Congress Hotel 9 May 1936 Congress Hotel 26 May 1936
It is a well-known fact that Duke Ellington and his orchestra very early had the opportunity to take part in broadcasts from the Cotton Club in New York City, and that this was an important step in launching and popularizing the band to a broader audience.
However, those broadcasts seem not available for listening, since they in all probability were not recorded or have been lost.
The earliest broadcasts, which are still available (according to NDESOR), are some glimpses from the Congress Hotel in Chicago, where Duke and his men were playing for the main part of May and early June in 1936, some 80 years ago.
The radio station WMAQ did half-hour broadcasts with Duke and the orchestra every night from from May 8 till June 4.
The first broadcast, which is available for listening, to is from 9 May 1936 and consists of Stompy Jones, In A Sentimental Mood, My Old Flame (fragments), Cotton and Harlem Speaks.
The second, from 26 May, consists of East St. Louis Toodle-Oo, Stompy Jones, Clarinet Lament and Showboat Shuffle.
The orchestra personell is the normal of this time, without any surprises, and we can hear good solo-performances by among others, Ivie Anderson, Johnny Hodges and Barney Bigard.
The sound quality is unfortunately not that good, but most likely relatively few of the members of DESS have heard these recordings before but now they (and others) will have the opportunity to listen to them.
From the end of the 1930’s, broadcast recordings seem to become more abundant, especially from the Cotton Club 1937-38. Later on, during the recording ban 1942-44, the main sources for recorded music by Ellington are recorded broadcasts. We will return to this topic later.
More information about Ellington’s Congress Hotel activities can be found at: http://tdwaw.ellingtonweb.ca/TDWAW.html#Yr1936