We'll wrap up April with two consecutive posts about two legends of American music, beginning with the obvious choice for today.
Of course it's also Willie Nelson's birthday today, but I went with the round number. Willie will live to be 186, so there's ample time.
And what a perfectly logical coincidence, that Willie and Duke Ellington have the same birthday. That's a lotta formative music for one April 29th.
Why, that's nearly the entire history of America, in just two composers, if you think about it.
Anyway Duke woulda been 120 today, if humans lived that long. Really Duke will live on, in sound and pure innovative influence, forever just as long as there are still people.
Possibly the central musical figure of the 20th Century, there really isn't any quantifying what he means to the continuum since he came on the scene in the 1920s.
Duke is the difference. Between 19th Century music and that of the 20th, certainly. Between jazz as juke joint Saturday night dance music and serious composition and arrangement. Between the sweep and scope of classical music and the energy and elegance of Jazz.
Yes we will always love him madly, and to celebrate his big day today we have what else? but the last known recording of him, from just a few months before he passed.
His last official recording was made just two days before this, as he wrapped up what would turn out to be his final European tour with stops in the UK.
It's possible that this is the soundtrack to a video or television thing, but I'm not certain. What is known is that this is the very last time one of Duke's concerts was ever broadcast on the BBC while he was still alive.
"Big Bands At the Dorchester Hotel"
Lime Grove Studios
01 Take the "A" Train intro
02 Rockin’ In Rhythm
03 Creole Love Call
04 Satin Doll
05 I Can’t Get Started
06 New York, New York
07 I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good
08 hits medley incl. It Don't Mean a Thing and Sophisticated Lady
09 Soul Soothing Beach (Togo Brava Suite: first movement)
10 Chinoiserie (Chinese Dance)
11 Lotus Blossom
Total time: 47:31
Duke Ellington - piano
Harry Carney, Russell Procope, Harold Minerve, Percy Marion & Harold Ashby - reeds & flutes
Money Johnson, Mercer Ellington, Johnny Coles & Barrie Lee Hall - trumpets
Vince Prudente, Art Baron & Chuck Connors - trombones
Joe Benjamin - bass
Quentin “Rocky” White - drums
Anita Moore - vocals on Track 06
sounds like an off-air FM master reel of an original BBC broadcast
209 MB FLAC/April 2019 archive link
Regardless of where it comes from, this is a helluva tape and Harry Carney, especially, goes fairly well nuts.
I'm tryna come back with one more piece of taffy before we hit May, so look out for the Candyman tomorrow.
Today, though, try and get next to the king of all -- Sir Duke -- on his big birth-o-versary here... I wish those days could come on back once more.--J.
4.29.1899 - 5.24.1974