Monday, December 11, 2017

On July 26, 1939, the Duke Ellington band played a show on the summer terrace rooftop venue of Boston's Ritz Carlton hotel. One set was broadcast by the NBC network by way of WBZ in Boston. Live music from remote sites were a programming bonanza for the radio networks. The bands weren't paid by the stations or networks, but the publicity generated by the shows nationwide allowed bands to ask for more money from live gigs. The Ellington band made its name nationally with its broadcasts from the Cotton Club in Harlem.

This version of the Ellington band carried two Bostonians - alto sax master Johnny Hodges (born in Cambridge) and baritone sax pioneer Harry Carney. Both lived on Hammond street, where the South End and lower Roxbury meet. The band spent quite a bit of time in New England and the Boston area. Early on, they played summers in Salem, MA, and later played the New England circuit of clubs, dance halls and theatres. With a fairly dense population, New England allowed the band to play many one nighters in a row with little travel from location to location. Thus, they could give New York a rest, squeeze in a lot of paydays, and get home in reasonable time. Regions like the Midwest required much more travel between gigs, and made less money for them.

The Ellington band with Ivie Anderson.

The songs:

a jazz potpourri
lawrence brown stomething to live for
johnny hodges old king dooji?
ivie anderson in a mist
ivie again rose of the rio grande
pussy willow
ivie you can count on me
way low

The band:

Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Clarinet – Harry Carney
Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Johnny Hodges
Tenor Saxophone – Otto Hardwicke*
Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet – Barney Bigard
Trombone – Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol, Lawrence Brown
Trumpet – Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart, Wallace Jones
Bass – Billy Taylor
Drums – Sonny Greer
Piano – Duke Ellington

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