Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra – Cavalcade Of Bands – Dumont TV – July 18, 1950 – Jim Stephenson Collection –
Duke Ellington in what is most probably a drop-dead rarity – if not in performance then certainly in sound.
About a week ago, my friend and colleague Jim Stephenson unveiled what was an important discovery, but also a herculean effort at pulling out salvageable sounds. A collection of discs came his way; all carefully notated and cared-for. Not normal transcription discs, and not the usual run-of-the-mill home-recording discs so often found at swap meets, but 5″ discs that were recorded at 33 1/3 rpm, but cut in such a way as to enable a half-hour of recording per side (most of those small home-recording discs went from 3-5 minutes). From what Jim tells me, it took literally hours to get the right size stylus to play these things back and several more hours to get anything resembling salvageable sounds to be digitized.
The end-result is astonishing. Jim was able to get a clean transfer, preserving the integrity of the music itself, without sacrificing the quality (notably the high-end). I added some de-clicking and de-crackling and what’s on the above player represents early live-television at its best.
It’s possible this show, part of the Cavalcade Of Bands series from the short-lived Dumont TV Network, has survived by way of kinoscopes (actual filmed 16mm transcriptions of live TV before the advent of videotape), but the sound on those would be vastly inferior to what’s presented here.
If no such record exists, then these discs (there are several others in the series that Jim is working on as we speak) are indeed rarities and the only examples of this show available in any form.
The performances speak for themselves. Ellington is in top form – the band is relaxed and having fun – the whole thing has a festive air to it. It would be great to actually see this one come together as one of the prime examples of early Television – but for the moment, all we can do is listen and be amazed.
Hopefully you’ll be too.
Special thanks to Jim Stephenson for letting me run this on Past Daily – trying to get this to as many people as I can. The fun part of history.