Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Duke Ellington's patriotic pitch

In 1945 the American Treasury Department arranged with Duke Ellington to broadcast a series of one-hour musical radio programs promoting American Savings Bonds. This long-running series from Storyville Records is up to vol. 21 of a total of 24 releases. It's a format that served everyone well. I'm sure the War Bonds people were pleased with the response, the Duke had a regular gig for 18 months in 1945 and '46 to present his musicians from venues around the U.S., and even James C. Petrillo, the President of the American Federation of Musicians, gets regular mentions, following the labour issues of the early 1940s.

Storyville has bundled two radio programs into each 2-CD album, with added material from the archives. This one has sets from The Million Dollar Theatre in Los Angeles, July 6, 1946 and the Orpheum Theatre in San Diego, July 27, 1946: plus music from the El Patio Ballroom in Denver, July 14, 1942 and the Trianon Ballroom, South Gate, California, May 2, 1942. The introductory track from volume 20 in the series will give you an idea of the material included:

The musicians in the orchestra are, of course, legendary. Featured on this album are saxophonists Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster, with Ray Nance on trumpet, and vocalists Kay Davis and Al Hibbler. The broadcast sound is very good, and with all of the announcements (but otherwise no commercials) this makes for a fascinating two hours of listening. I don't know that I'd want to listen to 24 of these, but I am looking forward to volume 22.

Here's Duke Ellington in his dressing room at the Paramount Theater, New York, ca. Sept. 1946, in one of William P. Gottlieb's great photos (all of which are available at the Library of Congress' website.) Ellington's style and sophistication are evident throughout his War Bond appeals; he's such an effective pitchman for this important cause.

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