The International Ellington Meeting 2023 took place in Paris on April 28-30. It was seven years since there was a traditional Ellington Study Group Conference (disregarding the one “that never was” planned for Washington D.C. in 2020).
Thank you to La Maison du Duke and its President Laurent Mignard for the initiative. Organizing an international Ellington conference has been a controversial issue in the Ellington community in France for many years but this time Laurent managed to get everybody on board.
It was very much appreciated by all the participants to have some days in the City of Light to meet old and new friends, to hear and learn from 12 interesting Ellingtonia presentation and two panels and to enjoy some good and even very good music .
Duke Orchestra plays Paris Blues
Here is a summary of what happened during the four days. Everything was filmed and so far the first three presentations are available at La Maison du Duke’s website. I will link to them in the article.
The conference got off in a relaxed way before its official start with a visit to Boris Vian’s appartement at 6 bis Cité Véron near Moulin Rouge in Pigalle. Those conference participants, who were lucky to have been invited, strolled around in the small appartment with apéritives in hands to talk to old and new friends and studying Vian’s impressive collection of books and records.
Nicole Bertolt, who is in charge of the cultural heritage of Boris Vian, welcomed us to the apartement and told us about it and Leïla Olivesi took the opportunity to demonstrate Vian’s piano and got us all fingersnapping à la Duke.
The first morning had two presentations about Ellington’s visits to Paris.
Jean-François Pitet gave the first one.
He is an expert on Cab Calloway and runs an amazing website about him (http://www.thehidehoblog.com) but he also has a deep knowledge of and love for Duke Ellington.
His presentation was entitled “Ellington’s first steps in Paris 1933.
However, under this title, Pitet covered fully Ellington’s first international tour in 1933, which took him to England (June 9- July 24, The Netherlands (July 25) and France (July 27-Aug. 1) and he gave the audience a lot of details and 91 slides with rare photos and images.
Ellington arrived in Southhampton on June 9,1933 and went directly on to London for press conferences and interviews organised by Jack Hylton. The first series of concerts at the Palladium in London started on June 11.
Ellington brought with him “His Famous Orchestra” with singer Ivie Anderson but also the dancer Bessie Dudley and the dance group Bailey & Derby. According to a photo, Bess Dudley and Bill Bailey also perforformed together Bill Bailey Won’t You Come Home.
Ellington arrived in Paris from The Hague in The Netherlands on July 27 for his 5 days tour. It created a lot of enthusiasm and laid the foundation for the special relationship between Ellington and France. All the concerts were sold out and there were large crowds outside the concert venues.
Ellington’s visit to Paris was short but created a lot of enthusiasm. Ellington gave his first concert at Salle Pleyel on July 27 at 21 o’clock. The second concert took place two days later at the same venue and the final one at the Casino de Deauville on Aug. 1.
The visit to Paris and France had a big impact on Ellington, according to Pitet. “He had discovered a new audience and an artistic recognition that he had not yet received in the U.S.A. This gave him impetus to pursue his career for a long time and come back to France and Europe over and over again”.
A video version of the presentation is avalable at the Maison du Duke ‘s website and on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZUhdpBFSdk
Thank you to Jean-François for letting me use slides from the presentation and to Philippe Baudoin for permission as well.
John Edward Hasse, Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian, writer on Duke Ellington, speaker at many Ellington conferences and much more, followed Pitet. John spoke about “Duke Ellington in Paris”.
During Ellington’s tours of Europe, there were always visits to Paris and John talked about most of them in his presentation.
He touched briefly briefly on the 1933 “stop-over” since Jean-François Pitet had presented it in detail and then turned to Ellington’s visit to Paris in 1939 on his way to Sweden. Ellington arrived in Paris on April 1 and gave with the orchestra two completely sold out concerts at Palais du Chaillot on April 3 and 4.
During the visit, Duke made his first acquaintance with Django Reinhardt at the opening of Hot Jazz de France new quarters in Pigalle and couple of days later, on April 5, Reinhardt made his memorable recordings with Rex Stewart and Barney Bigard.
In 1948, Ellington visited Paris again but only together with Kay Davis and Ray Nance plus an English trio. The visit followed an almost monthlong tour of England.
Ellington and the group played two concerts at Salle Pleyel. When the curtain went up, the audience was surprised to see only three members of the Ellington orchestra and a trio but Ellington soon got them on his side. During the short visit, Ellington and the entourage was enternained in a royal way.
Ellington returned to Paris in 1950 but this time with the full band. The visit was part of a European tour, which lasted more than a month. Ellington played seven in Paris, five at Paillot de Chaillot (April 12-16) and two at Salle Wagram (June 20) but in the first concerts the audience was unhappy with what they heard. There were too much of new Ellington songs. It wanted to hear more of the earlier Ellington repertoire.
After a break of eight years, Ellington was back in Europe and Paris for concert tours in 1958 and 1959 but John talk about them rather briefly.
In 1960, Ellington came to Paris for the filming of the movie “Paris Blues” but the band stayed at home. There was no European tour in 1962 but there were two very long tours in 1963 but only the first one included Paris.
Ellington and the band played five concerts in Paris, three at the beginning of the tour and two at the end. They all took place at the Olympia Theater. The Great Paris Concert LP is partly from the first concert at Olympia on Feb. 1, 1963 and partly from the last concert on Feb. 23. Part of the first concert on Feb. 23 has been issued on a Maison du Duke CD.
Ellington was also busy during the tour with recordings for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records, of which he was the A&R man. On arrival in Paris, he recorded Night Creature and Harlem with his orchestra and Paris Symphony and at the end he made recordings with Stéphan Grappelli, Svend Asmussen, Bea Benjamin, Dollar Brand and Alice Babs.
John did not say much about Ellington’s concerts in Paris and other cities of France during his European tours in 1964 and 1965 to focus more on 1966 with the concerts in Paris with Ella Fitzgerald.
Next, he talked about about the 1969 visit with two concerts at Salle Pleyel and the Concert of Sacred Music at Eglise St. Sulpice and the celebration of Ellington’s 70th year at L’Alcazar.
Ellington came back to Paris and France in June-July 1970 but played no concerts in Paris but recorded a couple of TV programs for ORTF (see more below).
Ellington’s last visits to Paris was in 1973. There was a short one in January when recorded a couple of TV programs with Stéphan Grappelli and another one in November as part of Ellington’s final European tour.
In 1973, Ellington was awarded the French Legion of Honor. It was given to him at a ceremony at the French consulate in New York on July 8.
John ended his presentation by letting the audience enjoy two songs from the solo recording that Ellington made for ORTF on 2 July 1970. It was a joy to listen to it again!
Ellington ended with and John did ended his presentation by joining Ellington in the finger snapping routine.
A video version of the presentation is available at the Maison du Duke’s website and at YouTube (https://youtu.be/Z9ILrV7oGtw).
Thank you to John for letting me use slides from his presentation in the article.
Before lunch, there was also a panel discussion on the theme “Duke and the Lights“. Unfortunately, it was not much of a panel for discussing but a framework for individual presentation by the author and essayist Daniel Maximin, John Hasse, Laurent Mignard and Marilyn Lester. Leîla Olivesi coordinated the panel.
For those with a decent understanding of French, the talk by Daniel Maximin about his forthcoming novel Soifs De Braises (Thirsty for Embers) was perhaps the most interesting one. The book will deal with the birth of the Resistance among young people under the German occupation in Paris around 1941-1942 and the talk focused on the role of jazz in this context.
Laurent Mignard talked about Ellington’s relationship to the concept of Freedom and John Hasse about Duke Ellington as a leader. Marilyn Lester used her spot to plea for forming an International Ellington Association and a small group to work on the idea was set up at the end of the conference.
A video version of the panel discussion is available at the Maison du Duke’s website
and on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xf9XBeJUpI)
In the afternoon, Leïla Olivesi talked about “Programs of Duke’s concerts in Paris”
She had analysed various programs printed for Ellington’s concerts in Paris and delved into how often different numbers were played at different concerts, and how different numbers could be treated from concert to concert.
Here is an example of her analysis. It is what was played at the two concerts at Salle Pleyel in 1933 compared to one of concert in London. There he played 19 tunes compared to 12 and 8 at Salle Pleyel. Only six were the same at the three concerts.
Leîla’s presentation also included an analysis of how Ellington played the introduction to Rockin in Rhythm. It was not always Kinda Dukish but sometimes even Carolina Shout.
A video version of Leïla’s presentation is avalable at the Maison du Duke website and on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wlv9hxPFr0E)
Next on the program was a presentation by Anne Legrand, specialist on the history of jazz in France. She works at French National Library, is a member of the French l’Académie du jazz and has publish several publications and organised exhibitions on jazz in France among them a book on Charles Delaunay and jazz in France in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Her talk was about about the music Ellington wrote for a production by the theater director Jean Villar of the early 18th century play Tucaret by Alain-René Lesage.
The music was recorded in the night between 29 to 30 December 1960 at Théâtre National Populaire (TNP). But this was just the beginning of the work; it then had to edited and cut up to be integrated into the play and the presentation was very much an illustration of this with many slides.
I will try to find some examples of this but only the filmed version of the presentation (see below) gives it full justice. The recording of the music was published on the DESS website several years ago and will be republished there later this month. It is also available on the Duke Orchestra CD Ellington French Touch.
The video with the presentation is available at Maison du Duke’s website and on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K93vtQsqhNM)
Then, it was time for the second panel – Ellington Researchers Panel – with Steven Lasker, Ken Steiner, David Palmquist and Michael Kilpatrick, all four leading experts on Ellington’s recordings, whereabouts or music. They presented the impressive work they have done over the years but did not say much about priorities for their future work. One has to presume that they will continue as before and there is no reason to complain about that, on the contrary.
The day ended with a concert tribute to Claude Carrière by Leïla Olivesi’s Septet. It played four selections from Leïla’s album Astral issued last year, among them Missing CC – a musical memorial of Carrière.
In the evening, there was a showing of Paris Blues at the cinema complex L’Entrepôt in the 14th district of Paris. The Sorbonne professor of jazz, Laurent Cugny, introduced it.
This day was perhaps the most interesting day of the conference with excellent presentations and an superb evening concert.
It started with a talk by Philippe Baudoin on Django Reinhardt and Duke Ellington. The talk was in French but Philippe had made all his slides in English so also non-French speaking participants could follow it quite well. The presentation was dedicated to Claude Carrière.
It was, as Philippe said in his introduction, “about the physical encounters between Reinhardt and Ellington but also about the musical similarities that can be found in their respective recordings”.
Philippe first talked about Tiger Rag and the recordings Django and Duke made based on the harmonies of this early 1920s composition.
He provided all his slides in English so it was easy for non-French speakers to follow it. Here is what he said about Tiger Rag.
Then Philippe turned to the Ellington songs that Django and Quintette du Hot Club de France (QHCF) had recorded.
Django’s first recording of an Ellington song was It Don’t Mean a Thing recorded on Oct. 25, 1935. It was issued under the name “Stéphane Grappely and His Hot Four”, which was sometimes used for Quintette du Hot Club de France.
In April 1937, QHCF recorded two more Ellington songs, (In My) Solitude on April 21 and In a Sentimental Mood on April 26.
Then there were also recordings with distinct elements of Ellington without being strictly Ellington songs. Oriental Shuffle from 1937 and Rhythm Futur from 1940 have clear elements of Ellington’s The Mooche. Mystery Pacific recorded on April 26, 1937 is reminiscent of Daybreak Express and Louise recorded in London in September 1938 contains elements of In A Sentimental Mood as does Nuages recorded in August 1947.
In his introduction, Baudoin said that Django discovered Duke Ellington in 1930, but Ellington only discovered Django in 1939. It was in conjunction with Ellington’s stopover in Paris on his way to Sweden in 1939 that he did it. He then met with Reinhardt for the first time at the opening of Hot Jazz de France’s new quarters in Pigalle.
I have taken a closer look at the photos from the occasion and I am intrigued by the one below.
Django has his eyes firmly fixed at Rex Stewart while Duke looks directly in the camera neglecting everybody else.
The third part of Philippe’s presentation was about Reinhardt’s U.S. tour with Ellington and his orchestra in 1946.
Next was a musical entertainment featuring the tenor player and more André Villéger and pianist Philippe Milanta. The theme was For Duke and Paul. They played mainly Billy Strayhorn compositions. I managed to catch some of the songs the played on my mobile phone.
10 years ago, they issued a CD with the same title and one can find it in places like Discogs and Momax.
The musical intermezzo was followed by filmmaker Laurent Lukic‘ unique film Une Poule sur un piano (A Hen on the Piano) about the restauration of Chateau de Goutelas in the Forez region in central Loire and Ellington’s three day visit to the castle in February 1966 to lend his support to the project.
Ellington had met the man behind it – Paul Bouchet – in the studio of the French painter Bernard Cathelin in Paris. He was also very much involved in the project and together he and Bouchet got Ellington interested and promise his support.
The film has many interviews with people directly involved involved in the restauration, Bouchet of course but also farmers, workers, local mayors, students etc. There exists a lot of photos of Ellington’s visit from the arrival to Goutelas to his time with local people in their homes and work places. Lukic has integrated them skilfully in to the film adding sound to them from the interviews, the concert at Goutelas and the Goutelas Suite.
Lukic introduced the film and answered questions afterward together with Marie Claude Mioche, the former Chairman of the Goutelas Board.
In Februry 2021, I published an article about Goutelas on the DESS website, It can be read at https://ellingtongalaxy.org/2021/02/25/ellington-at-chateau-goutelas-1966/
The afternoon started with Ken Steiner talking about Julian Priester : Six Months with the Duke.
He had made a video interview with him in Seattle, where both of them live and this was the basis for the presentation.
It was interesting to learn about Priester as an Ellington man but also about his time before and after Ellington. Priester considered that he learned a lot from Ellington during the six months but felt that he was not appreciated enough by Ellington so he left prematurely.
Also the next presentation was also about a member of the Ellington Orchestra but someone who stayed longer than six months. The topic for the presentation was Fred Guy, who was with Ellington from the early 1920s to 1949, and it was given by Nick Rossi, swing guitarist and writer/researcher on earlier jazz guitarists.
He has spent a lot of time researching Fred Guy and gave a very full presentation of him. It included video interviews so the filmed version of the presentation is highly recommended.
The afternoon presentations ended with an excellent and very pedagogical presentation by Carl Woideck titled Liberté – Duke Ellington and Artistic Freedom. Together with Philippe Baudoin’s presentation on Django and Duke, it was for me one of presentational highlight of the conference.
Woideck started his presentation with talking abour Take The “A” from Gröna Lund 1963 and Mood Indigo from 1964 included in the album “All Star Road Band”, both played in an unusual way.
He then turned to Ad Lib On Nippon with focus on Fugi. This duo arrangement for piano and bass. was performed by Duke plus John Lamb on several occasions in 1965/66. Carl gave the audience an interesting analysis of how the performance of the piece changed along the way.
He had listened to nine versions of Fungi to prepare his presentation
but he played only #1, #2, #5, #6, #8 and #9 in the talk.
In Carl’s first examples Ellington is the central soloist and John Lamb mainly an accompanying bassist. However, gradually this changes and Lamb’s role grew. In the end, in later live recordings, Lamb felt emboldened to at times take the lead and shape the direction of their improvisation as illustrated in the recording from 28 January 1966.
In the evening, the Laurent Mignard Duke Orchestra enlarged with Michael Kilpatrick on baryton saxophone provided an exceptional concert in the famous old caberet and jazz venue Le Bal Blomet. It was not only the musical highlight of Ellington 2023 but the overall “bouquet final” of the conference
Le Bal Blomet was one of the symbols of Montparnasse of the Roaring Twenties with dance, music, cabarets and political meetings. Today, it is restored to old glory and is one of the jazz centers in Paris. It is a must to visit it.
On the Saturday night of the conference, Bal Blomet was filled with conference participants and Parisian Ellington fans.
The concert was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Duke Orchestra with an “Ellington French Touch” program with a genial multimedia dimension. On several occasions, the first bars of a songs was played by the Ellington and His Orchestra on screen and then the Duke Orchestra took over while the video with Ellington continued to run without sound.
However, the concert started with a unique Ellington premiere. At the DESS Ellington Meeting last year, Michael Kilpatrick talked about his discoveries in the Ellington Archives at the Smithsonian of score segments of what may be Ellington’s “mystery piece” Boola. Since then, he has worked further on it in collaboration with Laurent Mignard and the result was presented at the concert.
It might not be what Ellington would have written if he had found time to do it but certainly something creative and interesting to listen to. Congratulations particularly to Michael!
Michael also to give Duke Orchestra more color with his bass saxophone both in Boola and in other numbers.
In the morning there was a guided walk with Philippe Baudoin to 1920’s and 1930’s jazz locations in Pigalle for the speakers at the conference. In the afternoon, there were two educational concerts for children at Sunset Jazz Club – “Duke Ellington for kids” and in the evening there was a concert by the “Saury – Rousselet – Couderc Quintet”.
Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to attend any of the events because I had to go back to Clermont l’Herault already on Sunday morning.
Author: Ulf Lundin
The rest was largely devoted to Django’s career. He suffered a burn in 1928, which resulted in an injured left hand and a year and a half of hospitalization where Django trained to play despite his injuries. Examples of his early recordings were played, revealing that many of Django’s recordings had distinct elements of Ellington. Oriental Shuffle from 1937 and Rhythm Futur from 1940 have clear elements of Ellington’s The Mooche. Louise contains elements of In A Sentimental Mood and Mystery Pacific is reminiscent of Daybreak Express. In 1939 the two met in Paris and in 1946 Django traveled to the United States to tour with Ellington. One number played during the tour was Ride Red Ride, again based on Tiger Rag. However, the number was never recorded by either Django or Duke. However, it was noted by the presenter that the final concert at Carnegie Hall was a “disaster”.