Duke Ellington: the 1952 Seattle Concert Celebrates an Anniversary

ellington-seattleI’m guessing that I’m not the only one who wasn’t aware that Duke Ellington’s The 1952 Seattle Concert was his first legitimate live performance release (with the exception of a few V-Discs). To be honest, I didn’t even know there was a Ellington Seattle concert recording until I came across it, and and today marks the 57th Anniversary of this concert.

One of the interesting things about this recording (aside from the fact that this is an anniversary of it and that it took place in my backyard), is that it showcases some new members at a time after Duke’s top star, Johnny Hodges, and two others, had departed. Drummer Louis Bellson was perhaps the most notable addition, along with valve trombonist Juan Tizol, slide trombonist Britt Woodman, saxophonist Willie Smith, and trumpeter Willie Cook.

The new members contributed not only with their instruments to this concert, but with their compositions as well. The band performed Skin Deep (the opening number) and The Hawk Talks by new drummer Bellson, as well as contributions by Tizol including Caravan and Perdido.

Perdido became a showcase tune for trumpet section leader Clark Terry. I interviewed Terry a couple of years ago, and while he might not be able to play like he did 57 years ago (triple-tounging notes as only he could), he maintains the same personality in his playing that he did when playing with Duke. Clark Terry shines on this recording, and did with the band until he left in 1959.

Other highlights of the release include multiple Ellington standards including It Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing, In a Sentimental Mood, Mood Indigo, as well as a 15 minute version of Ellington’s Harlem Suite.

This is a nice item to add to a jazz collection, again as it highlights the beginning of a series of great live recordings released by Ellington. While Duke’s Newport live recording from 1956 still might be his live performance highlight, this album is highly recommended.

2 Replies to “Duke Ellington: the 1952 Seattle Concert Celebrates an Anniversary”

  1. Good article, Kevin. I ran across an old vinyl copy of the concert and spent many hours trying to digitize it for air worthiness, only to discover that BMG had already reissued it on CD. Oh well. It’s a great performance that I too was unaware of until just a few years ago. I couldn’t find anything about it online. Was thinking it would be interesting to check the Seattle Times archives for a review or some mention of the show. Thanks for bringing it to your listeners’ attention.


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