Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

Duke Ellington Late 1930s Small Groups

This week on Afterglow we'll listen to some of Duke Ellington's late-1930s small-group recordings, which he did in an effort to reach out to the jukebox trade.

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Duke Ellington Album Cover

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For these sessions, Duke Ellington drew on orchestra members such as trumpeters Cootie Williams and Rex Stewart, Barney Bigard, and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges. Sometimes the sessions were used as a way of testing numbers before being introduced into the larger Ellington band.

This week on Afterglow we’ll feature selections from a new collection of Duke Ellington’s late-1930s small-group recordings.

Ellington had started out as a small-group leader in the 1920s, and had done such recordings on an occasional basis before beginning this series in 1936, partly in an effort to reach out to the jukebox trade. For these sessions he drew on orchestra members such as trumpeters Cootie Williams and Rex Stewart, Barney Bigard, and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges. Sometimes the sessions were used as a way of testing numbers before being introduced into the larger Ellington band.

We’ll hear some Ducal classics such as “Echoes of Harlem” and “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” as well as lesser-known songs like “Lost in Meditation,” “Clouds in My Heart,” and “Night Song.”

Other artists featured on the program include alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, vocalist Betty Carter, pianist Oscar Peterson, and composer David Baker.

Music Heard On This Episode

I've Never Been in Love Before
Chet Baker — Best of Chet Baker Sings: Let's Get Lost (Pacific Jazz, 1956)
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I've Never Been in Love Before
Chet Baker — Best of Chet Baker Sings: Let's Get Lost (Pacific Jazz, 1956)
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Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man
Betty Roche — Take the (Bethlehem, 1956)
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Little B's Poem
Matt Wilson — The Scenic Route (Palmetto, 2007)

Notes: New release. Bobby Hutcherson composition.

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You Stepped Out of a Dream
Nat King Cole — The World of Nat King Cole (Capitol, 1952)

Notes: Pete Rugolo conducting.

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Pondering
Jackie McLean — Alto Madness (Prestige, 1957)

Notes: With John Jenkins (composer) also on alto sax.

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You're Mine, You
Betty Carter — It's Not About the Melody (Verve, 1992)
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Caravan
Barney Bigard — Duke Ellington Small Groups 1936-40 (Mosaic, 1936)
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Clouds in My Heart
Barney Bigard — Duke Ellington Small Groups 1936-40 (Mosaic, 1936)
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Echoes of Harlem
Cootie Williams — Duke Ellington Small Groups 1936-40 (Mosaic, 1938)
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Lost in Meditation
Johnny Hodges — Duke Ellington Small Groups 1936-40 (Mosaic, 1938)

Notes: With Mary McHugh on vocals.

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Night Song
Cootie Williams — Duke Ellington Small Groups 1936-40 (Mosaic, 1940)
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Valentine
Fred Hersch — In Amsterdam (Palmetto, 2007)

Notes: New release.

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Background Music
Warne Marsh — All Music (Nessa, 1976)
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Daydream
Dianne Reeves — Lush Life (Blue Note, 2007)

Notes: New release. Billy Strayhorn song.

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Tin Tin Deo
Oscar Peterson — Perfect Peterson: Best of the Pablo and Telarc Years (Pablo, 1996)

Notes: With Roy Hargrove on trumpet and Ralph Moore on tenor sax.

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I'm Takin' My Time With You
Kitty Kallen — Band Singer (Sony, 1939)

Notes: With Jack Teagarden's big band.

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Like a Ship in the Night
Johnny Hodges — Duke Ellington Small Groups 1936-1940 (Mosaic, 1939)

Notes: Jeanne Eldridge on vocals. One of the first Billy Strayhorn arrangements recorded by members of the Ellington orchestra.

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Jeep's Blues
Johnny Hodges — Duke Ellington Small Groups 1936-1940 (Mosaic, 1938)
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Fat Stuff Serenade
Rex Stewart — Duke Ellington Small Groups 1936-1940 (Mosaic, 1939)
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I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart
Johnny Hodges — Duke Ellington Small Groups 1936-1940 (Mosaic, 1938)

Notes: With Mary McHugh on vocals.

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Dooji Wooji
Johnny Hodges — Duke Ellington Small Groups 1936-1940 (Mosaic, 1939)
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An Evening Thought
Buselli-Wallarab Orchestra — Basically Baker (GM, 2007)

Notes: Recording of David Baker's composition for Marion McPartland.

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Brother Where Are You?
Oscar Brown Jr. — Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. Goes to Washington (Verve, 1964)
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Prelude to a Kiss
Johnny Hodges — Duke Ellington Small Groups 1936-1940 (Mosaic, 1938)

Notes: First vocal version of this song, sung by Mary McHugh.

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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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