Edward Kennedy Ellington

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My favourite photograph of Duke, in Paris, 1958 (Photograph: Herman Leonard)

In an earlier blog about the Dutch saxophonist I met in Glasgow I forgot to mention that on the day I saw him playing on a Glasgow street he reminded me that the 29 April was the 115th anniversary (born 1899) of Duke Ellington’s birth and that it would be the 40th anniversary of his death on the 24 May 2014.

Since my middle teens (which seem SO long ago now) I have been an Ellington fan and over the years acquired around 40+ albums, starting with vynil back in the 60s through to present day CDs. I really can’t be doing with this downloading nonsense as I like to feel the product in my hand and read the liner notes, difficult as they are on CDs.

Oh for the days back in the mid/late 1960s when I would catch the train to Manchester every Saturday morning and make my way to the holy grail of jazz record shops Barry’s Record Rendezvous on Blackfriars Street. I would then spend about two hours going through the racks of records and listening to them in  the little “listening booths.”

LPs were expensive and in one section were the Blue Note and ESP label LPs, American imports which were considerably more expensive than the UK ones and which we all aspired to buy.

You would see the same faces from week to week, all indulging our passion for this music called jazz. I recall buying Coltranes “A Love Supreme” and Miles “Kind of Blue” along with classic albums by Count Basie, Ben Webster, Lester Young and Stan Kenton and going straight home to spend hours listening to my new purchases. And yes, I was considered a bit of an odd ball by my friends as they couldn’t see what I saw in the music.

Anyway, in memory of Duke I shall indulge myself in his music once agin by listening to “The Far East Suite” and “New Orleans Suite, two absolute classics. On the former you hear the absolute classic sax line up of Johnny Hodges (alto), Paul Gonzalves (tenor), Jimmy Hamilton (clarinet) and the unique and inimitable Harry Carney (baritone).

If you have not yet discovered the music of  the Duke, then a whole new world awaits you, and as a starter may I suggest Passion Flower with the most sensual alto sax playing by Johnny Hodges.

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