Casa Manana

In last week’s article on Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge”, Walter van de Leur was quoted as saying in his book ” Something to Live For, The Music of Billy Strayhorn”, that “an unissued broadcast from the Casa Manana, Culver City” is “the only known full recording of Chelsea Bridge by the Ellington Orchestra.”

That was said before Joe Medjuck spotted that a full version was also played in the broadcast from Radio City in New York on September 8, 1945.

For DESS members who would like to compare the two “full” versions, the broadcast from Casa Mañana in Culver City, CA on Feb. 20, 1941 is the second “goodie” for November together with three songs from a broadcast made at  Trianon Ballroom, Southgate,CA, in June 1941. They are available for listening and downloading in the “Current Goodies” section.

Chelsea Bridge (Casa Mañana, Culver City, Feb 20, 1941)

Our program starts with four surviving numbers from an MBS broadcast of Feb. 20 1941. The opening number is Are You Stickin’, which was obviously written for Barney Bigard to show his technical brilliance on his clarinet. Although the announcer nicknames him “Speedometer”, Barney plays this number in a relatively slow tempo.

The main reason for presenting this program is to make it possible for our members to get access to both the recordings of Chelsea Bridge which Walter van de Leur was referring to in his book about Billy Strayhorn. (The first one was presented last week). Most people associate this composition with three people: Duke, Billy Strayhorn and Ben Webster. Webster made his interpretation stick, but it must be said that also Paul Gonsalves, later on, made a lasting impression when playing this tune.

Another Strayhorn original comes next: Love Like This Can’t Last, sung by Ivie Anderson. This number was shortlived, there are only three known recordings of it, all from 1940.

The last number we play from this broadcast is Moon Mist, composed by Duk’e son Mercer. This is in many ways an interesting performance; it is the first recording of this song,  Ben Webster plays a long solo and we hear Wallace Jones playing muted trumpet and it continues into Take The A Train as a sign-off. Later on, Ray Nance would play a violin solo and it would be used as a radio sign-off theme.

As a bonus for DESS’ members, three numbers from a broadcast at Trianon Ballroom in Southgate, California in June 1941 are also included in this month’s “goodie”.

Again a rare performance: It’s Square, But It Rocks (by Freddie Slack and Carl Sigman) has only been recorded on two occasions (within a week or two) by Duke Ellington and his orchestra. It is sung by Ivie Anderson. The next tune, In A Mellow Tone, in contrast, has become a well-known jazz standard. Johnny Hodges and Ray Nance are the soloists.

In 1940 Duke had often used Sepia Panorama as his theme song but at the time of the Casa Mañana engagement, in early 1941, Take The A Train had been added to the band’s book. The first surviving live recording using this song as the theme comes from the Casa Mañana dance date on Feb. 16, the day after the first famous Victor recording was made The first ever recording was made exactly one month before that for Standard Transciptions.



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