Duke Ellington this weekend. Live at The San Remo Jazz Festival in 1964. With his Octet, featuring Rolf Ericson, trumpet – Lawrence Brown, trombone – Johnny Hodges, alto sax – Paul Gonsalves, tenor sax – Harry Carney, baritone sax – Bibi Rovére, bass and Sam Woodyard, drums. Recorded by the Italian Radio/TV network RAI on March 22, 1964.
From his Wikipedia page, which explains his period of the 60s quite nicely (if you aren’t already familiar):
In the early 1960s, Ellington embraced recording with artists who had been friendly rivals in the past, or were younger musicians who focused on later styles. The Ellington and Count Basie orchestras recorded together. During a period when he was between recording contracts, he made records with Louis Armstrong (Roulette), Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane (both for Impulse) and participated in a session with Charles Mingus and Max Roach which produced the Money Jungle (United Artists) album. He signed to Frank Sinatra’s new Reprise label, but the association with the label was short-lived.
By then, he was performing all over the world; a significant part of each year was spent on overseas tours. As a consequence, he formed new working relationships with artists from around the world, including the Swedish vocalist Alice Babs, and the South African musicians Dollar Brand and Sathima Bea Benjamin (A Morning in Paris, 1963/1997).
Ellington wrote an original score for director Michael Langham’s production of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada which opened on July 29, 1963. Langham has used it for several subsequent productions, including a much later adaptation by Stanley Silverman which expands the score with some of Ellington’s best-known works.
Ellington was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1965 but no prize was ultimately awarded that year.Then 66 years old, he joked: “Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn’t want me to be famous too young.” In 1999 he was posthumously awarded a special Pulitzer Prize “commemorating the centennial year of his birth, in recognition of his musical genius, which evoked aesthetically the principles of democracy through the medium of jazz and thus made an indelible contribution to art and culture.”
In September 1965, he premiered the first of his Sacred Concerts. He created a jazz Christian liturgy. Although the work received mixed reviews, Ellington was proud of the composition and performed it dozens of times. This concert was followed by two others of the same type in 1968 and 1973, known as the Second and Third Sacred Concerts. These generated controversy in what was already a tumultuous time in the United States. Many saw the Sacred Music suites as an attempt to reinforce commercial support for organized religion, though Ellington simply said it was “the most important thing I’ve done”. The Steinway piano upon which the Sacred Concerts were composed is part of the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Like Haydn and Mozart, Ellington conducted his orchestra from the piano – he always played the keyboard parts when the Sacred Concerts were performed.
Despite his advancing age (he turned 65 in the spring of 1964), Ellington showed no sign of slowing down as he continued to make vital and innovative recordings, including The Far East Suite (1966), New Orleans Suite (1970), Latin American Suite (1972) and The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse (1971), much of it inspired by his world tours. It was during this time that he recorded his only album with Frank Sinatra, entitled Francis A. & Edward K. (1967).
Enjoy this time-travel back to 1964.