Thursday, August 11, 2011

Willis Conover hosts Duke Ellington - 4

Ah, "the joy of discovery!" Yesterday you heard a brief snippet of a superb example of Willis' unique way with words--and timing--in the outro of "Sepia Panorama" at the end of the last entry. Here again are his remarks in full:

"'Sepia Panorama', in a rare performance--rare as it was performed, and rare in the sense that, so far as I know, this particular performance has not ever been broadcast before this Voice of America broadcast, and we are pleased to have the conductor, arranger, pianist, and, uh . . . general personality of the Duke Ellington Orchestra present to share the joy of discovery with us.

"And I should add 'influence'. Mr. Ellington is not only an influence upon composers and musicians, he is also an influence on the way people speak, as witness the flowery words I am coming out with. Duke?"

". . . . "

Ellington (laughing): "Is that my cue?"

Conover (also now laughing): "Yes."

The Duke: "Ohhhhhh . . . . . Yes . . . . Well, uh . . . [then not missing a beat] I'm glad you brought up the subject of rare, because that's the way a lot of people would order their shish kebab. You know, if you dig shish kebab, you can get the image of the College Inn, and the Sherman House, during 1940, when those cats were dressed up in these far-eastern outfits--the waiters--and walking around with these flaming swords and your meat flaming, and then serve it to you--it was very picturesque, and it inspired this title, "Flaming Sword":

Ellington: "Its solo . . . is by Ben Webster [1909-1973] of course. And if you didn't notice it, I might call your attention to the fact that Ben may sound a lot like "Hawk" [Coleman Hawkins, 1904-1969] in here, but Ben was deliberately doing this."

Tomorrow: "Rose of the Rio Grande", the final item in Willis' program featuring the historic performance of the Duke Ellington Orchestra in Fargo, North Dakota, on 7 November 1940.

(And again, our thanks to VOA's David Bodington, Conover's last Studio Engineer, for giving us a recording of this posthumous program, which he produced.)

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