Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Duke's Day

The Duke on the air: A broadcast from around the time of this offering. This one obviously emanates from a radio studio and not a restaurant, with Artie Whetsol and Juan Tizol in the background. Photographer unknown

It's Ellington's 116th birthday anniversary, and we here at Gems could not let it pass by without offering our devoted followers a little something to celebrate. So, here's the Duke on the air, doing remotes for the United States Treasury Department in an effort to move a few War Bonds during the last big one.

Jacob Lawrence, Panel 18: "The
gained in momentum."
But ... before we get to the good stuff, a little story. Long-time visitors to this blog may recall that a while back we posted an Ellington download taken from Victor's original 78-rpm release of "Black, Brown and Beige." Many of you were appreciative of the dub, despite its audio limitations. All well and good, and Gems moved on to other postings. 

But about four months ago, I was contacted by a very nice woman interested in "Black, Brown and Beige" – specifically, in that odd paper sleeve that Victor issued the Duke's magnum opus in. This person, it turns out, works at the Museum of Modern Art here in the Big Apple. She was helping to produce their next big exhibit, a complete showing of artist Jacob Lawrence's "Migration Series," a 60-painting pictorial narration of the African-American migration to the north between the world wars. In searching around the interwebs for a source for that "Black, Brown and Beige" album which the museum wanted to use in the exhibit, she found Gems. One thing led to another, and the upshot was we were delighted to supply MoMA with our copy of the album for the Lawrence exhibit. 

Gems' copy of Ellington's "Black, Brown and Beige," an unusual gatefold paper jacket album, is seen at the top, on display at the Museum of Modern Art. Next to it is the original program from the Duke's 1943 Carnegie Hall concert where "BB&B" was originally presented. Gems photo
So, never underestimate to power of the web. You never know who's out there checking you out. The show, by the way, is highly recommended. The presentation of Lawrence's work is excellently done and the ancillary material, including films of Billie Holiday and Marian Anderson, is superb. 

On to this posting's offering. In the last year of World War II, Ellington was tapped by the U.S. Treasury Department to do a series of broadcasts to promote the purchase of War Bonds to fund the war effort's final push. Duke did a year of Saturday programs, each an hour in length. They were preserved on acetate discs and many decades later, a group of Ellington fanatics released the entire year's worth of shows on a series of 50 LPs. In my years of collecting, I've managed to find about 30 of these discs and hope one day to complete the set. I can't post all 30 here, so I thought instead I'd upload the first and last album in the series. 

So here's Duke in 1945. He plays the "Perfume Suite" on the first disc, which, you will notice, uses the original, provocative title for the second movement, "Violence." The second offering, the "Bonus" LP, is a remarkable document with a tribute to FDR broadcast shortly after his passing in 1945. Poignant! As an added treat, there's also a 1953 aircheck from the famed Blue Note in Chicago. Don't miss Ray Nance's romp on "Basin Street Blues"!

You'll note that these files are not broken down into individual tunes, as the records presented them as one continuous cut. I've appended the liner notes to the first LP here (if you copy and paste the file to your desktop, you should be able to read it). Unfortunately, there were no liner notes to the Bonus LP. The covers are, as you can see, minimalist. The files, as always come right from the virgin vinyl, no cleaning needed. The download is a big file (200 megs), so give it some time. Happy birthday, Duke!

Duke Ellington Treasury Series 1945 Vol. 1
DETS Treasury Show #1
Duke Ellington orchestra including Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, 
Cat Anderson, Jimmy Hamilton, Joya Sherrill, Kay Davis, Al Hibbler.
Aircheck, 400 Restaurant, New York, NY, April 7, 1945

1. Take the A Train
2. Blutopia
3. Midriff
4. Creole Love Call
5. Suddenly It Jumped
6. Frustration
7. I’m Beginning to See the Light 
8. Love (The Perfume Suite)
9. Violence (The Perfume Suite)
10. Dancers in Love  
(The Perfume Suite)
11. Coloratura  (The Perfume Suite)
12. Air Conditioned Jungle
13. I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues
14. Subtle Slough
15. Passion Flower

Duke Ellington Treasury Series 1945/1953 Bonus Album
DETS Treasury Show Bonus
Duke Ellington orchestra including Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, 
Cat Anderson, Jimmy Hamilton, Ray Nance, Joya Sherrill, 
Kay Davis, Al Hibbler, Jimmy Grissom.
Aircheck, 400 Restaurant, New York, NY, April 7, 1945

1. Moon Mist
2. New World A-Comin’
3. Nobody Knows the 
Trouble I’ve Seen
4. Mood Indigo
5. Dirge
6. Chant for FDR (American Lullaby)
7. Come Sunday
8. A City Called Heaven 
(Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow)
9. Creole Love Call
10. Moon Mist

Aircheck, Blue Note, Chicago, IL, August 1, 1953

11. Take the A Train
12. Boo-Dah
13. What More Can I Say
14. Frustration
15. Basin Street Blues
16. Duet
17. Ballin’ the Blues
18. Satin Doll

Monday, April 6, 2015

National Holiday

Billie and her buddies: Miss Holiday with Art Tatum, Oscar Pettiford and Big Sid Catlett, circa 1944. Judging by the flags, this might have been taken in England. The photographer was film maker Gjon Mili. From the Gems collection

The banks, the post office, the stock market, schools – they're all closed today. Did you forget? It's a national holiday. Eleanora Fagan's birthday. Better known to you and me as Billie Holiday.

But it's not just Billie's natal day. It's the 100th anniversary of her arrival, born on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia (you probably thought she was born in Baltimore, just like I did, but no – she just grew up there). So I thought it appropriate that Gems do something to mark the occasion. I have some 60 Holiday records and a dozen or so CD sets, but nearly everything I have is available (and that's not bad!). So what can I offer you Gems fans that you don't already got in your collections? Hmmm ...

Well, for one thing, here's page 1 of the Down Beat that reported Billie's first big bust – the one that wound up sending her away for a year and lost her her cabaret card. It gives you a sense of what a tough cookie Miss Holiday was, and how magnanimous she was in her concern for her fellow musicians. They don't make them like that anymore!

In poking around on the web, I noticed the the first ESP Billie Holiday release – the one with that "deer-in-the-headlights" cover – is hard to come by because Bernard Stollman had to withdraw it. I guess the Billie Holiday Estate objected to the cover image (it's not hard to see why). The music on the album comes from Boris Rose's tapes, performances from 1949-52, and they are all excellent. So, you may have this recording, but you may not have the cover. To celebrate Lady Day's centennial, here's cover and contents, just as they were initially released back in 1972 or so.

I bought this back in my college days, so there is a bit of surface noise (in addition to stuff that was inherently part of any ESP pressing). But I think you'll enjoy the performances regardless of a few pops and clicks. By the way, this is a rare legitimate Boris Rose release, one with song titles, credits, timings, the works. ESP must have insisted that he play it straight for once.

As always, the files were ripped right from the precious vinyl. Enjoy, and happy 100th, Billie!

The Lady Lives
Billie Holliday
Boris Rose airchecks, 1949-52; ESP 3002A

Just Jazz Concert, Pasadena, CA; June 2, 1949

1. My Man
2. Miss Brown to You

Horace Henderson, p; Lips Page, tp; Eddie Condon(?), g.
Eddie Condon Show, New York, NY; August 27, 1949

3. Keeps on Rainin'
4. Lover Man
5. I Cover the Waterfront

Art Ford Show; August 27, 1949 (same date as above, may be incorrect)

6. All of Me

Apollo Theater, New York, NY; May 24, 1950

7. You're My Thrill

Storyville, Boston, MA; October 31, 1951

8. He's Funny That Way
9. Billie's Blues
10. Miss Brown to You

Apollo Theater, New York, NY; 1952

11. My Man

Apollo Theater, New York, NY; December 10, 1952

12. Tenderly

Find it here: