Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra – Club Zanzibar – NBC Radio – October 1945 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Switching gears ever-so slightly this weekend for a set from the inimitable Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra, recorded by NBC Radio during the Duke’s stay at the Club Zanzibar in October of 1945.
Musicians enlisting in the military and travel restrictions made touring difficult for the big bands, and dancing became subject to a new tax, which continued for many years, affecting the choices of club owners. By the time World War II ended, the focus of popular music was shifting towards singing crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Jo Stafford. As the cost of hiring big bands had increased, club owners now found smaller jazz groups more cost-effective. Some of Ellington’s new works, such as the wordless vocal feature “Transblucency” (1946) with Kay Davis, were not going to have a similar reach as the newly emerging stars.
Ellington continued on his own course through these tectonic shifts. While Count Basie was forced to disband his whole ensemble and work as an octet for a time, Ellington was able to tour most of Western Europe between April 6 and June 30, 1950, with the orchestra playing 74 dates over 77 days. During the tour, according to Sonny Greer, Ellington did not perform the newer works. However, Ellington’s extended composition, Harlem (1950), was in the process of being completed at this time. Ellington later presented its score to music-loving President Harry Truman. Also during his time in Europe, Ellington would compose the music for a stage production by Orson Welles. Titled Time Runs in Paris and An Evening With Orson Welles in Frankfurt, the variety show also featured a newly discovered Eartha Kitt, who performed Ellington’s original song “Hungry Little Trouble” as Helen of Troy.
Here’s a taste of what Duke Ellington was up to during this period of transition as broadcast by NBC Radio in October of 1945.
Dig in and enjoy.
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