Matloff with the permission to publish it. He wrote: "I know that Frad (editor, organizer, translator of Timme's memoirs) said he would post my term paper on the jazz Web site for the Albany Times-Union newspaper (a New York paper). I don't know when he'll have time to do it, but I'll let you know when he does, because that way people could enjoy the photos as well. If you want to print the paper's full text that is fine. I hope people enjoy it. Feel free to include my e-mail in case anyone should want to contact me."
We are very grateful to Mike for his contribution to DEMS Bulletin and we will give you his e-mail address if you want to contact him. We do not publish his e-mail address to safeguard him from a lot of spam.
I would sincerely like to thank Fradley Garner, the journalist translating Timmes book into English, for his help with this paper. Mr. Garner was able to provide the author with numerous helpful sources and to serve as an expert source himself. He generously gave of his own time and without him this paper would not be possible.
Here is Mr. Garners Bio:
Fradley's cite: Fradley Garner is an American freelance writer and translator based in Denmark. The former Denmark contributor to Down Beat, he is international editor of Jersey Jazz, journal of the New Jersey Jazz Society. Garner is translating and annotating the Danish memoirs of Baron Timme Rosenkrantz, while searching for an American publisher. He wrote the author profile for the book.
The author thanks Mr. Garner for his kind assistance with this paper.
The Jazz Baron (1)
When it comes to jazz royalty, youve probably heard of the Duke and the Count. But very few have heard of the Baron. A journalist, record producer, and so much more, Baron Timme Rosenkrantzor Timme, as he was known to friends (2)was above all a devotee of jazz.
Born in Copenhagen on July 6, 1911 (3), Timme was a real baron whose ancestors were Danish aristocrats. (4) An unlikely jazz fan, he got hooked on jazz as a young boy when someone brought an American jazz record to his school. (5) Soon he was spending all his money on records by Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, and Duke Ellington. (6) He studied journalism and in 1933 founded one of the first European jazz journals, Jazzrevy. (7) A year later, at the age of 22, he sailed to America to hear American jazz firsthand. (8)
"Denmark is quite a nice country," Timme wrote in the Danish magazine Jazz. (9) "Our food is fat and good, our beer is first class, our girls are good looking.... But our jazz is not really up to par."
He arrived in New York in 1934 and immediately fell in love with the swinging Harlem jazz scene. (10) He met John Hammond, who took him to see the amazing talent at the Savoy Ballroom. (11) He became close friends with the Duke. (12) He met all the great musicians and saw all the great bands. Timme wasnt just a visitor in Harlem; he lived itits sights, its sounds, and its people.
"Timme made close friends on the jazz scene," wrote journalist Ole Bech-Petersen. (13) "He knew it from the inside, and was a regular in night-clubs, bars, studios, dance halls, record shops, or anywhere else he might hear jazz." He knew all of the famous jazz musicians and "listened to music with them, partied with them, smoked pot with them and drank huge quantities of alcohol with them." (14)His list of friends reads like a "Whos Who" of jazz and includes Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Art Tatum, and Fats Waller, among many, many others. (15)
Timme was the first white European journalist to write about the Harlem jazz scene. (16) In his lifetime, he wrote for many Scandinavian newspapers (17) and magazines and for such famous American publications as Down Beat, Metronome, and Esquire, as well as the British magazine Melody Maker. (18) Starting in 1934, he lived alternately in New York and Denmark, often staying in New York for long periods of time. (19)
Timme had a persuasive charm. In 1938, he talked the president of RCA Victor into letting him hand-pick a dream band and produce the recording. (20) The result was two 78-rpm records by "Timme Rosenkrantz and his Barrelhouse Barons" that Down Beat and Metronome called the best records of 1938. (21) On record for the first time were tenor saxophonist Don Byas, trombonist Tyree Glenn, and vocalist Inez Cavanaugh. (22)
Inez was Timmes love, and they were together until he died. (23) He saw her at the Travelers Club in Harlem and told her, "Where have you been all my life?" (24) She was a journalist as well as a singer and had written articles for several magazines including Down Beat and Metronome. (25) Together, Timme and Inez wrote the liner notes for Billie Holiday Greatest Hits (26), a record produced by good friend John Hammond; they co-managed a Paris club, Chez Inez; (27) and they co-wrote the lyrics to Is This to be My Souvenir (28), which Inez sang on the 1938 RCA Victor record. (29)
When World War II started in 1939, Timme found himself stranded in New York for the duration of the war. (30)
"I had to find some way to make money; I had no more in the bank," Timme writes. (31) Always the humorist, he continues, "I had a collection of a hundred records, and I figured that if I sold those, I would be able to buy another couple of hundred, sell those, buy 400, and so on until I had a million records and was a very rich man indeed."
He opened the Mel-O-Dee Music Shop in Harlem in 1940. (32) He sold records in the front and had a rehearsal hall in the back that was used by such notables as violinist Stuff Smith, trumpeter Bill Coleman, and bassist John Kirby, among others. (33) His very first customer was Louis Armstrong, who offered to buy $50 worth of recordsa large sum in those days. (34)
During the war he was also a "dance partner for hire" at a dance club, an employee at the Commodore music shop, and for a short time the host of his own radio show, "Rhythm is Our Business," on local station WNEW. (35) But his most important job was producer. From 194445 he recorded jam sessions at his apartment, where he "held open house, day and night" for willing musicians. (36) His recordings, released on his own labels "New York," "Baronet" and "Embassy" (37) include such notables as violinist Stuff Smith and pianists Robert Crum and Erroll Garner. (38)
Garner, a unique virtuoso pianist and composer of the famous tune "Misty," (39) was Timmes discovery. (40) Timme heard him playing intermission at a small club on 52nd street and knew he was special. (41) They became friends, and soon Timme made the very first recording of Garner on November 16, 1944, in Timmes apartment. (42) He recorded Garner on at least six more occasions from 194445 (43) and also featured him in concert at Times Hall. (44) Garner became an incredible success, largely because of Timmes early encouragement and support.
In June 1945 Timme produced, recorded and hosted a concert at New Yorks Town Hall (45) that featured numerous jazz legends including drummer Gene Krupa, vibraphonist Red Norvo, pianists Teddy Wilson and BillyTaylor, violinist Stuff Smith, trumpeter Bill Coleman, saxophonists Flip Phillips and Don Byas, and bassist Slam Stewart. (46) In 1946, he produced recordings for Continental records of Red Norvo, pianist-composer Jimmy Jones, saxophonists Harry Carney and Charlie Ventura, and his lifelong companion, vocalist Inez Cavanaugh. (47)
Timme was also the first to bring an American jazz band to post-war Europe in September 1946. (48) The band, directed by Don Redman, featured Don Byas, Billy Taylor, Inez Cavanaugh, vibe master Tyree Glenn, trumpet and vocalist Peanuts Holland, and trombonist Quentin Jackson. (49) In 1947 he brought the first bebop band to Europe (50)Chubby Jackson and His All Starsand in New York produced and recorded a series of Friday jam sessions at Café Bohemia that featured pianist Lennie Tristano and trumpeter Rex Stewart, among others. (51)
In the late 40s Timme and Inez moved to Paris where they set up and co-managed a jazz club, Chez Inez. (52) Timme continued writing and collecting jazz photos (something he had done since he first set foot in Harlem in 1934) into the 50s and 60s, always returning now and then to New York where his close friends and favorite music were. (53) In Denmark in the mid 60s he hosted a popular jazz program on Danish and Swedish national radio. (54) He recalled old times with the jazz elite and played recordings from his vast collection. (55)
In 1968 he proudly opened Timmes Club, a jazz night-club in Copenhagen that featured pianist, composer, and good friend Mary Lou Williams on its opening night. (56) Later Teddy Wilson, Ben Webster, and Inez also played there. (57) Timme, who had been battling an ulcer for many years, was photographed at the club nursing a glass of milk. (58) He was in New York, the city whose music and people he loved, when he died on August 11, 1969, from complications related to his stomach and liver. (59)
Today, Timmes legacy extends far beyond his recordings. He was an author who published not only jazz articles but also three novels and a collection of short stories, in Danish. (60) He published two books about the American jazz scene, "Too Bad America Has to be So Far Away" in 1938 and "Jump Out the Window and Turn Right" in 1954, also in Danish (titles translated). (61)
Timme had a great sense of humor, and as Duke Ellington noted, he was a "wit extraordinaire." (62) For example, he once referred to Art Tatums dexterous rendition of "Tea for Two" as "Tea for Two Thousand." (63) Here are some other representative examples:
Una Mae Carlisle is the most beautiful jazz musician I have ever metMonk wasnt even a runner-up. I had such a bad crush on her that I had to fill my pockets with ice cubes, otherwise Id go up in smoke.... Oh well, enough of thatthat was 20 years ago, and the ice has melted. (1967) (64)
I am very restrained in many ways. I didnt eat my first rum cake till I was 15, and never smoked till I was 20. I am still shy in the company of women... the only thing Im really crazy about is elderberry soup. (1964) (65)
And then there is Benny Carter, also one of the genuine greats of jazz. He can do anything. He plays all saxes, trumpet, trombone, piano and drumsIve even seen him play ball. (1966) (66)
Timme was also an avid photographer and photo collector. (67) In 1939 he published the first jazz-photo book, "Swing Photo Album 1939," featuring photos of the movers and shakers of jazz. (68) It was republished in 1964 and today it is a collectors item. (69) Over his lifetime, he amassed a collection of more than 2,000 photographs which have become part of the Timme Rosenkrantz Collection at the University of Southern Denmark. (70) Librarian and historian Frank Büchmann-Møller has put together a selection of these photographs in Is This To Be My Souvenir, available from Odense University Press. (71)
Timme collected biographical data on jazz legends with the intention of publishing a jazz encyclopedia, but he gave it up when Leonard Feather (a good friend of Timmes) beat him to the punch in 1955 with his Encyclopedia of Jazz. (72) Timmes last book, a collection of memoirs titled Dus Med Jazzen ("getting familiar with jazz"), was published in Danish in 1964. (73) Büchmann-Møller writes that the memoirs "offer a unique view of jazz and some of its famous musicians." (74) Journalists Fradley Garner and Bente "Topsy" Arendrup, Timmes favorite niece, are currently translating the work into English and are actively seeking a publisher. (75)
Another contribution of Timmes was as unofficial "jazz ambassador" between the United States and Europe. As mentioned, he brought many jazz greats to Europe to play at his clubs in Paris and Copenhagen or to tour Europe, as the Don Redman orchestra did. He also released recordings of many American artists under his own labels in Denmark, bringing the legendary music of Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Stuff Smith, Oscar Peterson, Gerry Mulligan, and Dave Brubeck to an eager Danish public. (76)
But he also brought European jazz to America. On his radio show at WNEW he played Danish and Swedish (as well as American) jazz. (77) At the 1947 jam sessions at Café Bohemia (78) he introduced Swedish clarinettist Stan Hasselgard and Danish drummer Uffe Baadh to the American public. (79) And his articles in Danish and Swedish publications instilled a love of jazz in his fellow Scandinavians and encouraged them to come to New York, where they would seek Timme out and oblige him to be their unpaid tour guide, a role he accepted graciously. (80)
Timme loved blacks at a time when prejudice and segregation were all too common. He worked with, drank with, and spent his life writing about the people of Harlem. His long-time companion Inez was black, and he was lovingly called "a colored white man" and "the worlds whitest Negro" by fellow journalists in Denmark. (81) He hated intolerance and once spoke up to a gangster who was hurling racial insults at Art Tatum. (82) His reward was a bash in the head with the butt of a gun. A black friend who saw it all said Timme had a "black soul." (83)
Timme wrote, "I came to Harlem to hear jazz, but I found much more than that. I found a charming people, whom I befriended. I found clever artists, great musicians, fine authors and painters, phenomenal dancers and artistes. I also found excellent journalists, doctors, scientists and much, much more. But above all, I met a people with a sense of humor that, considering their own lives and history, is as wondrous as it is admirable." (84)
And the people of Harlem loved him back. There were two memorial services for Timme after he diedone in New York and one in Copenhagenand in them Duke Ellington, Tyree Glenn, Teddy Wilson, Ben Webster, Inez, Don Byas, Charlie Shavers, and many others paid tribute. (85) Duke wrote in his autobiography Music is My Mistress, "We are thankful to Timme Rosenkrantz, and may God bless him and minimize the grief of his relatives, who may be assured of the great love felt for him by all of us, his friends." (86)
Timme never made a lot of money; in fact, he often lost large sums of money on his undertakings. (87) He started a magazine called Swing Music that folded after a single issue and another called Riff that never saw the light of day. (88) His record shop, where he let musicians rehearse for free, closed after a year. (89) His 1945 concert at Town Hall was a success musically but a failure financially. (90) And his two clubs, Chez Inez and Timmes Club, had very short lives. (91)
"He was perhaps the worlds worst businessman," said journalist and long-time friend Doug Dobell. (92) "He preferred to dig the music and musicians rather than make a business out of them."
And although Timme was a talented writer, "you will not find volumes of his works that are truly representative of his literary stature," Duke noted. (93) "The reason for that is that he was a very unselfish man who always dedicated himself to the great musicians he loved and to the music they played.... His patronage of music consumed most of his time."
For Timme, it was all about the music. More than anything else, he loved that swingin jazz, no matter whether it was swing or boogie-woogie, whether the musicians playing it were black or white, Danish or American.
In an interview about what constituted "real" jazz, Stuff Smith said, "Ask Timme Rosenkrantz. He knows. He knows jazz. Thats one sure thing about old Tim." (94)
Note: Please see the Reference List, which appears after the Endnotes, for the complete citation of sources mentioned in the Endnotes.
(1) From synopsis of English-version of Rosenkrantzs Dus Med Jazzen.
(2) From "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(5) From Bech-Petersens article in Jazz Special First International Edition.
(8) From "Here I am, Wheres My Music," and Jazz Special article.
(9) I dont have the citation for the original source in the magazine Jazz. I got this quotation "second-hand" from the Jazz Special article.
(10) From "The Barrelhouse Baron" and "Here I am, Wheres My Music."
(11) "The Barrelhouse Baron" and the outline of a presentation to publishers.
(12) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(13) Jazz Special article.
(15) Ibid, plus personal communication w/journalist Fradley Garner, friend of Timmes and translator of Timmes memoirs Dus Med Jazzen.
(17) Jazz Special article and "The Barrelhouse Baron." Timme wrote for Danish and Swedish newspapers, and especially for the Danish newspaper Politiken, which he published.
(19) Jazz Special article.
(20) Synopsis and "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(23) Synopsis, outline, and personal communication w/Fradley Garner.
(24) Outline and "Voutie! Slim and Slam, Wow: Inez Cavanaugh."
(26) From Billie Holiday Greatest Hits album.
(27) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(28) As per the music to "Is this to be my souvenir."
(29) Personal communication w/Fradley Garner.
(30) From "Reflections, Reflections, Reflections on Louis Armstrong."
(35) Outline, Jazz Special article, and "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(36) "The Barrelhouse Baron." Its true for 1944-45 because we have recordings from 44 and 45 that he made at this apartment. See album The Complete 1944 Rosenkrantz Apartment Transcription Duets and the Errol Garner discography on The Jazz Discography Web site.
(37) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(38) "The Barrelhouse Baron," Complete 1944 Rosenkrantz Apartment Transcription, Jazz Discography Web site. About the 1944 recordings of Smith and Crum, one reviewer says, "These rare recordings, Stuff Smith & Robert Crum: Complete 1944 Rosenkrantz Apartment Transcription Duets, show us that "free jazz" existed way before the work of saxophonist Ornette Coleman, indeed even before the famous Tristano-Konitz-Marsh sessions of the '50s."
(39) Erroll Garner biography in The Encyclopedia of Popular Music.
(42) The Jazz Discography Web site.
(44) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(46) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(48) Synopsis and "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(49) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(53) Jazz Special article and "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(54) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(57) Büchmann-Møller preface to Is This to be My Souvenir.
(58) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(61) Jazz Special article and "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(62) Duke Ellingtons Music is My Mistress.
(63) James Lesters biography of Art Tatum.
(64) Jazz Special article.
(67) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(68) DEMS article and "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(69) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(70) Per the University of Southern Denmarks Web site and Is This to be My Souvenir.
(71) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(72) "The Barrelhouse Baron" and Is This to be My Souvenir.
(73) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(74) Is This to be My Souvenir.
(75) Personal communication with Fradley Garner.
(76) "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(79) Is This to be My Souvenir and "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(81) Jazz Special article and "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(82) Jazz Special article.
(85) "The Barrelhouse Baron" and Is This to be My Souvenir.
(86) Music is My Mistress.
(87) Jazz Special article.
(89) Jazz Special article and "The Barrelhouse Baron."
(90) Jazz Special article.
(91) Jazz Special article and the outline.
(92) Coda article.
(93) Music is My Mistress.
(94) Pure at heart.
Bech-Petersen, O. (2002). Timme Rosenkrantz: "A Colored White Man." Jazz Special, First International Edition. Havnegade, Denmark: Jazz Special.
Büchmann-Møller, F. (2000). Is This to be My Souvenir? Jazz Photos From the Timme Rosenkrantz Collection 19181969. Denmark: Odense University Press.
Dobell, D. (1969). Timme Rosenkrantz. Coda, a Canadian jazz magazine, issue of September 1969. Contact Stuart Broomer, Editor, at Coda, 30 Taunton Road, Toronto, ON, M4S 2P1 Canada, (416) 487-3597, email@example.com.
Ellington, D. (1976). Music is My Mistress. An unabridged republication of the original 1973 work that was published by Doubleday, with updated discography. New York: Da Capo Press.
Garner, F.H., Outline of a presentation to publishers, Adventures in Jazzland: A Danish Baron's Harlem Memoirs, 1934-1969. For English version of Dus Med Jazzen, Mine Jazzmemoirer, by Timme Rosenkrantz (Copenhagen: Chr. Erichsen, 1964).
Garner, F.H., The Barrelhouse Baron. Prologue for English version of the Danish book Dus Med Jazzen, Mine Jazzmemoirer, by Timme Rosenkrantz (Copenhagen: Chr. Erichsen, 1964). Edited May 6, 2004. In ms.
Garner, F.H., Timme Rosenkrantz, author profile for publisher presentation of the English version of the Danish book Dus Med Jazzen, Mine Jazzmemoirer, by Timme Rosenkrantz (Copenhagen: Chr. Erichsen, 1964). Photo ca. 1934, uncredited. (This source is simply called the synopsis in the endnotes.)
Holiday, B. (1998). Billie Holiday Greatest Hits. An album with liner notes by Timme Rosenkrantz and Inez Cavanaugh. New York: Columbia.
Lester, J. (1994). Too Marvellous for Words: The Life and Genius of Art Tatum. New York: Oxford University Press.
Mathiasen, J. (2003). More About Timme Rosenkrantz. On The International Duke Ellington Music Society (DEMS) Bulletin Web site at http://www.depanorama.net/ dems/03dems1c.htm. Voort 18 b, Belgium: DEMS.
Mathisen, L., Rosenkrantz, T., & Cavanaugh, I. (1938). Song: "Is This to be My Souvenir?" Music by Mathisen, lyrics by Rosenkrantz and Cavanaugh.New York: Lincoln Music Corporation.
Muze UK Ltd. (2000). Erroll Garner. In The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, online version (as provided by http://www.theiceberg.com/artist/632/erroll_garner.html). London: Muze UK Ltd.
Rosenkrantz, T. (1962). Reflections, Reflections, Reflections on Louis Armstrong. Down Beat, 29(20), 50.
Rosenkrantz, T., "Here I am. Where's My Music?" From English version of Dus Med Jazzen, Mine Jazzmemoirer, by Timme Rosenkrantz (Copenhagen: Chr. Erichsen, 1964). Engl. vers. by F.H. Garner, Part One, 1934, chapter 1. In ms.
Rosenkrantz, T., "Voutie! Slim and Slam, Wow: Inez Cavanaugh." From English version of Dus Med Jazzen, Mine Jazzmemoirer, by Timme Rosenkrantz (Copenhagen: Chr. Erichsen, 1964). Engl. vers. by F.H. Garner, Part Two, 1935-1969, chapter 2. In ms.
Smith, S. (1991). Pure at Heart. Lewes, UK: Allardyce, Barnett, Publishers.
Smith, S., & Crum, R. (2000). The Complete 1944 Rosenkrantz Apartment Transcription Duets. An album featuring duets by Stuff Smith and Robert Crum. Lewes, UK: AB Fable. Go to http://www.abar.net/ to order this album online.
Togashi, N., Matsubayashi, K. Hatta, M, et al. (2004) Blue Note Records Discography: 19391944Session Index. A Web page at http://www.jazzdisco.org/bluenote/1939-dis/. Part of the Jazz Discography Project whose home page is at http://www. jazzdisco.org/.
University of Southern Denmark. (2004). Det Danske Jazzcenter's Samlinger.
On the University of Southern Denmarks Web site at http://www.bib.sdu.dk/samlinger/jazzcenter.htm.
Odense, Denmark: University of Southern Denmark.
Note by DEMS. We did not find any Rosenkrantz article in Tucker's "The Ellington Reader" however there are a couple of interesting well written interviews by Inez Cavanaugh (Tucker p462).
Duke's Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue
It is almost twenty years since this very interesting article by Eddie Lambert was first published in Coda Magazine, issue 205, Dec85/Jan86. We are very pleased to be able to reprint it, with the permission of Stuart Broomer, editor of Coda, and Elaine Norsworthy. Since 1985 we have learned more about the background to the work, especially the events of Newport 1956, thanks to Charles Waters' researches and George Avakian's recollections. But we are aware of nothing which doesn't sit easily with what Eddie had to say in 1985. So, apart from a few remarks in square brackets which are ours, we reprint Eddie's text as he wrote it.
In Coda Eddie's article ended with an appendix listing 19 recordings of Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue which had been issued at the time of writing. An up-to-date listing would look very different, and we have not reproduced or revised it. A later list can be found in the Annual Review of Jazz Studies 1993 pp48/49 as a Summary of Interludes between Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue (20Sep37-28Jul56) which belongs to a study by Charles Waters titled: "Anatomy of a Cover: The Story of Duke Ellington's Appearance on the Cover of Time Magazine." For more recent details of issued and unissued recordings, consult the usual discographies, Nielsen, Timner 4th edition, and The New DESOR.
Eddie also prefaced his article with a lament for the failure of most writers on jazz and modern music to get to grips with the scope of Duke's achievement. While the situation has improved in the intervening years, there is still much shallow writing around, and in this respect too, his observations remain valid. This is how he began his article:
The failure of the majority of jazz critics and indeed writers dealing with twentieth century music in general to comprehend the nature and magnitude of Duke Ellington's achievements is unfortunate. Perhaps they cannot believe that a black man without academic training or an academic background can really be the outstanding figure in the music of our time. The jazz critics seem to prefer to concentrate on small segments of his vast output - the Miley years, 1940, "Such Sweet Thunder" - in order to be able to spend more time extolling the work of minor figures and thus give the illusion of broad-mindedness. It is also true that such an approach makes their task an easier one, avoiding the need to study in depth the music of a man who was a subtle and often elusive artist, as well as one who may have upset some cherished prejudices.
After this introduction, Eddie continues:
Many years ago André Hodeir speculated on why Duke Ellington's 1956 Bethlehem recording of Ko Ko was inferior to the 1940 original. Inferior it certainly is, a fast, perfunctory run-through of a score which deserves, indeed demands, a thoughtful interpretation. The strange thing is that Hodeir chose to concentrate on this one failure on "Historically Speaking The Duke," an LP of twelve tracks of which only one other contains a less than first-class Ellington performance. The LP includes the best version of the 1926 East St Louis Toodle-oo on record; another masterpiece of the big band jazz playing in the re-make of Billy Strayhorn's Midriff; and a new Strayhorn score of great originality in Upper Manhattan Medical Group. Yet the most written about item is the mediocre Ko Ko.
This is a good example of jazz writers - for Hodeir's followers in this matter are many - turning their backs on Duke Ellington's achievements. In recent years air shots have been released showing that the band had started to play Ko Ko at a faster tempo very soon after the 1940 Victor recording, that far from being a 1956 innovation this was close to the tempo at which the 1940 band had played Ko Ko most often. Yet writers continued to write about the Bethlehem as if Duke had indulged in a deliberate act of musical vandalism.
The non-studio recordings by the Ellington band from the late thirties onwards which are now available show that the performance of old repertoire by the band was a much more complex affair than it appeared at the time when M. Hodeir first accused Duke of desecrating a masterpiece.
Another Ellington recording which is a favourite target of those who wish to denigrate his achievement is the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival recording of Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue. Again simplistic thinking, insufficient knowledge and dulled sensibilities lead to the cry that here is another masterpiece despoiled. Yet any person who listens to the available versions of this piece will soon find a much more complicated pattern than such judgements suggest.
Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue, in the version heard on the first recording, consists of 10 choruses of 12 bar blues plus a 6 bar coda in its first part and 12 choruses plus a 10 bar coda in its second part. The first two choruses of Crescendo are extended by two bars each via some curiously syncopated breaks for the trumpet section. The last chorus and coda of Diminuendo are played by solo piano; otherwise the piece is ensemble throughout with brief functional contributions from (in the original recording) Cootie Williams, Harry Carney and Barney Bigard. There are no improvised solos. The tempo is medium fast in 1937, tending to increase later although the version of 9 June 1945 is fractionally slower than the original. The harmonic structure is basically twelve bar blues with characteristic Ellington variations. The piece is built on sequences of blues riffs, highly melodic cells or motifs which are scored in call and response patterns between the sections. As is so often the case in Ellington's writing the trombones have an important and independent role throughout, while in Crescendo In Blue a clarinet trio is used to provide a contrasting tone colour. The brass remain open throughout. The dynamics are exact1y as described in the title Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue. Suggestions that Ellington performed the piece in reverse sequence - that is to say with the climax in the middle - appear to be entirely erroneous.
The first recording of Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue is the September 1937 studio version which was first issued on two sides of a 10 inch 78-rpm record. As was the case on all popular music recordings of this era the dynamic range is severely restricted, a crucial factor in this piece as the title indicates. The band's performance is rather stiff, especially on [take] -2 which has only been made available in recent years and sounds like a first recording with the -2 indicating a second choice. The band's playing makes one suspect that they were not too familiar with the piece and this indeed could be one of the many Ellington creations which were presented to the band for the first time in the recording studio.
One of the most interesting questions raised by a study of Ellington's recorded output is that of how many times some of his masterpieces were actually performed in public. Andrew Homzy has made an in depth study of The Battle Of Swing and has been unable to find evidence of a single performance outside the recording studio. Basic information in this area of Ellington research is so scanty, however, that we simply do not know how often, if at all, Duke performed many of his scores outside the recording studio until the proliferation of off-the-air recordings, concert recordings, etc., which occurred in the early forties. The information conveyed by these is only partial, but the overall impression is helpful even if it is inconclusive for any particular number.
After the original Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue, the next known recording dates from the middle of 1945. Accounts exist, however, of the piece causing a near riot at a big band festival on Randall's Island in 1939 [actually May38 DEMS Bulletin 03/1-4/1]. As at Newport the audience could not contain its joy. One wonders if Duke recalled this event at Newport in 1956; certainly he was a man with a long memory.
When Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue re-appears in the discography in 1945 we learn an interesting fact about Ellington's attitude to the work. He was dissatisfied with the transition between the Diminuendo and Crescendo sections and it is unfortunate that no earlier 'live' recordings exist to show how he handled this problem in the late thirties and early forties. The 1937 version has Diminuendo In Blue on one side of the disc and Crescendo In Blue on the other, the transition being the break while the listener turns over the record; so the original has nothing to tell us on this aspect.
The 1945 versions all have a third 'movement' inserted between the two parts. This is always an already extant Ellington composition: Rocks In My Bed, Carnegie Blues and I Got It Bad were tried out until Duke settled on Transblucency as the most suitable piece. These triptych versions were given the overall title Blues Cluster and there are five recordings of this in the Duke Ellington Treasury Series plus several more from other broadcasts and concerts in 1945 and 1946. On broadcast the station announcer usually invites Duke to the microphone to introduce the Blues Cluster to the audience.
The Blues Cluster is never wholly satisfactory because none of the other compositions used sounds like an integrated part of Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue. But these mid-forties performances are first class. It should perhaps be pointed out that there can be no question of commercialism here, for in 1945 one did not extend a six minute piece to nine minutes in order to enhance its selling potential. Popularity was a three minute thing. So too oddly enough was the 1946 studio version of the work as Diminuendo In Blue was recorded for Musicraft but without Crescendo; the reasons for this curious state of affairs are now unfortunately lost. But we do know why the V-Disc recording, which is taken from the 7 July 1945 D.E.T.S. broadcast, has no interpolation: Carnegie Blues has been edited out of this particular Blues Cluster for V-Disc issue.
A version of Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue can be found on a rather poorly recorded lp of material from a Cornell University concert on 30 April 1947. This is of particular interest as here the two parts are separated by a piano solo by Ellington; after Diminuendo In Blue has ended Duke's piano moves out of tempo and introduces new thematic material. When he re-introduces the original tempo the rhythm section re-enters into Crescendo In Blue. This may have been in the nature of an experiment, for the Blues Cluster format is used again on some later performances.
When Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue next appears on record it is on an lp taken from a broadcast from Birdland on 30 June 1951. Here, five years before Newport, we find the two parts joined by a long tenor saxophone solo by Paul Gonsalves. When the 1956 Newport performance was first reported and the record issued it was pretended that the Gonsalves solo was a spontaneous event. More latterly it has been claimed that Paul played this interlude once in 1951 and that in 1956 Duke recalled the reaction of the Birdland audience. But this is not true either. In April 1953 Charles Wilford reported an Ellington concert in Pasadena for the "Melody Maker" and Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue was performed. Between the two parts Paul Gonsalves played "a seemingly unending succession of choruses that must have lasted quite five minutes and duly aroused the fans as intended." [This performance was recorded and has been issued in 1985 on the lp GNP Crescendo GNPS-9045.] In his recollections of his year in the Ellington band (1951-1952) alto saxophonist Willie Smith recalls (in Stanley Dance's "The World Of Swing") that "people used to get up in the middle of a number and start yelling. Diminuendo And Crescendo was one (such)". It was not just at Newport in 1956 that the piece had this effect on audiences; it happened at Randall's Island in 1939, at Birdland in 1951, at Pasadena in 1953 and doubtless on other occasions too.
So we arrive, chronologically, at the famous Newport 1956 version. This is an inspired performance with superb Ellington piano, a hard swinging rhythm section and fiery band work. From about halfway through Paul Gonsalves' solo (which is characteristically off mike) the crowd noises build up and partially mask the music. The success of this performance and the attendant publicity meant that for the next few years Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue became a regular standby at Ellington concerts and dances. Many recordings have survived from these events and several have been issued on lp. For those who find the excited atmosphere of Newport 1956 not to their taste these later recordings are to be preferred and they do give a better impression of how the great Ellington band of 1956-59 interpreted this score. The June 1957 Carrolltown recording and the version thought to come from Stockholm [actually from Göteborg] in November 1958 are the best, and on these both the Gonsalves solo and the band are recorded better than at Newport. The July 1956 version from Fairfield was done shortly after Newport; there are flaws in the tape during Diminuendo And Crescendo (Jerry Valburn tells me that a good quality transcription does exist) but the remarkable thing here is the Paul Gonsalves solo, 38 choruses compared with 27 at Newport and in excellent sound with Paul clearly 'on-mike.' When Cat Anderson comes down front to add his high note trumpet decorations to the final ensemble on this version he stands right in front of the recording microphone with the result that the band suddenly recedes into the background. This is a less than ideal version overall, but for the Gonsalves solo it is undoubtedly the best.
An interesting aspect of the 1957 Carrolltown recording is that the first two ensemble choruses of Crescendo In Blue are missing. This is not because they are edited out, for other (unissued) versions exist with this same cut. All such performances that I have heard come from dances and it may be that the syncopated brass breaks in these choruses 'threw' the dancers and were therefore omitted when the piece was played at a dance.
Eventually Duke seems to have tired at last of his masterpiece and in 1959 he started to alternate the full version with one consisting of Diminuendo In Blue and the Gonsalves solo only, the latter now accompanied by the band in its later stages. By the early sixties this completely replaced the full version until even Diminuendo was dropped and the tenor improvisation alone remained under the title Blow By Blow. Later still this became a three way tenor saxophone battle entitled In Triplicate, but by then the thread with the 1937 Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue was effectively broken.
For 21 years after its first recording Diminuendo And Crescendo remained in the Ellington repertoire, sometimes played only occasionally, as in the late forties, sometimes receiving performances as in 1945 and 1946 or the years after 1956. The Newport 1956 recording documents one of the occasions when the audience couldn't contain themselves and wait until the end of the number to applaud. The performance is immensely exciting and the recording, despite the audience noises and the rough edges toward the end of Crescendo In Blue, is a classic jazz history in the making. Before this concert George Wein had doubted if his Newport audience would accept Ellington, fearing that he might be thought too old-fashioned. With his Newport triumph Ellington removed an age barrier from the minds of jazz festival organisers. The event also sparked off a popular renaissance of his own orchestra which had many positive results. The Columbia LP "Ellington At Newport" was a best seller owing mainly to Diminuendo And Crescendo and following its success Duke spent six very fruitful years with the company. In these years he recorded 24 LPs of superb music [actually 231/2 and one of those pre-dates "Ellington At Newport"] most of which would probably not have been recorded had Ellington not achieved a best selling LP at the outset. Owing to lack of advocacy by jazz critics the majority of these LPs are unknown to most of the jazz audience, but they are in catalogue on French CBS (thanks to Henri Renaud) awaiting "discovery". That they exist at all is in no small way due to "Ellington At Newport" and Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue.
As Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue is a composed piece without solo improvisations which was recorded on many occasions perhaps the non-specialist reader would benefit from a few 'best buy' suggestions. Personally I regard several versions as essential: the 1937 original in order to hear the piece played by the band for which it was conceived; at least one of the D.E.T.S. versions from the mid-forties because these are by a band which played the piece frequently and knew it well; the 1956 Newport recording for its atmosphere and impact; and one of the versions from the late fifties because these have the best sound quality. Of these last perhaps the 1957 Carrolltown recording has the edge over the Swedish 1958 version, but there is not much in it. The best overall performances are from the D.E.T.S. broadcasts and there are five of these each with its own particular virtues. On the D.E.T.S. recording of 9 June 1945 the opening of Crescendo In Blue has a magic quality as the clarinet and trombones enter in hushed dialogue. The most rousing D.E.T.S. performance is that of 4 May 1946 which is topped by some exciting Cat Anderson high note trumpet, while the 13 October 1945 version has Sidney Catlett on drums, an unusual and fascinating feature. With mono recording the high note trumpet is inclined to mask the orchestral detail and for this reason my own favourite is the 7 July 1945 recording which does not have the Cat Anderson additives. This can be heard as a Blues Cluster on D.E.T.S. or with Carnegie Blues edited out on issues deriving from V-Disc.
I have yet to hear a recording of Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue which fails to add something to my knowledge of this fascinating work. Anyone believing that the 1937 version says it all has a long way to go in the appreciation of Ellington's music. As indeed does anyone who fails to respond to this most exciting and original composition certainly one of the most imaginative twelve bar blues in the history of jazz music.
DUKE ELLINGTON, JO. TRENT,
AND VARIOUS TOPICS OF RELATED INTEREST
Part One: Duke Ellington and Jo. Trent
Soon after emigrating from Washington to New York City in
1923, Duke Ellington began his long career as a published songwriter.
His earliest partner in songwriting was Joseph H. "Jo." Trent.
"The ASCAP Biographical Dictionary" (third edition, ASCAP, NY 1966) includes the following entry on p739 for Trent, Jo, author; born: Chicago, Illinois, May 21, 1892; died: Barcelona, Spain, Nov. 19, 1954. ASCAP 1925.
Education: University of Pennsylvania; City College of New York.
Professional manager, music publishing houses.
Staff writer, assistant director, film companies; also coach and tutor.
Broadway stage score: Rang Tang. Wrote for radio, television, night clubs, theatres.
Author: "Modern Adaptation of Primitive Tones."
Chief collaborators: Louis Alter, Hoagy Carmichael, Peter DeRose, Ford Dabney.
Songs: Muddy Water; My Kinda Love; I Just Roll Along, Havin' My Ups and Downs; Wake Up, Chillun, Wake Up; Because I Feel Low Down; Ploddin' Along; Maybe I'm Wrong Again; Here You Come with Love; I Want It Sweet Like You; Rhythm King.
Works: Peaceful Henry (operetta).
Trent may have been a guitarist, as musician/researcher/collector Vince Giordano reports he owns a photo of Trent holding a guitar.
Ellington, in MIMM (p70), recalled Trent as "a nice guy who was familiar with the routines of the publishing world. He liked my music and he was a good lyricist, so he took my hand and guided me around Broadway. We wrote several songs together and auditioned every day in one publisher's office or another..." The significance of the relationship for Ellington is underscored by the observation that with the exceptions of Choo Choo (I Gotta Hurry Home) and Rhapsody Jr. (copyrights deposited on 19Jul24 and 21oct26, respectively), every one of Ellington's song copyrights prior to 10Feb27 was in collaboration with Trent.
Trent was also fairly new to the publishing business. Some of his earliest copyrights (the earliest dates to 21Jun23) were collaborations with Roland C. Irving published by Fred Fisher, Inc. A photograph of R.I. [sic] Irving and J.H. Trent of the Fred Fisher "Blues" department appears on p154 of the oct23 issue of Metronome.
Blind Man's Buff, Ellington's first copyright, was written with Trent (arrangement by Geo. R. Holman), published by Fred Fisher and deposited for copyright on 24oct23. According to the 22Dec23 issue of Billboard (p54), "Duke Ellington, the pianist at the Hollywood Inn, has succeeded Roland Irving in the professional department of the Fred Fisher publishing house." Neither Trent nor Ellington appear to have been associated with Fred Fisher after 2Feb24, the date the company copyrighted I Don't KnowNobody, and Nobody Knows Me from "Runnin' Wild," with words and music by Jo. Trent and Will Donaldson.
Trent and Ellington wrote at least eight songs together in addition to Blind Man's Buff: Pretty Soft for You (Clarence Williams Music Publishing Company, copyright entry dated 1Nov24); Jig Walk from "Chocolate Kiddies" (Robbins-Engel, 3Dec25); Jim Dandy from "Chocolate Kiddies" (Robbins-Engel, 3Dec25); With You from "Chocolate Kiddies" (Robbins-Engel, 3Dec25); Love Is a Wish for You from "Chocolate Kiddies" (not copyrighted under that title); Skeedely-Um-Bum from "Chocolate Kiddies" (no copyright entry); Yam Brown (Frazier-Kent, 4May26).
(Love Is a Wish for You is known from several obscure European recordings. The Robbins-Engel sheet music for Jim Dandy--published only in Germany--contains an ad that reproduces incipits from both Love Is a Wish for You and Skeedely-Um-Bum, titles otherwise unpublished in sheet music form; see Mark Tucker's "Ellington: The Early Years," pages 132-33.)
Finally, Dry Long So, recorded 15Feb40 by Cootie Williams and His Rug Cutters, is on OKeh 5690 credited to "Mills-Trent-Ellington"; the ledger sheet specifies that this is "J. Trent." No copyright entry with this title was found, nor is the title found in ASCAP's list of Ellington's works.
Trent and Ellington wrote one show together besides "Chocolate Kiddies": According to the Baltimore Afro-American (17oct25, p4), "Jo [sic] Trent and Duke Ellington are responsible for the tunes and arrangements in Flournoy Miller's 'Backbiters' at the Regent this week. The former has gone far in musical accomplishment. He was in charge of the books of the Vincent Lopez Orchestra until that organization went abroad. He received his training principally from the distinguished Will Vodery and is also a protege of Will Marion Cook. He has also done the score for a number of other successes." (The Baltimore Afro-American of 24oct25 reported on page five: "With slight changes in personnel 'Backbiters' in its record week has undergone a process of attempted revision which changes are like a popular English beverage, just 'arf and 'arf.'") No songtitles were reported, alas.
Part Two: Blu-Disc, Up-to-Date, Emerson and BD&M
The earliest extant recordings of Duke Ellington were released
exactly 80 years ago in December 1924 on the Blu-Disc label and in
early 1925 on the Up-to-Date label. While the records are renowned
today for their historical significance, musical content and extreme
rarity, little has appeared in print about the company that produced
them or the entrepreneur behind the company, whose identity has long
been a deep mystery. Circumstantial evidence presented in part six
suggests he was Jo. Trent.
The dark maroon labels of Blu-Disc records bear the legend "THE BLU-DISC RECORD CO., NEW YORK" in gold print. No mention of a parent company or place of origin appears on Up-to-Date's labels, which show gold print on a field of dark blue. Neither label bears patent, trademark or copyright data. Blu-Disc and Up-to-Date went unmentioned during the 1920s in Billboard, Variety, Talking Machine World and Phonograph and Talking Machine Weekly. Manhattan telephone directories of the era show no listing for either BluDisc or Up-to-Date. No trademark registration is found under either name, no corporation registered under either name in New York, and no legal judgement was entered in that state against either entity. No company files have ever been reported.
Some issues on Blu-Disc, and all known issues on Up-to-Date, contain recordings from an original T2000 matrix series. Other Blu-Disc issues contain masters originally recorded for other companies which Blu-Disc apparently obtained by agreement with the Emerson Recording Laboratories, which was the main supplier of recordings for the Emerson label (using a 42000 matrix series) as well as several client labels including three groups, the Clover/Dandy/Nutmeg group, the Globe/Grey Gull/Nadsco/Radiex group (both groups were supplied masters from a 3000 matrix series), also the Bridgeport Die & Machine Co., or "BD&M" group (which also drew from the 3000 matrix series for their labels, which included Broadway, Pennington, Triangle and other labels at various times; 11000 series BD&M masters may also have been recorded by Emerson). Emerson also supplied masters for the Everybodys label. Blu-Disc issues believed pressed from masters obtained from Emerson and its client labels will be discussed in part four.
Three Blu-Disc/Up-to-Date masters (mxs. T2006, T2016 and T2020) appeared on the BD&M group of labels, two (T2016 and T2017) on the Grey Gull group of labels, three (T2016, T2020 and T2021) on Clover and six (T2006, T2015, T2016, T2017, T2020 and T2021) on Everybodys.
These master exchanges between Blu-Disc/Up-to-Date and Emerson and its client labels would seem to reflect cross-licensing agreements, a form of barter. Given that a business relationship existed between the companies, it is conceivable that Blu-Disc and Up-to-Date's masters were recorded at the Emerson Recording Laboratories at 206 Fifth Avenue in New York City. (According to an offer found on a mid-1923 vintage Emerson record sleeve, "A personal phonograph record by amateur musicians becomes a treasured gift by family and friends--the value of which vastly increases year by year. The Emerson Phonograph Company will make such records for you at comparatively small cost. Write for information.")
Part Three: Blu-Disc's Known Original Masters and Master-Pressed Issues
T2001-1 ALBERTA PRIME:
It's Gonna Be a Cold Cold Winter (So Get Another Place to Stay)
T2002-2 ALBERTA PRIME-SONNY
GREER: Parlor Social De Luxe
T2005-2 THE WASHINGTONIANS:
T2006-1 THE WASHINGTONIANS:
Blu-Disc T1002-A, Broadway 11437-A,
Triangle 11437-A, Pennington 1437-A,
Everybodys 1021 A
T2007-1 JO. TRENT AND THE D
C'NS: Deacon Jazz
T2008-1 SUNNY GREER AND THE
D C'NS: Oh How I Love My Darling
Masters T2003 and T2004 are untraced.
These masters were almost certainly recorded in November 1924, that being the month when the song Oh How I Love My Darling was introduced. (The song was published 7Nov24 and registered for copyright by Clarke and Leslie Songs, Inc. on 10Nov24. The earliest known recording of the song was made for Gennett by The Kentucky Blowers, a pseudonym for Bailey's Dixie Dudes, on 12Nov24. The Ambassadors recorded a version for Vocalion later that month. The Goofus Five made a version for OKeh on 25Nov24.)
Blu-Disc's releases appeared in December according to a Blu-Disc advertising handbill (reproduced on page seven of Record Research 122) found by researcher Mike Montgomery in Leroy Smith's personal scrapbook, located in the Azalia Hackley Collection of the Detroit Public Library. The 11" x 17" handbill, printed in dark blue ink on a light canary or yellow paper, lists the artists and songs found on Blu-Disc records 1001 through 1009 (no higher numbers are known). The handbill omits the "T" catalog number prefix which is found on the labels of Blu-Disc's records.
Blu-Disc T1002 is found in two variants, one of them stamped T2006-1 on the "A" side, the other T2006-2. Broadway 11437, Triangle 11437 and Pennington 1437 are all stamped T2006-2. All master pressings I've encountered are musically identical, show the same terminal groove configuration and are the same take regardless of marking. Everybodys 1021 is stamped T2006 (no take number is stamped) but bears the true take data "T 2006-1" as inscribed in the central area of the master wax by the engineer at the time of recording. This hand-written (not stamped) information isn't found on the other 78 r.p.m. issues, which were pressed from stampers from which the centers bearing this information had been excised (so-called "sunken label" pressings) unlike pressings on the Everybodys label, which are unmilled ("flush label") pressings.
Rainy Nights, which wasn't copyrighted until 1972, is credited variously to "Trent-Donaldson-Lopez" on Blu-Disc and to "Trent-Donaldson" on BD&M issues and Everybodys. The Donaldson in question is likely Will Donaldson, who shared songwriting credit with Jo. Trent on four copyright entries: Love Ain't Blind No More; I Don't Know Nobody; I Don't Know Nobody, and Nobody Knows Me; and Won't You Be My Sweet Man, entries dated 15Sep23, 10Dec23, 2Feb24 and 11Apr24 respectively. No copyrights from the 1920s by Trent-Lopez or Donaldson-Lopez were located. As was noted in part one above, Jo. Trent was the librarian for Vincent Lopez' orchestra, so the Lopez in question is likely Vincent Lopez. An 8Dec72 copyright entry for Rainy Nights shows "music Duke Ellington"; "Tempo Music Inc." (There is an uncanny melodic similarity between Rainy Nights and Naughty Man, an uncopyrighted piece credited to "Dixon and Redman" on record labels, which Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra recorded on three separate occasions, each for a different company, during November 1924.)
The "B" side of Blu-Disc T1002 shows the title as Choo Choo; the complete title is shown on the sheet music: Choo Choo (I Gotta Hurry Home).
One copy of Blu-Disc T1002 has been reported (Storyville 6, p26) as bearing a "Levy's" sticker, indicating that Levy's of London imported at least one copy for sale in England.
Blu-Disc T1003-A credits SUNNY GREER AND THE D C'NS, but the handbill shows Sonny Greer and The D C'ns.
Broadway 11437 is shown as a new release in that label's monthly supplement for December 1924, and the other BD&M issues of Rainy Nights (Pennington, Triangle and perhaps others) were likely pressed and shipped simultaneously. Although Baldwin 11437, Bury 11437, Puretone 11437 and The Mitchell 11437 are listed in discographies as co-releases, I've yet to see or hear of an actual copy of any of these, and can only conclude that they are either phantom issues or else phenomenally rare. I've never found any record on "Bury," and suspect the name may be a corruption of "Bwy," the abbreviation for Broadway. Other unlikely possibilities (no copies reported): Hudson 11437 and Ross Stores 11437. Reports that Rainy Nights appears on Puritan 11437 are definitely in error: by December 1924, Puritan was no longer associated with BD&M. Note that only those issues of Rainy Nights that I've been able to confirm appear in the list of original Blu-Disc masters above. (The labels of the issues on Broadway, Pennington and Everybodys are reproduced on the covers of Jerry Valburn's "Directory of Duke Ellington's Recordings.")
Part Four: Blu-Disc Issues Believed Pressed from Licensed Masters
Six issues on Blu-Disc, numbers T1001, T1004, T1005, T1006,
T1008 and T1009, are believed to have been pressed from masters
licensed from BD&M through Emerson. I have seen only one of these
six, T1004. By coincidence, the titles released on all six issues
were also released at about the same time on the BD&M labels, and
it would seem likely that the same masters appeared on both labels.
(Caveat: two sides by the Frisco Syncopators, Choo Choo on
Triangle 11431 and Everybodys 1015, and Oh How I Love My
Darling on Triangle 11441, aren't pressed from Blu-Disc's
masters.) For this section, I am indebted to James Parten, who
consulted research files generously provided many years ago by the
late Max Vreede.
Blu-Disc's handbill lists Blu-Disc 1001 as by "Leroy Smith's Dance Orchestra" (but elsewhere mentions "Leroy Smith & His Dance Orch."). Master numbers for this issue are discographically unreported, and no copies of the actual record are known to me. Titles are Morning (Won't You Ever Come 'Round) and Stop and Listen. Instrumental versions of these same titles also appear coupled on Broadway 11442 and Triangle 11442, released January 1925 as by Michigan Melody Makers. These issues are known by reference to monthly supplements, no copy being reported by Vreede or known to me. Again, master numbers are discographically unreported. Given the close relationship between Blu-Disc and Emerson, it would seem likely that the Blu-Disc and Broadway/Triangle versions are the same, likewise Morning (Won't You Ever Come 'Round) as heard on Clover 1524 (copy held here), pressed from Emerson mx. 3505-1 and credited to the Clover Dance Orchestra. This version--possibly also issued on Emerson 10818 as mx. 42769 by Emerson Dance Orchestra--features three strings and bears little aural resemblance to Leroy Smith's Dance Orchestra. However, a 4" by 2" card found in Leroy Smith's scrapbook (and reproduced in Record Research 122) contains the following text in blue ink on a blue field (punctuation added): "Let's Take the Band Home. The tunes you have just danced to played by LeRoy Smith's Dance Orchestra on the Blu-Disc Records. Get them at the Cigar Counter." This suggests the Blu-Disc versions of the titles are actually by Smith; which orchestra is actually on Blu-Disc T1001 will only be established if and when a copy surfaces.
Blu-Disc T1004 is labelled as by DUKE ELLINGTON'S ORCHESTRA, although it wasn't actually played by them at all. Contents and wax stampings duplicate those found on Broadway/Embassy/Ross Stores/Triangle 11423 and Pennington 1423, which were released in November 1924 as by Chic Winters Orchestra: Nashville Nightingale (BD&M mx. 11024-B2 actually by Chic Winters)/Rose Marie (Emerson mx. 42733-2 by the Bar Harbor Society Orchestra). (See DEMS 79/4p1 for a reproduction of the label of Blu-Disc T1004-A.)
Blu-Disc's handbill tells us that record 1005 was by "The Blu-Disc Orch.," but no copies are known to me. Master numbers for this issue are discographically unreported. These same titles are also found on Triangle/The Mitchell 11425 (released November 1924), which suggests that the masters are the same even though the artist's credits are different: California Ramblers: I Want to Be Happy (Paramount mx. 1881-3)/Steiber's Orchestra: Tea for Two (Paramount mx. 121-2 [1400 shown on label]).
The handbill lists record 1006 as another by "The Blu-Disc Orch.," but no copies are known to me. Master numbers are discographically unreported. The same titles also appeared on BD&M issues, but coupled differently. June Night was released circa August 1924 on Triangle 11391 as by Golden Gate Orchestra (Regal mx. 5536 by Nathan Glantz); It Had to Be You was released circa July 1924 on Carnival/The Mitchell/Puritan/Triangle 11383 and Pennington 1383 as by Schubert's Metropolitan Orchestra (Domino mx. 10084-1 by New Orleans Jazz Band).
The handbill lists Blu-Disc 1008 as by Irving Post. The same coupling was released in November 1924 on Broadway/Hudson/ Triangle 11428: Follow the Swallow (Emerson mx. 3465-2)/Put Away a Little Ray of Golden Sunshine (For a Rainy Day) (Emerson mx. 3466-2) by Irving Post [recte Franklyn Baur] and the Carolinians.
The handbill notes that Blu-Disc 1009 couples Oh! You Can't Fool an Old Hoss Fly by Arthur Hall with How Do You Do, a vocal duet by Arthur Hall and John Ryan. These same titles also appear on Triangle 11438 and Pennington 1438, December 1924 releases that contain Oh! You Can't Fool an Old Hoss Fly by Arthur Hall acc. by May Singh Breen (ukulele) (BD&M mx. 11028) and How Do You Do by Arthur Hall-John Ryan (Independent Recording Lab mx. 27013).
I've inspected copies of the following original Blu-Discs: T1002 (copy held here and stamped T2006-1 on side "A"); T1002 (copy held in the Valburn collection at the Library of Congress and stamped T2006-2 on side "A"); T1003 (copy held in Ken Swerilas collection, El Cajon, California); T1004 (Valburn collection, LoC); and T1007 (Valburn collection, LoC). Blu-Disc T1003 is pressed on dark blue shellac that appears black except under a strong light; the others are pressed on black shellac. Carl Kendziora (Record Changer, Feb52) reported two copies of T1007, one, owned by Murray Schwartz of New York, which he had not seen, and the other which he described: "The label is dark red with black lettering and the surface is dark blue, appearing black except under a strong light." The only copy of T1007 I've seen is pressed on black shellac, and like every other Blu-Disc single I've seen, has gold lettering. (A 10" 78 r.p.m. facsimile edition of Blu-Disc T1003 pressed on vinyl from dubbed stampers was made available by Ken Swerilas circa 1963.)
Blu-Disc's handbill concludes with an allusion to recordings that would appear on the Up-to-Date label instead (along with recordings definitely by Leroy Smith's Dance Orchestra):
Selections by Paul Robeson Star "All God Chillen
Fred Weaver "Clef Club" Favorite
Part Five: Up-to-Date's Known Masters and Master-Pressed Issues
T2013-B2 PAUL ROBESON
ASSISTED BY WILLIE JONES:
Since You Went Away
T2014-B2 FRED WEAVER
ASSISTED BY LEROY TIBBS:
I'll Take Her Back (If She Wants to Come Back)
(Leslie and Monaco)
T2015-B1 FRED WEAVER
ASSISTED BY LEROY TIBBS:
When My Sugar Walks down the Street (All the Birdies Go Tweet Tweet)
Everybodys 1006 A
T2015-B2 FRED WEAVER
ASSISTED BY LEROY TIBBS:
When My Sugar Walks down the Street (All the Birdies Go Tweet Tweet)
T2016-B2 LEROY SMITH'S
Indian Love Call
Up-to-Date 2016-A, Nadsco 1258 (a), Clover 1539,
Pennington 1453, Everybodys 1027 A
T2017-B1 = T2017-B3 LEROY
SMITH'S DANCE ORCHESTRA:
Globe/Grey Gull/Nadsco/Radiex 1283 (b), Everybodys 1020
T2017-2 LEROY SMITH'S
BRISTOL WITH DUKE ELLINGTON AND OTTO HARDWICK:
How Come You Do Me Like You Do
SMITH'S DANCE ORCHESTRA:
Up-to-Date 2017-A, Clover 1540, Pennington 1455,
Everybodys 1027 B
SMITH'S DANCE ORCHESTRA:
June Brought the Roses
Up-to-Date 2017-B, Clover 1545, Everybodys 1017
Masters T2009 to T2012 and T2019 are untraced.
The performances released on Up-to-Date were likely recorded in December 1924, that being the date of the Blu-Disc handbill that alludes to selections by Paul Robeson and Fred Weaver, and the month in which When My Sugar Walks Down the Street was introduced, the earliest known recording of the song being that by the Wolverine Orchestra for Gennett on 5Dec24. McKenzie's Candy Kids followed on 12Dec24 with a version issued on Vocalion. The sheet music was published 31Dec24. The piece was registered for copyright by Jack Mills Music on 16Jan25. (Brian Rust's "Jazz Records 1897-1942" shows a version by the "Regent Dance Orchestra" recorded "c. November, 1924" for Paramount but issued only on English Edison Bell Winner. Max Vreede's research files identify the performance as one actually recorded by Nathan Glantz. The Paramount master number, supplied by Vreede but not by Rust, is 2075, which dates the recording to c. April, 1925.)
Only four issues on Up-to-Date are known; all are pressed on russet-hued shellac. Copies of Up-to-Date 2016, 2018 and 2019 are held here. Details of Up-to-Date 2017 are known from a photo of the "A" side's label found in Kurt Nauck's "American Records Label Image Encyclopedia," the whereabouts of the disc itself, once owned by the late Billy Thomas of Montague, Michigan, being unknown to me at present. The composer's credit for the reverse is known from other versions and copyright entries.
The label of Up-to-Date 2016-A identifies the master as T2016-1, but T2016-B2 is stamped in the run-out area. Reference to a copy of Everybodys 1027, which additionally bears the engineer's handwritten notation 2016B-2 in the central area of the "A" side, confirms the identity of the take.
The label of Up-to-Date 2017-A identifies the master as T2020; stamped take data, if any, isn't known to me. The label of Everybodys 1027 B shows the master to be 2020. This side bears no engineer-inscribed or stamped master/take identification.
The label of Up-to-Date 2019-A identifies the master as T2018, but bears 2018-2 (without a "T" prefix) stamped in the run-out.
Pennington 1453 and 1455, released February 1925, as by Michigan Melody Makers. Nadsco 1258 (a), as by Cosmopolitan Dance Orchestra, is stamped with Emerson control number 3545-2 2 [sic]. Composers are shown as Henderson-Friml-Harbach-Stothart-Hammerstein. Globe/Grey Gull/Nadsco/Radiex 1283 (b), as by Metropolitan Dance Players, omits composer's credit. (I don't know if the version of Indian Love Call issued on Emerson 10825 and Bell 316 as by Marlborough Dance Orchestra is Up-to-Date mx. T2016 or Federal mx. 2-2531.)
Harlem's Araby was copyrighted as In Harlem's Araby. Globe shows T2017-B1, while Nadsco shows T2017-B3; the true take's identity should be evident by reference to engineer-inscribed markings on Everybodys 1020, which I've never seen.
"The Everybodys Record Inc." marketed their "popular priced" Everybodys record from headquarters at 747 Southern Boulevard, [Brooklyn] New York (per Variety, 23Dec25, p39). A total of 85 issues were released on Everybodys, all in 1925.
Part Six: Jo. Trent--The Man Behind Blu-Disc and Up-to-Date?
Jo. Trent is heard on three Blu-Disc sides. He speaks on
masters T2001 and T2002 (he was identified by Ellington and Greer to
Brooks Kerr; on mx. T2002, Trent delivers the final line only: "Take
your fingers out of my salad, what's the matter with you?"). He
speaks and sings on mx. T2007. Trent received label credit as
co-writer of five of 14 (i.e., 35.7%) of the known titles originally
recorded for Blu-Disc and Up-to-Date: It's Gonna Be a Cold Cold
Winter (So Get Another Place to Stay) (Trent-Grainger); Parlor
Social De Luxe (Trent-Ellington); Rainy Nights
(Trent-Donaldson-Lopez); Deacon Jazz (Trent-Ellington) and
Harlem's Araby (Trent-Waller). (He copyrighted only two of
these five: It's Gonna Be a Cold Cold Winter and In
Given how few copies of Blu-Disc and Up-to-Date records are known today, distribution must have been limited and sales poor. The company could well have been a one-person operation. Female entrepreneurs being non-existent in the record industry in the 1920s, that person would be a man. If he was of the same ethnic ancestry as the artists he recorded, he was African American. He probably lived in New York, he certainly knew Duke Ellington, he prefixed his Blu-Disc and Up-to-Date master recordings with the letter "T" and he elected to record a song co-written by Jo. Trent 35.7% of the time (which is a noteworthy statistic considering that at the end of 1924 Trent's lifetime total of song copyrights numbered just 45). On Blu-Disc and Up-to-Date's labels, Trent's name was invariably credited ahead of any songwriting collaborator. Trent was allowed to sing on one Blu-Disc master, Deacon Jazz, a questionable decision considering his overtly bombastic style and difficulty staying on pitch. As Mark Tucker remarked ("Ellington: The Early Years," p173): "Trent's vocal performance shows more enthusiasm than technique. He sounds like a composer belting out his own tune, and indeed, the record primarily served to plug the song. Trent talks through the verse and sings the chorus only once. The rest of the record is given over to instrumental solos based on the chorus." Like Trent, who neglected to copyright three of his four songs that appeared on Blu-Disc, the man behind Blu-Disc and Up-to-Date would seem to have been lax about basic business practices, at least judging by his failure to trademark the names of either of his labels.
Duke Ellington remembered Trent as a good lyricist and a nice guy. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Trent was also the entrepreneur behind Blu-Disc and Up-to-Date records, enduring cultural legacies of the Harlem Renaissance.
Part Seven: Jo. Trent, Grey Gull Staff Composer
Here is a survey of Trent's annual output of copyrighted
songs, using data obtained from the Catalog[s] of Copyright Entries:
1923: 15; 1924: 30; 1925: 42; 1926: 42; 1927: 27; 1928: 8; 1929: 2;
1930: 3; 1931: 6; 1932: 3; 1933: 2; 1934: 5; 1935: 1; 1936: 0; 1937:
0; (later years not surveyed). If one plots a graph with Trent's
annual total of copyrights on the vertical axis and the year of
copyright on the horizontal, a bell curve results with a dramatic
spike in 1925 and 1926. 38 of the 42 songs that Trent deposited for
copyright in 1925, and 39 of his 42 songs from 1926 were "published"
by Grey Gull Records Inc. of South Boston, one of Emerson's client
labels. Grey Gull wasn't a publisher of sheet music per se but rather
a producer of cheap records pressed on inferior shellac and released
on Grey Gull and associated labels. "A" sides usually carried hits of
the day; "B" sides often contained titles that Grey Gull published
thus saving the company from having to pay royalties to an outside
publisher. Trent's 77 songs for Grey Gull accounted for 45% of the
company's total publishing copyrights in 1925-26. (Trent didn't place
songs with Grey Gull in any other years.)
Almost all--if not all--of the 77 Trent/Grey Gull copyrights credit Trent alone, which is curious because the great majority of his song copyrights from other years show words by Trent and music by someone else. Melodies credited to Trent are rare in all years except 1925 and 1926. Trent's 77 Grey Gull song copyrights were entered between 24Apr25 and 9Nov26, a period when jazz lore has it that his songwriting collaborators Duke Ellington and Thomas "Fats" Waller were selling numerous melodies outright and cheaply and when Ellington's output of song copyrights was slight by comparison to his prodigious output in later years. The notion follows that remarkable discoveries might result from an analysis of the 77 Trent/Grey Gull copyright manuscripts--on deposit at the Library of Congress--by someone able to differentiate the musical notation styles of Ellington, Waller and Trent.
(The possibility exists that the manuscripts are in the handwriting of one or more professional copyists, but that would seem unlikely given budgetary limitations inherent in working for Grey Gull, an infamously cheap company.)
Here are the titles of 38 songs claimed by Trent (without collaborators) and published by Grey Gull in 1925: Always Got the Blues; Charleston Rhythm; Cotton Blossom Time; Crazy 'bout Love; Day Dreams; Dinah; Easy to Please; Everything I Do Means I Love You; Happiness Will Follow Sorrow; Happy Days Will Come; I Am Broke; I Know You Know; I'm in Love; I'm Just Dance Crazy; I Think of You; Lindey; Lonely; Lovable Ladies; Love Is Just a Dream of You; Marry Me; Midnight Moon; Nobody But You; Nothing to Do but Be Blue; Only Two; Peaches; (The) Rabbit Hop (a title performed in "Chocolate Kiddies", see Storyville 62, p47); Sadie Salome; Strut Your Jones; 'Taint No Use; Tell Your Gal; There'll Come a Time; Wait for Me; When My Sweetie Smiles; When Rosebuds Bloom in June; When Someone Steals Your Sweetie Away; When You're Far Away; Zulu Sue.
Here are the titles of 39 songs claimed by Trent (most if not all without collaborators) and published by Grey Gull in 1926: Angel Baby; Aunt Lucy; Auntie Lucy; Beyond the Blue; Charleston Mame; Come to Papa; Dancing All the Way to Philadelphia; Every Evening; Floating Down the Nile; Fool Me Nice; Give Us a Hug; Having Lots of Fun; I'm Having Lots of Fun; I'm Music Mad; In Araby; In Your Eyes; Jazzin' Around; Just a Girl Like You; Lady Lou; Lasses; Learning the Charleston; Love and Sunshine; Love Has Won; Love Me all the Time; Love Me Forever; Loving You, that's All; Music Mad; My Own Blues; Pullin' Thru; Red Mississippi Moon; Someone Waits for Me; Starving for Your Love; Sweetheart Why Are You Mad; Talking in My Sleep; Tell Me Who's Your Sweetie; Toodle-oo; Try a Little Love; Whispering Winds; Wishing and Waiting.
Those with Grey Gull 78s of these titles may wish to relisten to them while paying extra close attention to the pianists encountered.
Part Eight: Jo. Trent and Fats Waller
Trent and Waller were frequent collaborators in the mid-1920s, a fact evidenced by 17 song copyrights claimed by both jointly: What Can Be Wrong with Me (copyright entry dated 4Apr24); Hello Atlanta Town (with Clarence Williams; 4Apr24); Strollin' Roun' the Town (4Apr24); That's My Man (11Apr24); In Harlem (28Apr24); My Man Cures the Blues (28Apr24); In the Springtime (28Apr24); My Baby's Coming Back Home (28Apr24); I'm Goin' Right Along (28Apr24); Mandy, I'm Just Wild about You (with Clarence Williams; 28Apr24); In My Baby's Eyes (10Jun24); Please Take Me Back (7Jul24); In Harlem's Araby (24Jul24); (That) Florida Low Down (with J. Fred Coots; 6Apr26); Georgia Bo-Bo (23Apr26); Whiteman Stomp (Whiteman is credited as a co-composer on the label of Fletcher Henderson's Columbia 1059-D, but not on the 14Sep27 copyright entry or Paul Whiteman's Victor 21119); and Wringin' and Twistin' (with Frank Trumbauer; 20oct27).
Part Nine: Jo. Trent and Irving Mills
Irving Mills' Gotham Music Service Inc. copyrighted three
songs by Jo. Trent, all in 1927.
Make Me Love You, with words and music by Porter Grainger and Jo. Trent, was deposited for copyright on 15Mar27. The song was recorded by Miss Evelyn Preer with Duke Ellington's Orchestra on 10Jan27; the title was never issued and the masters were destroyed; test pressings are unknown.
Goose Pimples, by Jo. Trent and Fletcher Henderson, was deposited for copyright on 12Jul27. The song was never recorded by Ellington, but it was recorded by Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra on 24oct27. (An even more famous version was waxed by Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang on 25oct27.)
You Live on In Memory, to which Jo. Trent wrote both words and music, was deposited for copyright on 30Dec27. The song was recorded 8Nov27 by Marguerite Lee with Duke Ellington Trio; the title was scheduled for release on the A side of Vocalion 1150, but the issue was cancelled prior to release and the master destroyed; sample pressings are unknown.
As was noted under part one above, Dry Long So, recorded 15Feb40 by Cootie Williams and His Rug Cutters, is on OKeh 5690 credited to "Mills-Trent-Ellington"; the ledger sheet specifies that this is "J. Trent." No copyright entry with this title was found, nor is the title found in ASCAP's list of Ellington's works.
Part Ten: Irving Mills, Duke Ellington and Blu-Disc/Up-to-Date
"The band had been at the Kentucky Club about three and a half
years when I first met Irving Mills," Ellington wrote in Swing
Magazine (Jun40, p11; reprinted on page 231-32 of "Hear Me
Talkin' to You"). "We were playing the St. Louis Blues, and he
asked what it was. When I told him, he said it sure sounded nothing
like it. So maybe that gave him ideas. He talked to me about making
records. Naturally I agreed, and we got together four originals."
Ellington's Vocalion session of 29Nov26 is the earliest documented
association of Ellington and Mills. The ledger sheet for the date
shows that the four songs recorded that date were all composed or
co-composed by Ellington and copyrighted either by Gotham Music Co.
or Jack Mills, Inc.
A September 1933 Dallas News story about Ellington (found in a press kit on Ellington published in 1933 by Mills Artists) dates the meeting of Ellington and Mills to summer 1926. In down beat (5Nov52, p6; reprinted on pages 233-34 of "Hear Me Talkin' to You"), Mills told Charles Emgee: "The first time I heard Duke Ellington was at the Kentucky Club in New York, where he had come in with the five piece band he had been appearing with in Washington D.C. I had gone to the Kentucky Club that night with the late Sime Silverman of Variety who, like most newspaper men, liked to go out for an evening of relaxation after putting his paper 'to bed' for another deadline. I think the number that caught my attention was Black and Tan Fantasy..."
According to Mills (in notes to Columbia set C3L-27),...."I first met him [Ellington] in 1926....when he was leading a small group at the Kentucky Club, at Broadway and 49th Street. I remember the occasion well: I was with the late Sime Silverman, the founder of Variety, who was out for an evening's relaxation after putting the paper to rest. Though the initial impact of Duke as a musician and person was unforgettable, one detail escapes me: I am still not quite sure which tune it was that particularly caught my attention. I've seen in printed that it was his arrangement of St. Louis Blues that attracted me, though as I recall it today, I believe it was Duke's own Black and Tan Fantasy."
Mills' discovery of Ellington at the Club Kentucky cannot, however, be dated to the summer of 1926, when the club was closed and the Ellington band went on a tour of New England. The club reopened 24Sep26 with Ellington. The last non-Mills Ellington recording session of the 1920s was held 14oct26 in accompaniment of Alberta Jones. The last non-Mills Ellington copyright, Rhapsody Jr. (published by Robbins), was entered on 21oct26. The historic first Vocalion session, with which Mills was provably associated, took place 29Nov26. The first Ellington song that Mills published was deposited for copyright on 10Feb27. The beginning of the Ellington-Mills relationship may thus be dated to the fall of 1926. (The certificate of incorporation of Duke Ellington, Inc., a document on file in the municipal archives of the City of New York, was signed 23Dec29 and recorded 15Jan30 with the New York County Clerk's office.)
In MIMM, however (p72), Ellington recalled meeting Mills for the first time in 1923: "My initial encounter with Irving Mills occurred during my first six months in New York. He was known as the last resort for getting some money by those who had been peddling songs all day without success....The procedure....was to sell those blues outright to Irving Mills for fifteen or twenty dollars. It was very simple--no hassle. Just give him the lead sheet, sign the outright release, pick up some money, and go." (Ellington didn't mention any titles.)
Jack Mills Music published one song, When My Sugar Walks Down the Street, that appears in Blu-Disc/Up-to-Date's "T" master series. The song's co-authors were Irving Mills, Jimmy McHugh and Gene Austin. (Vocalist Irving Mills and pianist Jimmy HcHugh together comprised the "The Hotsy Totsy Boys," who performed on radio and on 14May25 recorded Everything Is Hotsy-Totsy Now for Gennett.) Considering Irving Mills' career-long effort to place Mills-published songs onto wax, the observation that only one of 14, or 7.14%, of the titles known to have been recorded for Blu-Disc or Up-to-Date originated from the Mills publishing catalog would seem to rule out the theory, proposed by Mark Tucker ("Ellington: The Early Years," p196), that Mills was behind the labels.
Acknowledgements: Mike Montgomery, the late Max Vreede, James
Parten, Brooks Kerr,
Larry Gushee, Bill Egan, Ken Steiner, the late Mark Tucker, Jerry Valburn,
Brad Kay and Vince Giordano.
Steven Lasker, Nov04.**
How many compositions did Ellington really make?
DUKE ELLINGTON's Production as a Composer
That Duke Ellingtons oeuvre is not a closed matter for jazz
research was something I discovered when I wrote my final paper at
the university with the late Erik Wiedemann as supervisor. One day
Wiedemann introduced me to the survey of this matter he had started
in 1984. When in 1999 we reached the centennial of the birth of
Ellington, Wiedemann had still not finished the project but in the
meantime he had published two articles on the matter, the latest from
Here is in chronological order a selection of assessments of the size of Ellingtons production, as matters were in 1999:
Source Number Year
Jan Bruér 2000 1975
André Hodeir 6000 1980
Erik Wiedemann 1200-1300 1986
André Hodeir and Gunther Schuller 2000 1988
Ken Rattenbury 1012 1990
Erik Wiedemann 1500 1991
One notices that the first assessment was proposed by Jan Bruér as early as in 1975, that is shortly after the death of Duke Ellington, - two researchers, namely André Hodeir and Wiedemann have changed their assessment, and the assessments are very different. Sometimes it is one result, sometimes another and these are figures not suited to be presented to an audience generally interested in Ellington. The figures create uncertainty about the quality of the research, but below I shall present some results of my own survey and also try to explain why these widely diverging assessments can nevertheless be said to be all talking about the same thing, if a couple are ignored.
As expected new literature emerged at the Centennial and with it has come important new information with regard to Ellingtons production as a composer. Id like to mention three publications: Firstly we saw an update of the Italian discography on Ellington, now with the title The New DESOR, and compiled by Massagli and Volonté. Wiedemann has assessed that the first edition contained information on more than 15,000 recordings by far the largest jazz discography. Secondly Van de Leur published a survey on Billy Strayhorn as a composer. The authors of the Strayhorn literature have more than anyone else questioned the composer credits of the Ellingtonian music, and with Van de Leurs book we came closer to a clarification of the co-operation between Strayhorn and Ellington. Thirdly John Franceschina published a survey on Duke Ellington's music for the theatre the first of its kind in which the considerable effort in this field by the Duke was examined. The book also contained a large contribution to a list of works.
To these works come weighty contributions from Ellington himself in Music Is My Mistress, in the discographies by Willie E. Timner and Ole Nielsen and the filmography by Klaus Stratemann. Contributions are to be found in many other works, for instance in Wiedemanns articles, which also include a discussion of the problems associated with a listing of works. During my survey of a selection of sources still more methodological problems of compilation emerged, however, and with these we begin to suspect a possible explanation of the uneven and divergent results of the earlier research.
Wiedemann also stressed the many inconsistencies in the literature, and it is necessary to apply a source critical apparatus to this literature. This has not been the least important part of this project, and since the sources are quite comprehensive, the database of the project contains more than 35,000 records. The survey of the sources has resulted in a model for the structure of Duke's entire production and a new assessment of the size of the oeuvre, but before discussing this Id like to mention a couple of methodological problems: The list in Music Is My Mistress contains more the 900 titles with composer credits, but we should not take for granted that Ellington is the author of all these compositions. The Strayhorn research has corrected some of the credits by deleting Ellington. Certain members of the Ellington orchestra claimed that their contribution to the music was not duly credited in all cases. Ellington is not always the cause of this, since members of the orchestra considered musical ideas as commodities they could sell to the leader of the band.
There are also pieces credited to Mercer Ellington, where Duke has had an audible influence and rightfully should have been credited. Finally the Strayhorn research has also added Ellington as a composer of certain pieces he has not been connected to previously. Since there is some uncertainty about the provenance, the survey has been directed towards music where Ellington in the sources has been credited as a composer.
The sources divide the material into pieces and works, but before we reach that point, we meet the orthographic problem:
Well The Well
Rumpus In Richmond A Rumpus In Richmond
The six titles of the table indicate six different pieces in Ellingtons production and show how the plural element and articles may suggest a musical difference. If they do so one has to evaluate in each case whether or not a musical difference is there, but there are examples of exchanges of each of the pairs.
There are also examples of how the Ellington organization, the record industry and the authors of the literature between them have created an almost chaotic collection of titles. This is for instance the case with the twelve variants of Brown-Skin Gal In The Calico Gown:
Brown-Skin Gal In The Calico Gown
Brown-Skin Gal (In The Calico Gown), The
Brown-Skin Gal In The Calico Gown, The
Brown Skin Gal In The Calico Gown
Brown-Skin Gal With The Calico Gown
Brown Skin Gal In A Calico Dress
Brown Skin Girl In A Calico Dress
Brown-Skinned Gal In The Calico Gown
Brownskin Gal In The Calico Dress, The
Brownskin Gal In The Calico Dress
Brownskin Gal, The
Beside the various spellings the literature has an almost impenetrable pattern for the chronology of The Brownskin Gal.
In numerous cases the same thematic material has more than one title, and together with the varying spellings this means that several titles may be connected to one and the same theme. How quickly new titles could be invented is shown by the following sixteen variant titles for a single item of thematic material:
Grace Valse Hero To Zero Polly #1 Polly Lead
Haupe Low Key Lightly Polly A Train Polly Mix
Haupê Polly Polly Did Polly Pri me
Haupé Polly's Theme Polly Did Continued
A principle by Ellington is that a new title does not necessarily mean a new composition and the authors of the literature have concentrated an impressive musical effort in finding all the titles of a thematic material, and with regard to a couple of discographies to collecting these titles in sets. Title sets is a crucial notion in discussing the structure of Ellingtons output and without this notion is it difficult to get a comprehensive idea of the oeuvre. The Brown-Skin Gal and Midnight Indigo indicate two title sets of the output. Goof is a third such title set, irrespective of the fact that there is just one single title in this set.
There are quite a number of inconsistencies in the literature with regard to the compound of the title set, and it is in some cases like going through a labyrinth to reach the goal. Here is an excerpt of a complex set of sources to the title set John Sanders Blues. In this table the index titles in the sources have been underlined and below these are the alternate titles. The table shows the inconsistencies in both cases:
Wiedemann (1986) W. E. Timner The New DESOR
John Sanders' Blues John Sanders' Blues Commercial Time
March 19th Blues Californio Mello John Sanders' Blues
The sources also disagree on the next title set, but apart from this the set (see below) has the character of a model. This title set is very often indexed as C Jam Blues. On the basis of the dating I have used C Blues as the index title. Such titles belong to the main group I, which also marks the inner core of Ellingtons production. Then follow three subsequent title variants, all of them recorded, and two of them copyrighted and listed in Music Is My Mistress. Main group II marks the outer core of the production. In main group III we find a number of dated and undated variants of the titles of the two other main groups. These can be placed on the periphery of the production, and with this we have a model for a rough division of the entire source material of the Ellingtonian oeuvre.
Title Composed Recorded Copyright Main Group
C Blues 1941 26Sep41 I
Jam Session Nov41 1942
C-Jam Blues 21Jan42 II
Duke' Place 24Apr58 1957
"C" Blues 26Sep41
"C" Jam Blues, The 21Jan42
"C" Jam Blues III
C Jam Blues
In this example we see an original composition and its various variants. It is well-known that Ellington has also made contrafacts of his own pieces as well as pieces by other composers, and such pieces are just like the derivatives in the literature considered original compositions by Ellington, and as such parts of the inner core of the production.
The pieces denote the largest part of the Ellington oeuvre, but as I have already touched on, there is another group of compositions which we may name 'works'. Among the Ellingtonian compositions titles like Free As A Bird, My People and Paris Blues are used for pieces and also for works, and so we need to distinguish between these two categories. With few exceptions this differentiation is also used in the literature beginning with Ellingtons autobiography. Apparently his notion of a work was closely related to the so-called extended works. In any case compositions, which in Music Is My Mistress by way of typography are marked as works, have a title and are divided into several thematic parts, which for their part are as a rule provided with titles which are used when the part is being performed or recorded independently. When the former condition is not met, it is not a work. It is for instance rather remarkable that the programme music composition A Tone Parallel To Harlem, which consists of different parts and lasts more than thirteen minutes on the recording, has been deemed to be a piece. Works are also title sets and are in the model treated along the same guidelines as pieces.
When works have been included, a number of additional results appear among the total sources now available, and with these we also arrive at a new assessment of Ellingtons production as a composer:
Duke Ellington's Production
Inner core 1694
Outer core 538
The total core 2232
The Periphery 951
Total body 3183
Works and pieces (inner core) have been totalled up to 1694 titles, which is equivalent to the number of title sets of the corpus. The outer core adds 538 additional thematic variants of the first group, bringing the total core up to 2232 titles. In addition the corpus contains another 951 titles making a total of 3183 titles. We can now return to the earlier attempts at assessment of the oeuvre, this time arranged by number:
Source Number Year
Ken Rattenbury 1012 1990
Erik Wiedemann 1200-1300 1986
Erik Wiedemann 1500 1991
Jørgen Mathiasen 1700 2004
Jan Bruér 2000 1975
André Hodeir and Gunther Schuller 2000 1988
André Hodeir 6000 1980
Beginning with Ken Rattenbury, he could have made a better assessment on the foundation he chose, but apart from this the foundation itself is incomplete. At the other extreme we have Hodeirs first assessment of 6,000, a figure, which is still unaccounted for. It is regrettable that this figure is to be found in The New Grove, while Hodeir's and Schuller's revised estimate is to be found in Jazz Grove. Wiedemanns survey aimed as does mine at the inner core of the oeuvre, and I can confirm the accuracy of his assessment, when taking into consideration the sources available in 1991. The result of my survey, 1,700 title sets, is based on additional sources, which have added new title sets. The most frequent assessment is still the number 2,000. (It was for instance repeated in the latest edition of Politikens Jazzleksikon, 2003.) There is reason to believe that this assessment all along has denoted the total core summed up according to the principles I have outlined. In any case the number was up to Ellingtons centennial consistent with the sources, but it has lost its value after the appearance of updated or new sources.
The sources also make some contributions to the issue of composer credits. Among other things they show that Ellington had many musical collaborators. In about 450 cases he is credited together with others. In more than 1900 cases, however, he is credited solely. The business ability of Ellington the bandleader is well known, and when Ellington expressed regret that his careers as a bandleader and as a composer were being confused, he was contributing to the confusion himself.
Billy Strayhorn was by far the most important collaborator. Impresario Irving Mills is among those relatively frequently credited too, but his musical contribution to the oeuvre is disputed. Apart from that there is reason to mention the orchestra members Johnny Hodges, Barney Bigard and Mercer Ellington. The two last-mentioned figure approximately with the same frequency as Peter Tchaikovsky does in connection with Ellington and Strayhorns arrangement of the Nutcracker-suite, which just goes to show how dominating a position Ellington had as the composer for the orchestra.
As previously mentioned there have been disputes with regard to some composer credits, - approximately 130 titles of the material. Certain members of the orchestra were credited on early versions of Mood Indigo and Sophisticated Lady but their names disappeared from later versions. In some cases a composer credit in one source is a lyricist credit in another, which for instance is the case of Irving Mills and Sophisticated Lady. The number marks exclusively that there are inconsistencies in approximately 130 cases and each case should be treated independently.
The largest part of the oeuvre was written for the orchestra, while only a small number of title sets are connected with movies and television. John Franceschinas survey made it clear, however, that an important part of Ellingtons production as a composer approximately 30% of all title sets is related to his efforts, largely frustrated, as a composer for the stage, but this often disappears from the overall picture of Ellington. Interest is concentrated on the music for the orchestra.
The literature on the oeuvre contains three types of dating, as the example "C Blues" above shows. These are datings of the time of composition, datings connected to a piece being performed or recorded, and copyright datings. Distributed on the three levels 95% of all title sets are dated and this gives us an outline, albeit an incomplete one, of the chronology of the overall corpus. It is well-known that Ellington was ambivalent with regard to the label jazz and he is frequently quoted for the remark "We stopped using the word jazz in 1943". The survey has a correction to this as it shows that not only did Ellington use the word jazz in his titles after 1943, but that he did so more frequently than he had done before 1943.
Finally I would like to stress the importance of working source critically with the Ellington literature. In this respect it is in this case particularly necessary to consult more than one source for each question, and to do this on the basis of a well-founded understanding of a particular source's worth to Ellington research generally, and a grasp of the mutual relation of the various sources. To read the literature on the simple assumption that it reflects accumulated knowledge is to invite trouble. There are errors, shortcomings and uncertainties in all major sources on Duke Ellington of course not always to the same extent and the source critical aspect has so far been given insufficient priority in the Ellington literature.
Notes by Sjef Hoefsmit:
All three titles in the left column under Wiedemann (1986) are different from each other. I have not been able to trace the origin of my wrong statement that John Sanders' Blues belongs to this list of three titles. I know however how it happened that I confused March 19th Blues with Total Jazz.
I wrote in DEMS Bulletin 82/4-1: March 19th Blues has been found to be the same as Total Jazz (same as "Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald", part 4).
I wrote in DEMS 85/3-10: 19Mar56, March 19th Blues is the same as Total Jazz, also as John Sanders Blues, also as "Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald", part 4.
Stanley Dance wrote in the liner notes of the Private Collection Volume 1: March 19th Blues was also known in its later lives as Slamar in D Flat and 22 Cent Stomp.
I wrote in DEMS 88/2-1: I disagree with Stanley Dance. March 19th Blues is the same as Total Jazz and "Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald", part 4. What we know as Slamar in D Flat is the same as Rondelet. 22 Cent Stomp (from the recent Mercer CD "Digital Duke") is the same as E and D Blues. The same error is in the Mercer CD liner notes, written by Leonard Feather.
Stanley Dance wrote in DEMS 88/4-4: Certainly, Slamar in D Flat was not related to March 19th Blues, but 22 Cent Stomp is.
I wrote in the same Bulletin: 22 Cent Stomp and March 19th Blues are indeed the same. Another title for the same piece is E and D Blues and not Total Jazz. (Total Jazz is the last part, part 4, of "Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald" on side B of LP #4 of the Verve release "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Ellington Songbook". E and D Blues is an independent piece that concludes this side B. When checking March 19th Blues I made the mistake of putting the needle on the wrong track.
The first time I saw the title John Sander's [sic] Blues was on the LP Jazz Guild 1002, a Canadian release of 1976. It was recorded on 11Jun55.
The first time I saw the title Commercial Time was on the LP Up-to-Date 2009, a Jerry Valburn release of 1986. It was recorded on 17May55. This Capitol recording was re-released in the Mosaic 5 CD set of 1995 under the same title, Commercial Time. The same title was again used for the release of the 9Sep57 recording on the French LP CBS 88653, released in 1984.
The first time I saw the title Californio Mello was on Volume 6 of the Private Collection, released in 1989. It was recorded on 5Mar58. The same recording had been released in 1981 on the Italian LP Unique Jazz 34 as "Untitled".
In order to place different recordings of the same composition together in the index, the New DESOR chooses the title Commercial Time to be listed in the index as the main title and chooses the title John Sanders' Blues as a subtitle. The title Californio Mello was considered a wrong title. Consequently the title John Sanders' Blues appeared between parentheses in the 11Jun55 session; and in notes under the listings of Unique Jazz 34 and Private Collection Volume 6, the "wrong" titles "Untitled" and Californio Mello, have been mentioned respectively.
Commercial Time was composed and arranged by Rick Henderson.
The conclusion is this. The three titles in the first group under Wiedemann (1986) (John Sanders' Blues; March 19th Blues and Total Jazz) have nothing to do with each other. The two titles mentioned by Willie Timner (John Sanders' Blues and Californio Mello) and the two titles mentioned in the New DESOR (Commercial Time and John Sanders' Blues) are all four identical.
These wrong identifications have also been discussed in an article by Nick Perkins in Blue Light (at that time titled DESUK Newsletter) of Apr95 on pages 17 and 18; in a contribution by Art Pilkington, bless him, in the Jul95 edition on page 11; in a review of the Private Collection Volume 2 by Dave Cavalier on page 13 of the same edition; in an article by me in the Oct95 issue on page 13.