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Duke Ellington: Uppsala 1971

Chris Mosey By

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From his first visit in 1939 to a concert a few months before his death in 1973, Duke Ellington took special pleasure in visiting Sweden. He composed a "Serenade to Sweden" and wrote a new arrangement for a very Swedish pop song, "I en rod liten stuga (In a Red Little Cottage)." He also entered into a fruitful collaboration with Swedish vocalist Alice Babs.

This album, recorded at a concert in the great hall of Uppsala University on November 9, 1971, was found in what Ellington called "The Stockpile," his private tape collection.

It starts with "C-Jam Blues" which at the time had largely replaced "Take the A-Train" as the band's opening number. One of the more interesting numbers is the little known "Fife," written as a vehicle for Norris Turney on flute and there is also a version "A Tone Parallel to Harlem," the title of which Ellington simply abbreviated to "Harlem."

"Chinoiserie" is another rarity, the title referring to an artistic passion for things Oriental, which in his erudite introduction Duke links to a statement by the Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan.

At the other end of the scale, trumpeter Money Johnson comes on like Louis Armstrong for "Hello Dolly." Nell Brookshire lends a hand on vocals, and Ellington shows his age somewhat by referring to her as a "torch singer."

Those "good old good ones" are there aplenty, with longer versions of "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" and "Satin Doll." Nell Brookshire vies with Money Johnson for slapstick vocal honors on "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good."

Of course Billy Strayhorn's "Take the A-train" couldn't be omitted altogether. It comes in fourth in this particular race for royalties, before "Fife." And the same composer's "Lotus Blossom" is treated to a fine reflective arrangement by Ellington, accompanied only by bassist Joe Benjamin. Ellington said this was the tune Strayhorn most liked to hear him to play.

Track Listing: C Jam Blues; Kinda Dukish/Rockin’ In Rhythm; Happy Reunion; Take The A Train; Fife; Satin Doll; Chinoiserie; Harlem; Medley: Prelude to a Kiss; Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me; In a Sentimental Mood; Don’t You Know I Care; The Brown Skin Gal; I Let a Song Go Out of my Heart; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Mood Indigo; I’m Beginning To See The Light; Solitude; It Don’t Mean A Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing; I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good; Sophisticated Lady; Caravan. Things Ain’t What They Used To Be; Hello Dolly; One More Time For The People; Lotus Blossom.

Personnel: Duke Ellington: piano; Mercer Ellington, Money Johnson, Eddie Preston, Cootie Williams, John Coles: trumpet; Malcolm Taylor, Booty Wood, trombone; Chuck Connors, Russell Procope, Norris Turney; Harold Minerve; Harold Ashby; Paul Gonsalves, Ben Webster, Harry Carney: reeds; Joe Benjamin: bass; Rufus Jones, drums.

Title: Uppsala 1971 | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Storyville Records

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