Jazz at 100 Hour 9: Up in Harlem – Duke Ellington

In previous programs in this series, we have listened to Stride pianists and jazz orchestras from New York. In this hour, we’ll return to Harlem to listen to maybe the most important band leader in jazz history and one of the most significant composers of the music – Duke Ellington.

We are joined in this hour by John D’earth – trumpet player, composer, recording artist, and member of the performance faculty of the McIntyre School of Music of the University of Virginia.

“Calling Ellington a bandleader is like calling Bach an organist.” – Gary Giddens

 

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra

A contemporary of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington moved from Washington, DC to New York at roughly the same time and established himself as a recording artist. By 1927, he was established in residency at the Cotton Club, broadcasting nationally on the radio and building a repertoire of jazz compositions custom-made for the specific players in the band.

“In crafting pieces with and for [trumpeter Bubber] Miley, Ellington ignored Don Redman’s method of contrasting reeds and brasses, and combined his instruments to create odd voicings, thereby creating a new sound in American music. As presented in his first major works, ‘East St. Louis Toodle-Oo’ (Ellington’s version of a ragtime dance), ‘Black and Tan Fantasy’, and two vividly different approaches to the blues, ‘The Blues I Love to Sing’ and ’Creole Love Call’ in which he used wordless singing as he would an instrument), the overall effect was mysterious, audacious, and carnal.” – Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux

East St. Louis Toddle-Oo. Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
(Louis Metcalf-tp, Bubber Miley-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, Rudy Jackson-cl/ts, Otto Hardwick-as/cl/ss/bs, Harry Carney-bs/cl/ss/as, Fred Guy-g, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d). 12/19/1927. (The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz).
A collaboration of Miley and Ellington, the composition is a series of mostly solo themes over a muted background.
Black and Tan Fantasy. The Washingtonians
(Louis Metcalf-tp, Bubber Miley-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, possibly Prince Robinson-cl/ts, possibly Edgar Sampson-as/cl, Otto Hardwick-as/cl/ss/bs/bsx, Duke Ellington-p, Fred Guy-bj, Mack Shaw-b, Sonny Greer-d). 4/7/1927. (The Norton Jazz Recordings)
“Black and Tan” refers to the small mixed-race clubs that passed for a truly open society in the 1920s. At this time, Ellington was playing in the Cotton Club (one of eleven nightclubs in Harlem that catered to high-class whites) with an all-black band to an all-white audience. To reflect the paucity of social progress represented by the meager black and tan market, Ellington labels this a fantasy. Musically he contrasts Bubber Miley’s King Oliver-influenced 12 bar blues with a 16-bar ragtime influenced melody.

Duke Ellington and Adelaide Hall.
In the 1920’s Ellington was as likely to compose wordless parts for his contributing vocalists as to collaborate with lyricists. “I was standing in the wings behind the piano when Duke first played [‘Creole Love Call’]. I started humming along with the band. He stopped the number and came over to me and said, ‘That’s just what I was looking for. Can you do it again?’ I said, ‘I can’t, because I don’t know what I was doing.’ He begged me to try. Anyway, I did, and sang this counter melody, and he was delighted and said ‘Addie, you’re going to record this with the band.’ A couple of days later I did”. – Adelaide Hall

The Blues I Love to Sing. Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
(Bubber Miley-tp, Louis Metcalf-tp, Joe ”Tricky Sam“ Nanton-tb, Otto Hardwick-ss/as/bar, Harry Carney-cl/as/bs, Rudy Jackson-cl/ts, Duke Ellington-p, Fred Guy-bj, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d, Adelaide Hall-voc). 10/26/1927.
Creole Love Call. Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
(Bubber Miley-tp, Louis Metcalf-tp, Joe ”Tricky Sam“ Nanton-tb, Otto Hardwick-ss/as/bar, Harry Carney-cl/as/bs, Rudy Jackson-cl/ts, Duke Ellington-p, Fred Guy-bj, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d, Adelaide Hall-voc). 10/26/1927.

Blue Bubbles. Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
(Louis Metcalf-tp, Bubber Miley-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, Rudy Jackson-cl/ts, Otto Hardwick-as/cl/ss/bs, Harry Carney-bs/cl/ss/as, Fred Guy-g, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d). 12/19/1927.
Take It Easy. Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
(Louis Metcalf-tp, Bubber Miley-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, Barney Bigard-cl/ts, Otto Hardwich-as/cl/ss/bs/bsx, Harry Carney-bs/cl/ss/as, Duke Ellington, Fred Guy-g, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d). 1/19/1928.

Ellington and Stride.
“Two pieces show especially well Ellington’s ability to deploy stride in orchestral writing. ‘Jubilee Stomp’ based on James P. Johnson’s ‘Victory Rag,’ echoes Ellington’s own stride solo and Miley’s break in the striding rhythms that ground the ensemble. ‘Black Beauty,’ the first portrait in what grew to be a gallery honoring African American performers, is dedicated to Florence Mills and captures her fleeting stardom in the most enchantingly beautiful melody ever conceived in the stride idiom.” – Gary Giddens

Jubilee Stomp. Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
(Louis Metcalf-tp, Bubber Miley-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, Barney Bigard-cl/ts, Otto Hardwich-as/cl/ss/bs/bsx, Harry Carney-bs/cl/ss/as, Duke Ellington, Fred Guy-g, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d). 1/19/1928.
Black Beauty. The Washingtonians
(Louis Metcalf-tp, Arthur Whetsal-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, Barney Bigard-cl/ts, Otto Hardwick-as/cl/ss/bs/bsx, Harry Carney-bs/cl/ss/as, Duke Ellington-p, Fred Guy-bj, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d). 3/21/1928.

Tishomingo Blues. Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
(Louis Metcalf-tp, Bubber Miley-tp, Arthur Whetsal-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, Barney Bigard-cl/ts, Johnny Hodges-as/cl/ss, Harry Carney-bs/cl/ss/as, Duke Ellington-p, Fred Guy-bj, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d). 6/5/1928.
Enter Johnny Hodges who anchored the Ellington saxophone section until 1970, except four years in the 1950s. “A devout romantic with a sound that cuts like a knife yet spreads like butter, Hodges was a stunningly lyrical player who required few notes to make a powerful and lasting impression in any musical situation.” – Gary Giddens
The Mooche. Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
(Bubber Miley-tp, Arthur Whetsel-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, Barney Bigard-cl/ts, Johnny Hodges-as/ss/cl, Harry Carney-bs/cl/as, Duke Ellington, Lonnie Johnson-g, Fred Guy-g, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d, Baby Cox-voc). 10/1/1928. (The Jazz Singers)
In ‘The Mooche’, Ellington presents “…a musical short story of a night creature of Harlem. Out of the minor-key mix of mysterioso horns and rhythm emerges Miss Baby Cox, one of the night song’s characters. She scats her solo against a plucked banjo and bass, in a growly voice that echoes the ominous ‘jungle’ cries of the solo horns. Here Ellington at once satisfies his (white) Cotton Club audience’s yearning for escape into the primitive ‘African’ fantasies and creates characters that mock this audience’s limited racial and aesthetic scope.” – Robert O’Meally in notes for The Jazz Singers

Misty Mornin’. Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
(Freddy Jenkins-tp, Bubber Miley-tp, Arthur Whetsel-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, Barney Bigard-cl/ts, Johnny Hodges-as/ss/cl, Harry Carney-bs/cl/as, Duke Ellington-p, Lonnie Johnson-g, Fred Guy-g, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d). 11/22/1928.
Tiger Rag, Part 1. The Jungle Band
(Freddy Jenkins-tp, Bubber Miley-tp, Arthur Whetsel-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, Barney Bigard-cl/ts, Johnny Hodges-as/ss/cl, Harry Carney-bs/cl/as, Duke Ellington-p, Fred Guy-g, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d). 1/8/1929.
Tiger Rag, Part 2. The Jungle Band
(Freddy Jenkins-tp, Bubber Miley-tp, Arthur Whetsel-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, Barney Bigard-cl/ts, Johnny Hodges-as/ss/cl, Harry Carney-bs/cl/as, Duke Ellington-p, Fred Guy-g, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d). 1/8/1929.
First recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and with authorship claimed by Jelly Roll Morton, Ellington recorded this standard a dozen years later. Over the course of two parts, most of the players solo, with emphasis, appropriately on New Orleans clarinetist Barney Bigard. Strong ensemble parts show the powerful development of the music over the decade.

Mood Indigo. The Jungle Band
(Freddy Jenkins-tp, Cootie Williams-tp, Arthur Whetsel-tp, Joe Nanton-tb, Juan Tizol-tb, Barney Bigard-cl/ts, Johnny Hodges-as/ss/cl, Harry Carney-bs/cl/as, Duke Ellington, Fred Guy-bj, Wellman Braud-b, Sonny Greer-d). 12/10/1930. (The Norton Jazz Collection)
Mood Indigo is a textbook case of Ellington’s novel voicings. The first chorus features a trio of straight-muted trumpet, plunger-muted trombone and clarinet, with the clarinet in the bottom position!

In the next hour of Jazz at 100, we will listen to the pioneering large ensembles of the late 1920s and early 1930s that developed the aural architecture of the big band era. We’ll hear from the jazz orchestras of Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Benny Carter and Jimmie Lunceford.

Recordings.
The Norton Jazz Recordings – 4 Compact Discs for use with JAZZ by Scott DeVeaux and Gary Giddens. W.W. Norton 933796
The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz. Columbia P6 11891
The Jazz Singers – A Smithsonian Collection. Sony Music RD 113
Duke Ellington: 1927 – 1928. Classics 542
Duke Ellington: 1928. Classics 550
Duke Ellington: 1928 – 1929. Classics 559
Duke Ellington – Early Ellington 1927-1934. Bluebird 6852

Resources.
Cohen, Harvey G. 2010. Duke Ellington’s America. Chicago, IL. University of Chicago Press.
Kirchner, Bill (editor). 2000. The Oxford Companion To Jazz. New York, NY. The Oxford University Press.
“Duke Ellington” by Mark Tucker.
Giddens, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 5. New York in the 1920s
Chapter 8. Count Basie and Duke Ellington
Giddens, Gary. 1998. Visions of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 12. Duke Ellington (Part 1: The Poker Game)
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Duke Ellington: 1927 – 1928
Duke Ellington: 1928
Duke Ellington: 1928 – 1929
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
Chapter 8. Duke Ellington, The Okeh Ellington (1927-1930)
Teachout, Terry. 2013. Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington. New York. Gotham Books.

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