The 8th Ellington Study Group conference took place in Ottawa on May 17-20, 1990. It was the second one organized in Canada. The first one there was in Toronto in 1986 (5th).
Lois K. Moody was the general co-ordinator of the conference and she had an effective organizing committee at her side. Andrew Homzy was one of the members of the committee and responsible for the musical program of the conference.
The conference was well attended and it had the biggest number of participants at an Ellington conference so far.
The conference opened on May 18 following an evening reception on May 17. Ann Ledgister – co-ordinator of Ellington ’89 – passed the Eddie Lambert gavel to Lois Moody, who welcomed the participants and presented the members of the organizing committee.
Many stalwarts of the Ellington conferences were of course in Ottawa like Jerry Valburn, Sjef Hoefsmit, Jack Towers, Alice Babs, Patricia Willard and others. They gave presentations, led panels and shared generously their knowledge on Ellington.
But there was also those who were fairly new to the conferences. One of them was Lee Farley, who flew in from Germany where he lived at that time.
“One feature of the conference I remember is how incredibly well organized it was. Everything occurred when it was supposed to, and no one seemed flustered about anything.
The conference orchestra was well rehearsed, well led (by Andrew Homzy) and well received. Their performance with the group of Ellington alumni and Kenny Burrell was a standout that was scheduled for a later national broadcast on CBC radio. I particularly remember Alice Babs in a duet with Kenny Burrell, although I don’t remember at which of the conference concerts that occurred.”
The musical program was no doubt a strong point of the conference. Andrew Homzy Jazz Orchestra from Montreal played two concerts – one in the evening of the first day and one as the last event of the conference. It regaled the audience with music from some Ellington suites, some more “pop” tunes , some seldom-heard Ellington and Sacred Concert music. Alice Babs shared the stage with the orchestra in both concerts and got an enthusiastic response to her performance.
The second night belonged to a small group of Ellingtonians – Harold Ashby, Wild Bill Davis, John Lamb, Butch Ballard – to which Kenny Burrell was added. It was apparently a concert “wild and wonderful”.
There were a total of 18 presentations and three panels.
One group of the presentations was about key figures in the Ellington band like Sonny Greer, Ray Nance, Tricky Sam Nanton and Harry Carney. Another group shared memories of meetings with the Duke. A third group covered specific events in Ellington’s life like Ellington’s tour of Europe in 1939 or when he got on the cover of Time Magazine. A Tone Parallel to Harlem was subject of a very substantial presentation and A Drum Is A Woman was shown on the screen. There was also a set of presentation related to the work done to unveil and consolidate information about Ellington’s career and whereabouts.
The three panels were about the Ellington collection at the Smithsonian, the Sacred Music Concerts and playing in the Ellington orchestra.
All this will be available on the DESS’ website in one form of the other during the next three weeks.