News From Blighty by Alan Purslow

I’m getting old! One minute you’re saving up to buy one 78 rpm re-cord per month and playing it until the groves go flat and the next you’re being instructed how to download music from the internet for just a few pence. My first Duke Ellington record was a British HMV 78 rpm issue of Blue Goose (with the added description “Fox Trot” – that takes us back – who knows what a fox trot is these days?) and, as I was a teenager and strapped for cash, it was for a long time the only re-cording of the great man in my collection. Fifty years on, with over a hundred Ellington CDs on my shelf, I’m now looking at a box set con-taining two DVDs plus an audio CD and entitled Duke Ellington at the Côte D’Azur and Duke: The Last Jam Session, a veritable cornucopia of Ellingtonia that, in the past, I would have lapped up in one go. Now, however, with the ability to record endless numbers of TV and radio programmes and the availability of virtually everything that has ever been issued, I struggle to digest all information being thrown at me. As a result, I’ve only been able partly to sample this terrific collection which includes Ellington visiting an art gallery to discuss the paintings of Miró, Picasso and other French masters, extended rehearsal and per-formances by the band (with the great Johnny Hodges maintaining his standard of perfection with consummate ease), and a fabulous quartet session with Duke on piano, Joe Pass, Louie Bellson and Ray Brown messing around, playing bits and pieces, listening to playbacks, and chatting (their conversation is sadly inaudible) while Norman Granz hovers in the background. I have yet to sample

I have yet to sample the Ella Fitzgerald sec-tion so maybe I can report more fully in our next issue. Over here in the UK the whole thing costs around £10 if you know where to look – a true bargain if ever there was one.
And the reissues keep coming. In the last issue of Jassman I discussed a Dave Brubeck recording that had remained unavailable for years (recorded at Pennsylvania State University in 1955) so imagine my sur-prise when I was informed that yet another previously unissued series had become available, this time a 3 CD set of the complete Storyville broadcasts. These record companies sure mess us around as my original LP and later CD of Brubeck at Storyville was, as far as I could tell, the end of the story. Later, there came along a strange CD under Paul Des-mond’s name (Paul Desmond Complete Jazz at Storyville – Definitive Records) which included most of the tracks that were on the original Brubeck Fantasy issue along with some that included a weird sounding bassoon-like instrument on the theme statements (there was, inexplica-bly, no mention of this alien musical visitor on the sleeve or in the notes – as I said before, these record companies sure mess us around). Maybe the best course for me to adopt is just place the discs in the player and get to know them so that the track listing and analysis will look after itself as i become more familiar with the music.
Finally, sad news from the U.K. this week; Brian Lemon (11th Feb 1937 – 11th October 2014) was a fine pianist and arranger who played at various times with Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, John Dankworth and Ruby Braff (Braff, a difficult and hyper-critical player was impressed with Brian and, as a result, they formed a firm friendship). Jack Bruce (May 1943, – October 2014) was a classically trained and jazz-influenced bassist who was a founder member of Cream, a band that revolutionised rock music by improvising long jazz-like solos (Eric Clapton, another member of the group maintained that the reason for the long solos was the fact that the band had such a limited book and needed to pad their sets out but Bruce insisted, “Eric didn’t know that he’d actu-ally joined a jazz group”). Lastly, Vic Ash (March 1930 – October 2014) was a fine British saxophonist who played with Kenny Baker and Tubby Hayes, later accompanying Frank Sinatra on tours of Europe and the Middle East. Rest in peace, all three of them.

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