Tag Archives: Duke Ellington

Dad and the Duke

Some years ago, my dad gave me a list of three songs he wanted for his funeral.

Last week, I passed them along to my cousin’s daughter, a Methodist pastor, she prepared my dad’s graveside service, which was yesterday.

She used two of them — the traditional hymns “How Great Thou Art” and “Nearer, My God, To Thee” — in her message.

The third one was left to me. Here you go, Dad.

My dad handled freight from the railroads from when he was 16 until he was 5o. He loved trains. He also loved swing music, which explains his request for Duke Ellington’s “Take The A Train.”

Now he’s riding with all those cats on that train.

The clip is from “Reveille With Beverly,” released in 1943, the year my dad graduated from high school.

Raymond E. Ash, 1925-2017

Here’s the view from his final resting place. That’s the rail yard in Wausau, Wisconsin.

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Filed under May 2017, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 10

Today, we’re driving across Wisconsin’s winter wonderland, heading to a wedding. My dad will be with us, and it seems appropriate to see what Christmas sounds like at Ray’s Corner.

If you’re a regular visitor around these parts, you know we occasionally stop at Ray’s Corner and borrow tunes from Dad’s collection. Ray’s Corner, of course, is the apartment where the music is loud and where the martinis are made of gin with the vermouth bottle held about a foot away.

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“Winter Wonderland,” Dean Martin, 1959, available on “Christmas With Dino,” 2006, and “Season’s Greetings from Dean Martin,” 1992.

Dad digs Dino, and I generally do, too. However, I’m not a huge fan of Dino’s many Christmas songs. This one’s a keeper, though.

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“Jingle Bells,” Duke Ellington, 1962, from “Jingle Bell Jazz,” 1974. (This CD, released in 1985, combines cuts from the 1974 album “Jingle Bell Jazz” and the 1981 album “God Rest Ye Merry Jazzmen.”)

This cut starts slowly, then picks up the pace when the 12-piece horn section jumps in. That, of course, is Billy Strayhorn on the piano. Recorded in New York City on June 21, 1962. (I turned 5 years old that day.)

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“Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,” Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra, 1950, from “Santa Claus Blues,” 1988. It’s out of print, but it looks like Amazon has an mp3 available from another compilation record.

The liner notes on this cut say only that it was recorded in 1950, but I’m guessing it comes from a session on Oct. 27, 1950. I have a Hampton cut from that session on another Christmas album. That’s likely Sonny Parker on the vocals. Mind you, this was 58 years ago, and he’s singing “rock, rock, rock, Mr. Santa.” There also are terrific trumpet and sax charts on this one, along with a little taste of Hamp’s vibes.

“Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” was an R&B hit for Mabel Scott in 1948. The next year, she married her pianist, Charles Brown, who had hits with “Merry Christmas Baby” in 1947 and “Please Come Home for Christmas” in 1960. Alas, they stayed together for only a short time, and Scott eventually went back to her original love, gospel music.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 22

Tonight, we swing! Our three under the tree really have it going on.

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“What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin’?),” Louis Prima and His New Orleans Gang, 1936, from “Santa Claus Blues,” a 1988 compilation on Jass Records. It’s out of print.

This is the oldest tune in my collection, but you can get a sense of the great Louis Prima as a hipster even in this early piece.

Prima was just 25 when he cut this tune, having just hit it big in the New York nightclubs. Not long afterward, he headed west to Los Angeles, where he worked until becoming a Las Vegas institution in the ’50s.

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“Jingle Bells,” Duke Ellington, 1962, from “Jingle Bell Jazz,” a 1985 compilation that combines two Columbia albums, “Jingle Bell Jazz” and “God Rest Ye Merry Jazzmen.” This tune is from the former.

This starts a little slowly, then picks up the pace when the 12-piece horn section jumps in. That, of course, is Billy Strayhorn on the piano. Recorded in New York City on June 21, 1962. (I turned 5 years old that day.)

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“Winter Wonderland,” Alexander O’Neal, from “My Gift to You,” 1988.

No ’80s funk on this one. Rather, it’s an energetic big-band arrangement right out of the ’60s, with O’Neal’s smooth tenor rising and dropping to keep pace with the horns. Lee Blaskey — who also worked with Janet Jackson — produced, arranged and conducted this swinging backing track.

Enjoy. More to come. Time grows short for requests, so get ’em in.

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One more thing: Today was a most excellent day at the record store. Sitting at the front of a stack on the floor was “Snoopy and His Friends,” the 1967 album by the Royal Guardsmen. My friendly used vinyl merchant agreed to part with it for a most reasonable price.

If you picked up “Snoopy’s Christmas” earlier, circle back to Vol. 1 and get it again. This rip is better, with a richer sound.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2007, Sounds

You (and I) watched too much TV

Bob Barker is taping his last “The Price Is Right” today, then retiring tomorrow. I wish Bob all the best, but I’m not really a Bob Barker guy. Never seen “Happy Gilmore,” either.

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When it comes to game shows, I’m more a “Hollywood Squares” or “Match Game” guy. I’ll take some witty comments with my lovely parting gifts.

That’s why I feel a much greater loss with the recent passing of the wonderful Charles Nelson Reilly, one of our constant companions as we watched late-afternoon TV during the ’70s.

But this is a music blog, and in that spirit, here’s an excerpt from the best insider’s tribute to the life of Reilly. It’s written by Danny Miller, and it ran in the Huffington Post, entitled “Laughing With Charles Nelson Reilly.”

My brother-in-law, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, was a huge Charles fan. A few years ago, when Jeff was in town mixing the Wilco CD “Summerteeth,” we brought Charles to the recording studio for a visit. Charles immediately had the entire rock crowd under his spell. They all wanted to pose for pictures with him and they seemed more excited to see Charles than if a member of the Rolling Stones had wandered in. Someone handed him a CD by a band called the Didjits called “Full Nelson Reilly” and Charles signed it to Jeff, “From one rock star to another.”

Another fine tribute to Charles Nelson Reilly, a fan’s tribute that perfectly captures what it was like to be young and watching late-afternoon TV in the ’70s, is from Andrew at the always interesting Armagideon Time.

— And now for something completely different.

It’s always interesting to watch the blog statistics, to see which posts are popular, and to see where our visitors are coming from. Every time we get the good word from Jefitoblog, and more recently from Retro Music Snob, the traffic shoots up.

Last week, Jefito mentioned three recent posts as he sent his readers our way (and RMS mentioned two of the three). Of the three — Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, the Pusherman songs and selections from my dad’s record collection — guess which one got the most visitors?

The raid on my dad’s record collection, which delivered tunes from Dean Martin and Gene Krupa. Both cuts are more than 50 years old, yet Dino’s cut — the rumba-flavored “Sway” — is close to becoming the most-downloaded song in the short history of this blog. Go figure.

Guess we better stop by Ray’s Corner more often.

Here’s a tune that nicely ties together both of today’s themes. It comes from my Ray’s Corner playlist but is not technically part of my dad’s collection. He would dig it, though.

And if you watched late-afternoon TV in the ’70s, as I did, you’ll recognize it from another of those wild game shows.

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“Jumpin’ at the Woodside (alternate take),” the Duke Ellington and Count Basie orchestras, 1961, from “First Time: The Count Meets The Duke.”

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Filed under June 2007, Sounds