A Legendary Hurricane | Exploring Old New York

Photo from The Hurricane Restaurant in 1943

Duke Ellington and his orchestra spent many weeks playing nightly at the Hurricane in 1943, 1944 and after it was reopened as The New Zanzibar in 1945. A great number of broadcasts from the restaurant have survived and many have been issued on LP’s and CD’s. There are still many such recordings that were never issued commercially, but circulating among collectors, and we therefor would like to present some of these to the DESS-members. Sometimes the sound quality is not very good, but one realizes this could be the reason that they were never released commercially. We know however that some of these items could be interesting to listen to for some of our members.

The Hurricane was a venue that provided music for dancing, and the repertoire was especially suited for this, hence real jazz numbers were not so abundant, but vocal numbers in the romantic vein were common. During this period Ellington had a number of female singers in addition to boy singer Al Hibbler.

Below, you’ll find a program of approximately 25 minutes of music, coming from the Hurricane.

The first radio date we present is an MBS broadcast from April 7, 1943, (DESOR4305). We can listen to five more or less incomplete numbers:

*My Gal Sal with Lawrence Brown as soloist, *You’ll Never Know (n.c.) with Betty Roché singing, Way Low with solos by Carney, Stewart, Brown and Chauncey Houghton, *Hayfoot, Strawfoot, again with Betty Roché and also solos by Webster and Stewart and a few bars of Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.

The second date we present is also from an MBS bc in April, (DESOR 4306) exact date not known. The follwing numbers can be heard:

*What’s The Good Word, Mr Bluebird  with Betty Roché and Rex Stewart, *It Can’t Be Wrong which is a feature for Lawrence Brown, Harlem Air Shaft with Joe Nanton and Rex Stewart and a few bars of  Don’t Get Around….to round off the broadcast.

The third date is also by MBS from April 1943 (DESOR 4307), consisting of the following tunes:

*It Can’t Be Wrong with Lawrence Brown *It’s Been So Long with Johnny Hodges and Perdido with Ray Nance and Rex Stewart as soloists.

The fourth part is a fine interpretation of *Cabin In The Sky from the film with the same name, by Ben Webster (DESOR 4311). This comes from a broadcast from April 24, 1943.

Seven of the above songs (*) were only played in the first months of 1943, and after this they disappeared from the reportoire, never to be recorded again. What they had in common, was that neither Duke nor Billy Strayhorn  were credited with the compositions. This is an interesting part with these recordings from the Hurricane, to be able to hear the Ellington band interpret popular tunes of these times.

As indicated above, there is a fair amount of material of this type available. We will publish more of it even if the sound quality is low, if we consider it worthwhile from a collector’s point of view.

By duke00

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