16 October 2013 — Jazz on the Tube
I think I could have been no more than 13 or perhaps 14 when I bought my first jazz album and it was the 1957 classic, ‘Duke Ellington Presents – The Bethlehem Years Volume 2’ made I think after his epic return to fame at the Newport Jazz Festival, after some time in the doldrums. It blew me away, and to this day, whenever I play it I am astounded by the sheer perfection of the arrangements and by the virtuosity and soul of the soloists. Each track on this album, from the opener, ‘Summertime’ through to the last, ‘The Blues’ is a gem with Ray Nance (trumpet, violin, vocals) on ‘I can’t get started’, the Gershwin classic is total perfection. This is the classical music of the 20th century.
It was around this time I got to meet the man himself, backstage at the Gaumont Cinema in Kilburn. I even shook the master’s hand in his dressing room. In the concert I would stand right at the front, my elbows on the stage, glued to the orchestra as they joked and laughed but never missed a beat, like some kind of soul machine. It was heaven to a kid like me, addicted to jazz.
This trio of songs was recorded in 1959 in Switzerland probably the time I met him. The recording sucks but so what, it’s the Duke…