Harold Ashby is the cover artist in the latest issue of the Bulletin. It is written by Peter Gardner and was originally published in the second issue of Blue Light in 2021.
It is a solid and well researched six pages article, which gives a good summary of overview of Ashby’s career but foremost of his musical developmen and affiliations. Kansas City was his primary school and Chicago with its blues scene his secondary. He did most of his military service in Chicago and stayed there when he got out of it in December 1945.
It took quite a time before he got into the Chicago music scene. He started to play with local groups but “in the early 50’s I started playing with Willie Dixon and Memphis Slim and make records for Chess”, he is quoted to have said. Otis Redding and Willie Dixon were among those with who he recorded.
In 1957, Ashby moved to New York where he renewed his friendship with Ben Webster and got his help. According to the article, Webster introduced Ashby to Ellington and members of the orchestra.
A new era in Ashby’s life started in July 1958 when he recorded with Webster for the Verve album The Soul of Ben Webster. This was the beginning of a period when Ashby recorded with small groups led by Mercer Ellington, Johnny Hodges, Lawrence Brown, Paul Gonsalves etc.
The next era was when Ashby was recruited by Ellington to replace Jimmy Hamilton. ” I started working with Duke regularly on July 5, 1968 – the second day of the of the 1968 Newport Jazz Festival.
He stayed with Ellington for almost seven years enduring tours and making records but left in February 1975 less than a year after Ellington’s death. “It was Duke Ellington’s band and when Duke died it wasn’t his band any longer”, Ashby said.
Ashby then entered an era “almost as long as the one that preceded it”. It was another twenty-eight years of festivals, guest appearances anfd recording. He died 13 June 2003.
Another major article in the Bulletin is by the Danish DESS member Sven-Erik Baun Christensen. He gives a detailed report on Duke Ellington’s visit to Denmark in 1950. He and the orchestra arrived from Hamburg in the evening of 30 May from Hamburg and was met by two bands and “a large and enthusiastic crowd”. Ellington checked in at the Palace Hotel in the center of Copenhagen, jumped into a bathtube in which he was photographed and had a shrimp sandwhich and a beer before discovering the night life of Copenhagen.
On 31 May and 1 June, Ellington gave two concerts in KB-Hallen – a ball sport and concert arena inaugerated by the Danish King in 1938. He had played there already on 13 April, 1939. After the concerts on 31 May, Ellington together with some members of the band went to the St Thomas restaurant where they sat in with the band playing there. Danish Radio arrived quickly to record and a 20-minute excerpt with Ellington, Jimmy Hamilton and Don Byas were later broadcasted on radio.
Because of the enthusistic reception Ellington received, two extra concerts were quickly scheduled for 6 June when Ellington had returned from his concerts in Sweden. But the ticket sales was apparently disappointing and the concerts was replaced by two in Aarhus in Jutland. After the concerts, Ellington was off to a local recording studio where he recorded three songs and three of them were pressed in 10 copies as prices in a lottery.
There is much more to read in Sven-Erik’s article. Do it!
Another Danish DESS member – Rasmus Henriksen – contributes also an interesting article. It is called Medleys beyond category. Henriksen considers that studying medleys that Ellington put together during his career “can tell us something about how he worked as a composer” and in his article he gives some examples of this.
One is Ad Lib on Nippon. It consists of four movements “joined together to make one piece but can we also describe it as The Japanese Medley” asks Henriksen. Read his interesting analysis to give the Bulletin readers an answer and also what he has to say about what he calls The Blues Medley and The Theme Medley and of course the medley opening so many Ellington concerts – Black and Tan Fantasy/Creole Love Call/The Mooche.
Henriksen’s concluding summary of Ellington’s composing methods is a must-read!
The lastest Bulletin also have some shorter articles in Swedish by its editor Bo Haufman (Duke Ellington at Hurricane 1943, Två herrars tjänare, Tony Bennett in memoriam) and the discographer Björn Englund (Brunswicks misstag, Gazell 1003) and a reprint fromMike Zirpolo’s Swing & Beyond about Flamingo.
Author: Ulf Lundin