After almost two years of preparations, the official opening of the Ellington ’94 conference in Stockholm  took place on May 20, 1994. It was the 12th one in the series of Study Group Conferences.

The conference was opened by Göran Wallén, Chairman of the organizing committee and of The Duke Ellington Swedish Society, and Alice Babs.


Video: Sjef Hoefsmit

The night before, the participants had got acquinted at a “Get-Together-Party” at the Scandic Hotel, where the conference took place, and had time to read the 40 pages program provided to all.

Program 94 (pdf downloadable)

Ads about the conference had been in the Stockholm newspapers well in advance thanks to a sponsorship by Dagens Nyheter, the leading Stockholm newspaper

Göran Wallén has kindly provided the DESS website with the story how “Stockholm ’94” came about. Below is a summary in English. The full version in Swedish is available in the Ellington Archive.

Göran Wallén

“The 10th Ellington Study Group Conference took place in Copenhagen on May 19-22, 1992. We were some 30 Ellington-interested participants from Sweden. During the first night of the conference, Arne Domnérus and Bengt Hallberg played at the Montmartre Jazz Club together with Clark Terry, NHOP and Peter Danemo.

During the conference, I talked to Leif ”Smoke Rings” Anderson – the well-known radio voice and jazz journalist with a particular interest in Ellington. I had known him for several years and I told him that I was thinking about doing a similar conference in Sweden.

I asked him if this could be done and his direct answer was “It can’t be done; it is too much work; we will not manage.” I replied: “But if the Danes could do it, why not the Swedes? Shall we arrange the conference in Malmö (where Leif lived)”, I asked? “No, it is not possible”, he said, “Then we have to do it in Stockholm” I replied, and that was how it came to be done. But Leif was not convinced and very skeptical.

Back in Stockholm, I brought together Rolf Dahlgren, Olle Lindholm and Lennart Landström, who had been with me in Copenhagen, to discuss the idea. They were all very positive and we shared thoughts on how to make it happen.

The 1993 Ellington Conference was already scheduled to take place in New York so we decided to go for 1994, which would give us time to organize the conference and find the funding needed.

After the meeting, I told Benny Åslund about our intentions and he was very positive about having a conference in Stockholm.

In August 1993, I went to New York together with Alice Babs and a couple of others to participate in the 11th Ellington Study Group Conference (August 11-15, 1993). There Alice and I presented the program for Ellington ’94 in Stockholm the year thereafter and we got very positive responses.

In the end, more than 250 delegates from 22 countries came to Stockholm.

By that time a lot had happened in terms of getting the conference in place.

Organizations and government agencies in the field of arts and music like the Swedish Radio, the Swedish Performing Rights Society (STIM), the Swedish Arts Council, the Swedish National Concert Institute and many others had started to realize what was going to happen and had come on board. They worked with us to make the conference a large-scale jazz event in Stockholm with concerts and club performances all over the city.

We had also secured funding for the conference thanks to support from local and regional authorities and sponsorships from different kinds of industrial companies, a bank (Nordbanken/Nordea), an insurance company (Wasa) and SAS, which provided tickets for our American guest musicians. DagensNyheter provided us with generous space for ads in the newspaper.

After the New York announcement of the conference all the practical work accelerated. The initial group of four had expanded to 12 people, each responsible for a particular set of tasks. It got some good help from Åke Edfeldt, who had agreed to be the presenter during the three days and also from Carl Gunnar Jansson, Lars Westin and Jan Bruér from the Swedish Jazz Federation. Early in the project, Alice Babs and Leif Anderson had accepted to be conferenciers at the concerts. I was very happy when Leif in one of our conversations said: “I was wrong regarding an Ellington conference in Sweden. It looks like it will be a success.”

The illustrator and author Olle Snismarck designed the logo for the conference and for DESS.

Scandic Crown Hotel (today Hilton Stockholm Slussen Hotel) was chosen as the main conference site and the National Concert Institute took care of printing the extensive 40 page program.

So when the date for the opening of the conference approached, everything was well prepared. More than 250 participants from 22 countries had registered and the concerts in the Stockholm Concert Hall and the Swedish Radio Concert Hall (Berwaldhallen) were sold out.

At 9 o’clock on May 20, 1994 I had the pleasure to open the conference together with Alice Babs and then followed three days full of presentations, concerts and other events. A nice surprise was the spontaneous concert that Alice Babs and Kenny Burrell provided at the luncheon at the Stockholm Town Hall.

The conference ended with a gala dinner with dancing to the music of Kustbandet and one of the conference participants, Austin Lawrence, who had toured with Luis Russell in the 1940s added to the entertainment by stepping up to the microphone to sing Call of the Freaks with Kustbandet.

At the end of the conference, we heard many nice words from the participants. Among them was Klaus Stratemann, who called it an “extraordinary conference”.

The conference was also a financial success. It had a surplus of almost 300.000 Swedish Crowns, which provided the base for setting up a Swedish Duke Ellington society.

All Swedish participants in the conference were invited to a founding meeting on May 22, 1994 at the Castle Hotel and the new organization was given the name “The Duke Ellington Swedish Society” which was later changed to “Duke Ellington Society of Sweden”.

So this is the story about the conference. Ten years later another Ellington Study Group Conference took place in Stockholm but that is another story.”

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