Welcome to From Basin St. to Birdland
DEDICATED TO PRESERVING, PROMOTING, AND PROPAGATING THE SPIRIT OF JAZZ!
I must admit that I had a challenging time with the subject of this entry. Where do I go from James P., Waller, and Tatum. Well, Duke Ellington, of course!
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born in Washington, DC, on April 29, 1899. He began studying the piano at the age of seven and started performing music professionally in Washington, D.C. in 1917. His piano technique was influenced by Harlem Stride masters like James P. Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith. While a part of the Wilbur Sweatman band, Duke visited New York in 1922. He returned to New York a year later, accompanied by his friend and drummer, Sonny Greer. They worked for a while with banjoist Elmer Snowden and Duke eventually became the leader of the ensemble, The Washingtonians. This band worked at The Hollywood Club in Manhattan (which was later dubbed the Kentucky Club). During this time clarinetist and soprano saxophonist, Sidney Bechet played briefly with the band — sadly, he never recorded with them. One of the greatest contributors to Ellington’s new aggregate was the trumpet player Bubber Miley; Miley brought with him his unique plunger mute style of playing (very reminiscent of Joe “King” Oliver!). This sound came to be called the “jungle style,” and it was largely responsible for Ellington’s early success.
Here is a prime example of that “jungle style.” The song is East St. Louis Toodle-Oo.
In 1927, the band debuted Black and Tan Fantasy and Creole Love Call, songs that would be remain in his repertory from the entirety of his career and embodied the “jungle style.”
One of the most significant events in 1927, Ellington earned the honor of leading his band, Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, at the legendary Cotton Club from 1927-1931.
Here are the aforementioned tunes, which were certainly a part of the Cotton Club performances!
Black and Tan Fantasy:
Duke Ellington, piano, arranger, Bubber Miley, Louis Metcalf trumpets / Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, trombone / Otto Hardwick, saxes / Harry Carney, clarinet, alto sax, baritone sax / Rudy Jackson, clarinet, tenor sax / Fred Guy, banoj / Wellman Braud, bass / Sonny Greer, drums, Adelaide Hall, vocals. Camden, NJ, October 26, 1927.
Creole Love Call
Duke Ellington, piano, arranger, Bubber Miley, Louis Metcalf trumpet / Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, trombone / Otto Hardwick, saxophones / Harry Carney, clarinet, alto sax, baritone sax / Rudy Jackson, clarinet, tenor sax / Fred Guy, banjo / Wellman Braud, bass / Sonny Greer, drums, Adelaide Hall, vocals. Camden, NJ, October 26, 1927.
With a career that lasted over five decades, it would be impossible to cover all of Ellington’s career. Consider this just a taste of what’s to come in future posts!