Duke Ellington recordings: 1924-1930, audio file links
I’ve been planning to do a feature page on early Duke Ellington recordings for some time. Doing so has been complicated by the fact that very few of the recordings by Ellington-led bands from 1924 to 1930 are available in the format I normally use, videos.
The Red Hot Jazz Archive (redhotjazz.com) is the source of the information which follows on this page, as well as the destination of each link, and the holder of each audio file referred to.
On the main Duke Ellington page, The Red Hot Jazz Archive provides a brief history of Duke Ellington’s movements during his early years in New York, beginnning in 1922-23, and his subsequent rise to leader of a band called The Washingtonians, which using the name of the place at which they worked also recorded under the name Duke Ellington and his Kentucky Club Orchestra. The highlighted band names are links to the discographies and the RAM audio files of the titles recorded by the band under this name.
Additionally, The Red Hot Jazz Archive also has links to Ellington’s early solo recordings from 1926-28, and pages on other pseudonyms used by the Ellington band up to about 1930. The more prominent of these include Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra, The Harlem Footwarmers, and The Jungle Band. The years covered by the recordings in these sections are primarily 1924 to 1930, with a few exceptions from 1931-32.
On its main Duke Ellington page, Red Hot Jazz mentions some of the major personnel additions to the early Ellington Orchestra during its formative years. Prominent among these was the addition of trumpet player Bubber Miley, who brought “his unique plunger mute style of playing” giving them a distinctive sound, which came to be known as “The Jungle Sound,” a large factor in Ellington’s early success. Clarinetist Barney Bigard left King Oliver to join Ellington’s band in 1928. Bigard replaced Rudy Jackson who was fired by Ellington following a copyright infringement suit (by King Oliver) over the melody of Creole Love Call. Evidently, Jackson had claimed authorship when in fact it was nipped from a King Oliver composition “Camp Meeting Blues,” which Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band recorded in 1923.
According to to Red Hot Jazz, in 1924 The Washingtonians made their first recording, the two sides “Choo Choo (Gotta Hurry Home)” and “Rainy Nights (Rainy Days)” [links repaired on 9 October 2013]. Only one recording is given for 1925. Not long after Irving Mills became the band’s manager and publisher in 1926 the band broke through to the big time. In 1927 they re-recorded version of East St. Louis Toodle-Oo and recorded the debuts of two other songs associated with Ellington throughout his long career, Black and Tan Fantasy and Creole Love Call. A major factor in the band’s leap into the limelight in 1927 was becoming the house band at the Cotton Club, a job that King Oliver had turned down.
The Red Hot Jazz Archive says.
Radio broadcasts from the club made Ellington famous across America and also gave him the financial security to assemble a top notch band that he could write music specifically for. Musicians tended to stay with the band for long periods of time. For example, saxophone player Harry Carney would remain with Duke nonstop from 1927 to Ellington’s death in 1974.
Selected Duke Ellington links from The Red Hot Jazz Archive: