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On a Turquoise Cloud: Duke Ellington After the War, 1945-47

Ellington kept his orchestra together in a changing economic landscape, continuing to create memorable music and expanding his compositional horizons.

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Ellington 1940s

Photo: William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

Ellington, post-Blanton-Webster years: a man at midpoint, striving ever more to make his music "beyond category."

At the end of World War II Duke Ellington was coming off one of the most commercially and artistically successful periods of his career—the so-called Blanton-Webster years of the early 1940s. He had managed to keep much of his orchestra intact during the war and had maintained a high public profile with concerts and broadcasts during the 1943-44 recording ban that kept him and other artists out of the studios. In late 1944 he’d scored a smash hit with “I’m Beginning to See the Light”…and with service men and women beginning to return home as the war wound down in 1945, it seemed that the big bands would keep riding the wave of popularity that had sustained them since the mid-1930s. But the cultural landscape was changing in ways that would challenge, provoke, and inspire Ellington as he continued to pursue his unique musical vision.

“On a Turquoise Cloud” features little-known mid-late 1940s Ellington compositions such as “Magenta Haze,” “Lady of the Lavender Mist,” and “Air-Conditioned Jungle,” as well as two sides from his short 1946 stay on the Musicraft label, a Carnegie Hall concert performance of the atonal/stride-piano “The Clothed Woman,” “I Like the Sunrise” from The Liberian Suite, and one of the few recorded numbers from the music Ellington wrote for the failed Broadway musical Beggar’s Holiday. We’ll also talk with historian and Ellington expert Michael McGerr (who can also be heard on the previous Night Lights program Suite History and the WFIU special Jump for Joy: Duke Ellington’s Celebratory Musical).

Listen to these previous WFIU programs about Duke Ellington’s 1945 Treasury Department broadcasts:

Music Heard On This Episode

Magenta Haze
Duke Ellington — The Collection: 1946-47 Recordings (Hindsight, 1946)
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Magenta Haze
Duke Ellington — The Collection: 1946-47 Recordings (Hindsight, 1946)
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Lady of the Lavender Mist
Duke Ellington — The Duke: 1927-1962 (Sony/Columbia, 1947)
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Air-Conditioned Jungle
Duke Ellington — Complete 1947-52 (Jazzotheque, 1947)
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Three Cent Stomp
Duke Ellington — The Duke: 1927-1962 (Sony/Columbia, 1947)
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Golden Cress
Duke Ellington — The Duke: 1927-1962 (Sony/Columbia, 1947)
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Everything But You
Duke Ellington — Treasury Shows V. 9 (DETS, 1945)

Notes: Joya Sherrill on vocals.

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Maybe I Should Change My Ways
Duke Ellington — The Duke: 1927-1962 (Sony/Columbia, 1947)

Notes: From BEGGAR'S HOLIDAY.

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I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So
Duke Ellington — The Complete RCA-Victor Recordings (RCA-Victor, 1945)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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On a Turquoise Cloud
Duke Ellington — The Duke: 1927-1962 (Sony/Columbia, 1947)

Notes: Voice: Kay Davis

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Happy-Go-Lucky Local Pt. 1
Duke Ellington — Happy-Go-Lucky Local (Musicraft, 1946)
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Sultry Sunset
Duke Ellington — Happy-Go-Lucky Local (Musicraft, 1946)
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The Clothed Woman
Duke Ellington — Carnegie Concerts December 1947 (Prestige, 1947)
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I Like the Sunrise
Duke Ellington — Ellington Uptown (Sony/Columbia, 1947)

Notes: Al Hibbler on vocals.

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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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