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Uppsala 1971

Uppsala 1971

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In Duke Ellington’s tape collection (”The Stockpile”) were several tapes with concert recordings of the band’s performances on tour. One can only guess whether these tapes were required by Duke for some purpose, or were given to him (or his son Mercer) on the initiative of the concert arrangers. At any rate it was a great delight to find a tape box marked ”Ellington – Uppsala 9-11-71” in the collection, containing a tape with a concert at the university town of Uppsala, Sweden on Nov. 9th 1971, the second of two concerts in this very old and very beautiful town founded in the 13th century.

The concert in Uppsala, the second on this Tuesday evening, started with the C-Jam Blues as was usual at that time. The tune had sort of replaced Take The A Train as the band’s signature. Norris Turney is heard on the clarinet over the band at the beginning, and Cootie Williams, Paul Gonsalves, Booty Wood, and Russell Procope follow. The centerpiece of the concert was the band’s performance of A Tone Parallel to Harlem or HARLEM as it was also called.

To end the evening properly and bring the audience in a more relaxed mood before leaving the concert hall, Ellington chose to finish the concert alone at the piano, just accompanied by Joe Benjamin on the bass, playing his own arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s lovely tune Lotus Blossom. As evident from the performance at the Uppsala concert, the band could live up to the challenges, and it was received everywhere with enthusiasm and – love.


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.

-- (Chris Mosey)

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    • UPC/Barcode: 717101848225
    • Item Number: SVL1018482