The New Yorker discusses Duke Ellington’s music and race in America, via Harvey G. Cohen's new book, Duke Ellington's America (excerpt). Music clips to accompany the articles inside the fold. (via Follow Me Here) [more inside]
The Goon Show was a highly popular and immensely influential radio show on the BBC in the 1950s featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan. They would sometimes do live readings of episodes, here's a video recording of The Whistling Spy Enigma (parts 1, 2, 3) and a much later recording of Tales of Men's Shirts (parts 1, 2, 3). The first features Ray Ellington, musical director of the Goon Show, and the second John Cleese, who, like his fellow Pythons, was a huge fan of The Goon Show growing up. In the 50s BBC turned The Goon Show into a TV show with puppets, called Telegoons. A number of shows exist online: The Lurgi Strikes Britain (1, 2), The Nadger Plague (1, 2), Captain Seagoon RN (1, 2), Tales of Montmartre (1, 2), The First Albert Memorial to the Moon (1, 2), The Hastings Flyer (1, 2), The Affair of the Lone Banana (1, 2), The Africa Ship Canal (1, 2), The Booted Gorilla (1, 2), The Ascent of Mount Everest (1, 2), The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill on Sea (1, 2), Fort Knight (1, 2), The Terrible Revenge of Fred Fu Manchu (1, 2), The Lost Colony (1, 2) and, finally, back where we first began, the Telegoons version of The Whistling Spy Enigma (1, 2).
Duke Ellington recalled "... that's one of those things Tizol came up with. See, it wasn't in tempo, he stood [and played it] sort of ad lib. He played it, [the] first ten bars, we took it and worked out the rest of it." That thing was Caravan, and the instigator was Juan Tizol, who was a trombonist in Duke Ellington's orchestra. The track, originally recorded in 1936, became a jazz standard. The lyrics were penned in 1936 by publisher and manager Irving Mills, adding to the exotic feeling and romance of what is considered by many to be the first Latin jazz piece, before the late swing era and first decade of bebop when Latin Jazz (also called Afro-Cuban Jazz) came into prominence. The track didn't cross into other genres until Les Paul created his version of the track in 1948, which lead to other covers, and eventually a successful cover by The Ventures (source). [more inside]
"In the monitor booth the sound technician listens to the rehearsal through a loudspeaker, and in cooperation with maestro Ellington, brings the music to its highest sound perfection before transmitting it through the electrical circuits to the recording machine!" Record Making With Duke Ellington (1937). [YouTube]