Daily Archives: May 17, 2009

THINGS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE

 Duke 1942My friend and fellow jazz researcher David Weiner sent me this clipping from BILLBOARD (issues of that music business magazine from 1942 to the present are now accessible online).  David is a tireless reader, and he found this review of an Ellington stage show which would make anyone wish for a time machine to ttravel to the RKO-Boston in February 1942, an acetate recorder, a sound movie camera — and a crew to operate them all.  For your reading and listening pleasure.  (Oh, and you can ignore the racist language and you don’t have to stay for the movie itself.)

From Billboard, Feb. 21, 1942:

Duke Ellington has one of the fastest and finest shows seen on a local stage in a long time. The Duke still has the band and he is also a fine showman.  There is no letdown from the moment the Ellington medley intros the stageshow until the final curtain. Ethel Waters is present along with the Ellington band, and it all adds up to the biggest flesh value the Hub has seen in many moons.

Offering opens with a medley of Ellingtonia – Sophisticated Lady, Solitude, etc. The Duke then introduces Marie Bryant, who has one brief number to offer, which clicks very nicely. Ivie Anderson follows and receives a great ovation, singing Rocks In My Bed and I Want A Man Like That. In the latter number she gets some assistance from the boys in the band, notably drummer Sonny Greer, who has some choice repartee.

With the next offering, Concerto for Clinkers, a symphony of offtones, the Duke gets a chance to introduce some of the boys in his band, all of whom were joyously received. Johnny Hodges, who does some very fine sax work, received a great hand.

When the Concerto is finished, the Duke brings out Herb Jeffries, who sings Flamingo, the band’s recent release. Encouraged by the great response, Jeffries comes back with Blues In The Night, highlighted by a good Ellington arrangement. Jeffries has a nice, easy manner and a fine voice and makes an immediate and definite impression.

Ethel Waters follows and starts with Ain’t Gonna Sin No More, Frankie and Johnny and Bread and Gravy. In the last-named piece she is assisted by three dusky maidens proficient in singing Negro spirituals. They demonstrate their ability with Miss Waters aiding them, and get a great hand. Miss Waters then goes into St. Louis Blues, bows off, and returns in response to a great ovation to offer Stormy Weather. Finally had to beg off.

Ellington then introduces Pot, Pan and Skillet, from the cast of Jump For Joy, who do a terrific job with a comedy dance routine. Called back for some more antics, they delight the crowd, finally bowing off to make way for the Ellington finale, which features Ivie and his newest number I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good.

Screen fare is a trifle weak, “North to the Klondike.”

(Mike Kaplan, Billboard Mag.)

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