The latest issue of Blue Light is with its 52 pages full of good reading thanks to the hard and creative work of the editor Gareth Evans.
As in the previous issue, the major contributions come from Roger Boyes, Fred Glueckstein and Gareth Himself.
Roger Boyes continues his series on Ellington in the Forties. This time he writes about Ellington’s 1948 Carnegie Hall concert, which took place on 13 November 1948. A complete recording of the concert was issued on a double CD album by Vintage Jazz Classics (VJC) in 1991, and with the help of the two CDs and its liner notes by Andrew Homzy, Boyes goes through the concert song by song and gives his own comments intertwined with those of Homzy. He also make comparisons to the concert at Cornell University a month later with almost the same program. This concert is also available on CD.
A very valuable element of the article is Boyes’ comments on how long the music of the concert stayed in Ellington’s repertoire. He classifies 17 of the 31 pieces of the concert as “rarities”, that is melodies that disappeared from the Ellington repertoire rather soon after the concert. Boyes’ personal favourites from the concert are Lady of the Lavender Mist, She Wouldn’t Be Moved and Lush Life. Out of the many premieres at the concert, he singles out The Tattooed Bride and writes rather extensively about it.
Fred Glueckstein also writes about a Carnegie Hall Concert but the first one in January 1943. It is a rather descriptive article but full of information. It covers among other things the origins of the 1943 concert, foremost Black, Brown and Beige, the National Ellington Week, the plaque Ellington received at the concert and the reviews of the concert. Of course, Glueckstein also writes about the program of the concert. He lists the official program, which each person who attended the concert received, and gives the changes to it in the actual performance.
Another contribution by Glueckstein in the new Blue Light issue is a continuation of the article about Qeenie Pie that started in the previous issue. This time he writes with a lot of details about the performances of Queenie Pie, particularly its World Premiere in Philadelphia 18 September 1986, the following performance in October at the Eisenhower Theatre in Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C. and the failed efforts to bring it to Broadway. The next article of Qeenie Pier will be about the staging of the opera at “opera theatres and university musical departments around the country”.
Gareth Evans‘ eight page article “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em” is about how Ellington connected to rock ‘n’ roll music in the 1960’s and early 1970’s and it is one that breaks a lot of new ground.
The title of the article is also the name of a Gerry Mulligan album from 1965 with rock ‘n’ roll covers.
“If we were to collect all of the titles that were recorded with the band and which showed the influence of rock ‘n roll music we would probably have enough of material for a double lp”, says Evans, and he does his outmost in his article to give us examples of such titles.
Was Ellington’s performance at the Newport Jazz Festival 7 October 1956 with Paul Gonsalves his first rock and roll performance? Evans seems to be a little bit ambivalent about this but to a fifteen year old boy jumping around in the family living room together with his friends while listening to the newly issued Philips LP with the concert, it certainly was.
For Evans, “Duke’s first remediated attempt at recording a rock and roll number came a year later when he recorded Cop Out and Rock City Rock”. Perhaps but not everyone might agree.
His most interesting and convincing examples are those at the end of the article like the Beatle songs All My Lovin’ and I Want to Hold Your Hand, the rocky Blue Pepper in Far East Suite Suite, Didgeridoo in Afro Eurasian Eclipse with its late “exotic” manners , Chico Cuadradino in Latin American Suite, Wild Big Davis’ rhythm and blues like Luv and the soul-influenced One More Time For The People.
At the end of his rich and interesting article Evans says: “In the final analysis, it must be concluded that Duke maintained a general interest in rock ‘n’ roll but in a similar way to his relationship with bop, always kept it somewhat at an arm’s length: he neither beat or joined ’em.”
Besides these three articles, the new issue has a very substantial section with reviews of the many concerts with Ellington music in England, review of bokks and quite a lot of shorter articles.
Get it and read it!