Duke Ellington Live at Basin Street – 1956
Another installment of our weekly Past Daily Downbeat series – this time its over to Basin Street in New York for this CBS Radio broadcast of Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra from April 16, 1956.
I don’t think anyone with even a passing interest in Jazz doesn’t know who Duke Ellington is, or hasn’t heard at least one of his vast number of compositions that have embedded themselves in our American musical fabric.
But in the odd event you haven’t (thanks to Songwriters Hall of Fame):
Duke Ellington was one of the most important creative forces in the music of the twentieth century. His influence on classical music, popular music, and, of course, jazz, simply cannot be overstated.
He was born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 1899, into a middle class black family. His father was a butler in a wealthy household, and he is said to have sometimes worked at White House affairs. Ellington originally had ambitions of becoming a painter, but he became interested in music in his early teens and learned James P. Johnson’s “Carolina Shout” from a piano roll. Soon he was part of a small jazz band in Washington.
After the end of World War II, big bands went out of fashion, and, like other bands, Ellington’s band suffered financially. Nevertheless, Ellington continued to keep the band together through all the years that followed, subsidizing the band from his royalties as a composer.
Ellington was primarily an instrumental composer, and most of his songs were originally written as instrumental pieces, with words tacked on at a later date. Nevertheless, many of them remain remarkable as songs. Among his best-known songs are “Sophisticated Lady” (1933, lyric by Mitchell Parish), “In A Sentimental Mood” (1935, lyric by Manny Kurtz, with artistically meaningless co-credit given in this, as in many other songs, to publisher Irving Mills), “Prelude To A Kiss” (1938, lyric by Irving Gordon), “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart” (1938, lyric by Henry Nemo), “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” (1941, lyric by Paul Francis Webster), “Don’t Get Around Much Any More” (1942, lyric by Bob Russell), “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” (1943, lyric by Bob Russell), “I Didn’t Know About You” (1944, lyric by Bob Russell), and “Satin Doll” (1958, written with Billy Strayhorn, lyric by Johnny Mercer).
Duke Ellington died in New York on May 24, 1974.
So here it is – Duke Ellington, live at Basin Street in New York City, broadcast on April 16, 1956. The inimitable Duke Ellington with vocals by Jimmy Grissom.
Enjoy and stay cool (in more ways than one).
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