Steven Bowie published a couple of week ago a new post in his amazing blog. He is as regular as a clock!
This month he has chosen to talk about Side by Side and Back To Back. I am sure I was not the only to expect “reflexions” on the two Ellington- Hodges small group albums issued in 1959 but partly recorded in 1958 but I was wrong.
There is nothing of this in the program but instead a pairing of nine songs that Ellington recorded in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s. With this approach, Steven gives the listeners the chance to compare different interpretations of each song.
The first two pairs, one can call The Irving Mills Pairs. Either he is one of the singers or instrumental in organising the recording sessions
The first song Steven has chosen to pair is the standard I Can’t Give You Anything But Love written by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields for the musical Blackbirds of 1928. The two versions chosen by Steven are from Oct. 30 and Nov. 10 1928. The singing parts by Irving Mills and Baby Cox are identical in the two while the solo parts of Arthur Whetsel, Johnny Hodges and Joe Nanton and Ellington’s arrangement differs to the advantage of the second version.
A Black Man’s Blue is the next song. I don’t know much about the except that it was composed by the trio George A. Little, Art Sizmore, Rd G Nelson and recorded twice by Ellington, probably at the instigation of Irving Mills. In the first version recorded Nov. 21, 1930, the singer is Dick Robertson, one of the popular white singer of the 1930’s, and the second version recorded Dec. 10 is sung by Bennie Payne, who worked with the Ellington band at the time and recorded also Rockin’ Chair and Wang Wang Blues before he joined Cab Calloway as pianist and arranger until the mid 40’s. A muted Cootie Williams and Barney Bigard are the instrumental soloist.
The third pair is The Film Pair. The song is My Old Flame, written by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow for the 1934 motion picture Belle of the Nineties.
The first version is of course sung by Mae West in her seducing sexy voice. As far as I understand it is the soundtrack version recorded March 24, 1934. The second version is the one record by Ellington on May 9, 1934 with Ivie Anderson as vocalist. I prefer this version to the one before because of Ivie’s softer way of singing the song and the expanded role of the the band.
The concluding two pairs can only be called The Trumpet Pairs. They are by far the best in the program.
The first pair is Boy With A Horn. The first version is a World Broadcasting System recording with Rex Stewart (who else?) from Nov. 8, 1943 and the second a live recording from Birdland NYC June 20, 1951 where Harold Baker plays it. Many similarities between the two but also many differences. Baker tries to stay with his more lyrical style while Stewart is the more aggressive.
Bowie ends the program with two versions of Concerto for Cootie. The first one is played by Cootie Williams but not in an Ellington but in a Goodman context. It is from a dance in Mewadowbrook Gardens Country Club i n New Jersey Sep. 14, 1941 Cootie plays the original Ellington arrangment. The second version is played by Ray Nance in a radio broadcast from The Hurricane in NYC May 5, 1944.
Author: Ulf Lundin
Nov 21 and Dec 10 1930 and My Old Flame May 9, 1934 and March 24, 1934.