The new issue of the DESS Bulletin arrived in the mailbox of DESS members at the end of last week. Bo Haufman, its editor and also the chairman of DESS, has put together another interesting and informative issue.
As Bo says in his editorial, it is an issue with several themes.
The first one is Buster Cooper, who also is the cover boy this time.
In an four page article, Bo Haufman tells about his career inside and outside the Ellington orchestra.
The focus is of course Cooper’s seven years with the Ellington Orchestra from 1962 to 1969 but it is very good that Bo gives us his full story so we can better understand who he was.
An important period in Cooper’s life was when he went to New York in 1950 and enrolled in the Hartnett Scool of Music. His studies there made him a good music reader and this competence defined in many ways his career. He was an ensemble man and not much of a soloist.
This was his role in the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, which he joined in 1953 and with which he visited Sweden in September that year. On the recording from the concert in Stockholm, he is only heard in the ensembles. The trombone solo in Summertime is most likely played by Jimmy Cleveland.
Cooper joined the Ellington Orchestra on 17 June 1962. Her had rejected two earlier offers to be a member of the band but finally accepted the third one.
“Ellington certainly did not engage him as a trombone soloist but most probably because he was a good reader. In his book on Ellington’s trombonists, Kurt Dietrich describes Cooper’s style as follows: “Cooper was to develop a voice with the band unlike that of any other trombonists in the history of the band. His identity was quickly established as a blues player, but not a plunger blues player.”
Eddie Lambert says about him: “As a soloist he preferred an aggressive almost violent declamatory style on open horn.”
Haufman lists a number of Cooper solos that he considers to be the most significant. I have put some of them in a Spotify playlist with music mentioned in the new Bulletin.
When Cooper left Ellington in June 1969 he went back home to St, Petersburg in Florida. However, he did not stay there long but resettled to Los Angeles in 1973 and there he stayed for 21 years working in film- and recording studio orchestras. Haufman quotes him as having said “I was the busiest black trombonists on the West Coast.”
In 1994, Cooper returned to St. Petersburg and there he played for 17 years at jazz clubs in and around the town, often together with the bassist John Lamb, who had played in the Ellington Orchestra at the same time as he. Cooper left the earthly world in 2016.
The second theme is views on Ellington and his music and examples of this are given in three articles.
One is from the Swedish magazine Filmjournalen, where its filmcritic Stig Almqvist writes about Ellington’s upcoming 1939 tour of Sweden. The article is interesting particularly because it reflects the view in the upper social echelons of the Swedish society of the time on film and jazz . There is “a primitive audience for jazz as there is for film, he says and continues “both jazz and film are turned towards the big masses and satisfy in its low non-artistic form particularly young people from the social strata which not at all or only rarely have been confronted with artistic products.”
However, Almqvist admits that like in film, there is occurrences in jazz that combine popularity and music of high artistic level. “Foremost in this group is Duke Ellington” he says and goes on to talk about Ellington’s visit and his music.
The article is illustrated with one photo of the full orchestra posing in The Hague just before parting for Sweden and two photos from Ellington’s Swedish tour – one with the whole orchestra in front of a bus and another with Johnny Hodges, Juan Tizol, Barney Bigard and Sonny Greer.
Another article in this part of the Bulletin is about Ellington’s stop-over in Holland before heading for Stockholm by train on 10th April. It is written by Mark Berresford and was originally published in the Spring 2000 issue of his Vintage Jazz Mart. It gives a detailed account of Ellington’s and the orchestra’s criss-crossing of France, Belgium and Holland to give concerts and have a long report from the concert in The Hague on 8th April.
It is written J.P. Gussenhoven, a former president of the Dutch Jazz League, and is very detailed account full of comments and views of what was played at the concert on 8th April. I think on can suppose that the same repertoire was played at the concerts in Sweden.
The third article is a reprint of an article in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter published sometime in 1944. The anonymous article is written by someone knowledgable about Ellington and respectful of him. It gives a lot of information about Ellington to the readers of Dagens Nyheter and should have made many of them interested in learning more about him.
The third theme is Ellington compositions and this time it is about Solitude. It has a condensed reprint from Mike Zirpolo’s invaluable blog Swing & Beyond (https://swingandbeyond.com). Zirpolo starts by writing about the turmoil in the American record industry in the early 1930’s, which led Ellington to record for Victor “mid-August 1933 to mid-September 1934”. He then left Victor for the American Record Corporation (ARC).
Under his Victor contract, Ellington recorded Solitude “on January 10, 1934 and a remake of it as his first tune with ARC “on September 13, 1934”. By that time Victor had not released the January 10 recording. It only did so “until “November 7, 1934. However Zirpolo’s description of Solitude in his article is the Victor record. It is available on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAdSUi3rSG4) and included in the Spotify playlist with music mentioned in the new Bulletin.
Bo Haufman gives additional information about recordings of Solitude in a separate article.
Other articles by his hand in the new issue are about Timme Rosencrantz, Ellington’s appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival and Lena Junoff. They are all good reading!
DESS member Göran Axelsson has another article on Ellington in social media. This time it is about Ellington on Facebook and Göran tells about the most important Ellington groups there.