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Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Symphonic Ellington - Duke Ellington


Night Creature

The Symphonic Ellington
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra
And 500 of Europe's Finest Musicians
Reprise STEREO R9-6097


Conductor and Piano: Duke Ellington
Trumpets: Cat Anderson, Roy Burrowes & Cootie Williams
Cornet and Violins: Ray Nance
Trombones: Lawrence Brown & Buster Cooper
Bass Trombone: Chuck Connors
Alto Saxophone and Clarinet: Russell Procope
Alto Saxophone: Johnny Hodges
Tenor Saxophone: Paul Gonsalves
Tenor Saxophone and Clarinet: Jimmy Hamilton
Baritone Saxophone and Bass Clarinet: Harry Carney
Bass: Ernie Shepard
Drums: Sam Woodyard

Musicians of the Symphony and Opera Orchestras of Paris, Hamburg, Stockholm and La Scala, Milan

From the back cover: Of his many European tours, the most successful ever undertaken  by Duke Ellington began early in 1963 during the worst winter in a hundred years. Foot-stamping queues, packed, enthusiastic houses and newspaper superlatives were the rule, and a crowed itinerary was somehow fulfilled as Duke and his men flew in and out of frozen airfields.

Duke also somehow found time to realize a long-standing ambition: to record those of his extended works which had been orchestrated for performances by his own band and symphony orchestra. The result, this album, contains the fruits of the collaboration between Duke, his fifteen men, and some five hundred of the best talents from the symphonic resources of Paris, Hamburg, Stockholm and Milan.

Night Creature

In 1955 Duke Ellington was commissioned by the eminent composer Don Gillis to write a piece to be played by the Symphony of the Air in concert with the Ellington band. The outcome, "Night Creature," was subsequently performed not only by the Symphony of the Air, but also by the symphonies of Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit and New Haven, and by the National Symphony in Washington. Duke's own explanation of the work's three movements is characteristically illuminating:

"The first movement is about a blind bug who comes out every night to find that because he is the king of the night creatures, he must dance. The reason he is king, of course, is that being blind he lives in night all day, and when night really falls he sees as well as anyone else, but with the difference that he is accustomed to not seeing. So he puts out his antennae and goes into his dance, and if his antennae warn him of danger, he pauses, turns in another direction, and continues bugging the jitterbugs.

"The second movement is based on that imaginary monster we all fear we shall have to meet some midnight, but when we meet him I'm sure we shall find the he, too, does the boogie boogie.

"Night Creatures, unlike stars, do not come out at night – they come on, each thinking that before the night is out he or she will be the star. They are the restless cool whose exotic or erotic animations, no matter how cool, beg for recognition, mainly from the queen, that dazzling woman who reigns over all night creatures. She is the theme of the third movement, sitting there on her high place and singing, 'I want to be acknowledged' (in D major), or 'Who but me shall be desired?' (in A flat), or 'Who has the taste for my choreography?' (in A minor). After having made each of her subjects feel that Her Majesty sings only for him or her, who is individually the coolest or the craziest, her high-toned highness rises and snaps her fingers. As they stomp off the hand-clapping, everybody scrambles to be in place, wailing and wringing into the most over-indulged form of up-and-outness."

The first and second movement were recorded in Stockholm, the third in Paris. The soloists are Duke Ellington, Paul Gonsalves, Ray Nance (violin), Cootie Williams, Johnny Hodges, Lawrence Brown and Harry Carney (baritone saxophone), Cat Anderson supplying the final up-and-outness.

Non-Violent Integration

In 1949, thrilled at the prospect of performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Robin Hood Dell, Duke Ellington wrote what he called a "little thing," which he hoped might interest the great musicians of that magnificent orchestra. They obviously found it interesting, because they played it with a warm enthusiasm which delighted him. His first experience with that particular type of "tonal-hybrid," gave inspiration for the present-day title: "Non-Violent Integration." Recorded in Germany with members of the Hamburg Symphony, the soloists, beside Duke himself, are the first oboe of that organization, Johnny Hodges, Buster Cooper, Jimmy Hamilton, Paul Gonsalves and Cat Anderson.

La Scala, She Too Pretty To Be Blue

Duke Ellington arrived in Milan early on February morning to discover that the musicians of the La Scala Orchestra would be available to him for only two hours at 5 p.m. He had to write something that would not need much rehearsal and would take as little time as possible to record. He picked up his pencil at 10 a.m. and wrote this piece. The soloists are Russell Procope (clarinet), Paul Gonsalves, Lawrence Brown and Cootie Williams.


Commissioned to write the work for the NBC Symphony in 1950, during the period when Maestro Arturo Toscanini was conductor, Duke Ellington wrote, "Harlem" on the Lle de France while returning to New York from Europe.

The vivid and inspiring picture of Harlem he had in mind bubbled out of him, he recalls, "tonally and spontaneously." He knew that Harlem had the reputation for being "a great place for swingers, where the inhabitants danced, sang, drank and gambled twenty-six hours a day," but he remembered much else about it, too.

"When you arrive in Harlem," he says, "you discover first that there are more churches than cabarets, and a reputation, with people, some plain and some fancy, some living luxuriously, others not so luxuriously, some urbane, some sub-suburban, laughing, crying, and experiencing a million different kinds of ups and downs. So town to uptown, true and false; (1) Pronunciation of the word 'Harlem,' itemizing its many facets from down-town to uptown, true and false; (2) 110th Street, heading north through the Spanish neighborhood; (3) Intersection further uptown – cats shucking and stiffing; (4) Upbeat parade; (5) Jazz spoken in a thousand languages (6) Floor show; (7) Girls out of step, but kicking like crazy; (8) Fanfare for Sunday; (9) On the way to church; (10) Church – we're even represented in Congress by our man of the church; (11) The sermon; (12) Funeral; (13) Counterpoint of tears; (14) Chic chick; (15) Stopping traffic; (16) After church promenade; (17) Agreement a cappella; (18) Civil Rights demandments; (19) March onward and upward; (20) Summary – contribution coda.

Recorded in Paris, the soloists are Ray Nance (cornet), Jimmy Hamilton (clarinet), Lawrence Brown, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney (baritone saxophone and bass clarinet) and Russell Procope (clarinet). – Stanley Dance

From Billboard - January 25, 1964: Four examples of original Ellingtonia as performed by musicians of the Symphony and Opera Orchestras of Paris, Stockholm and La Scala in close association with some of the best side men in the jazz world (Cootie Williams, Paul Gonsalves and others). Although the Duke has taken to the classical-jazz field before, his followers and jazz fans alike will find these four works among his most imaginative.

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