Gabe Meline, senior editor of KQED Arts & Tradition, wrote an in-depth piece in 2015 for the fiftieth anniversary of Ellington’s first Sacred Live performance, staged and carried out in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral on Sept. 16, 1965.
The live performance might be attributed to Grace Cathedral’s dean on the time, C. Julian Bartlett, a white reverend who introduced with him from his native New Orleans a love of jazz and who approached Ellington with the fee — not for a jazz mass per se, however for an prolonged liturgical work. After their assembly in North Seashore, Ellington enthusiastically set to work.
“I acknowledged this as an distinctive alternative,” Ellington wrote, recalling the occasion in his 1973 autobiography Music Is My Mistress. “’Now I can say brazenly,’ I mentioned, ‘what I’ve been saying to myself on my knees.’”
Ellington padded this system with music from his earlier piece Black, Brown & Beige (what he described as “a tone parallel to the historical past of the Negro in America”), and battling what he admitted was “a specific amount of trepidation,” composed new materials for Grace Cathedral drawing on the Bible, beginning with its first 4 phrases. The six-syllable phrase “Within the Starting God” was woven all through the live performance, both sung by the Herman McCoy choir or performed; Bunny Briggs tap-danced to a composition titled “David Danced Earlier than the Lord With All His May;” Jon Hendricks delivered hip spoken phrase; Ellington sidemen Paul Gonsalves, “Cat” Anderson and Johnny Hodges shined; and a younger singer named Esther Marrow sang the Ellington composition “Come Sunday.”
Because the San Francisco Chronicle famous on the time, Ellington shared the stage with some 75 different performers.
Benefit from the full KQED broadcast of the San Francisco Sacred Live performance under.
For the fiftieth anniversary, the younger girl found by Ellington, Queen Esther Marrow, would carry out once more. The Duke first escorts Marrow to the microphone on the 12:40-minute mark above.
Queen Esther Marrow was born in Newport Information, Virginia. She started her profession on the age of twenty-two, when her expertise and vocal presents had been found by Duke Ellington and made her debut as a featured artist in his “Sacred Live performance” world tour. Marrow and Ellington shaped a long-life friendship through the subsequent 4 years whereas touring collectively. Queen has since carried out with such musical greats as Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, Chick Corea and Bob Dylan.
In 1965, Marrow turned energetic within the civil rights motion when she carried out in Dr. Martin Luther King’s World Campaign. There she met her lifetime idol Mahalia Jackson, with whom she would later share the stage. Different political activists on the campaign had been Jesse Jackson, Sidney Poitier and Dr. Ralph Abernathy.
On this PBS profile, Marrow tells the story of how she met the person who launched her profession.
Within the wake of the anniversary celebration, Marrow additionally shared potent pictures contrasting each performances.
As a serious fan of vocalese grasp Jon Hendricks, I’ve listened to his interpretation of “Within the Starting God”—discovered at 15:30 within the KQED broadcast—too many occasions to depend.
To start with God
To start with God
To start with God
No Heaven, no Earth
To start with
To start with
To start with God […]
No mountains, no valleys
No major streets and no again alleys
No evening, no day, no payments to pay
No glory and no gloom
No poverty, no Cadillacs
No sand traps and no mud packs
No pedestrians, no carriage commerce
No physique guards, no bank cards
No convention calls, no TV commercials
No complications and no aspirins
No heroes, no zeros
No naughty, no good
No restrict, no funds
No backside, no topless
No cows, no bulls
No Barracuda, no buffalo
No birds, no bees, no beetles
No symphony, no jive, no Gemini 5
No ten, 9, six or eight
No males making an attempt to fill an inside straight
No applause, no critique
No novice, no skilled
No questions, no solutions
No singers and no dancers
No assorted and varied, ranting and raging
Hither and yon from pillar to pot
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The second Sacred Live performance was held over two years after the primary in New York Metropolis’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Jan. 19, 1968.
The second live performance was broadcast as properly—in shade!
One of the crucial memorable moments within the New York efficiency was a solo by trumpeter Charles Melvin “Cootie” Williams.
James Nadal profiled Williams for All About Jazz in 2013.
All through his years with Ellington, and on many events below his personal title, Cootie persistently displayed a vigorous command of his instrument. Whether or not taking part in the muted vibrant compositions of Ellington, or taking part in within the full-throated method that mirrored his admiration for Louis Armstrong, the distinctive trumpet taking part in of Cootie Williams stays one of many lasting joys of jazz.
He was born Charles Melvin Williams, in Cellular, Alabama, on 10 July 1911. As a small little one, he performed varied devices in class bands however then took up the trumpet on which he was largely self-taught. He was barely into his teenagers when he started taking part in professionally. Among the many bands with which he performed in these years, the mid Nineteen Twenties, was the band run by the household of Lester Younger. He continued to play in territory bands, primarily within the south, together with that led by Alonzo Ross. It was with this band that he performed in New York in early 1928, selecting virtually without delay to stop the band and transfer on to greater profile engagements. In that very same summer season, he recorded with James P. Johnson, then with Chick Webb and Fletcher Henderson, and early the next yr he was employed by Ellington to interchange Bubber Miley. This, Cootie’s first spell in Ellington’s orchestra, was to final for 11 years.
As hinted above, Williams would depart Ellington to kind his personal band however return to Ellington in 1962 after a 22-year absence, persevering with to play with the orchestra even after Ellington’s 1974 demise.
Thomas Cunniffe, the founder, editor, and principal author of Jazz Historical past On-line, offers some further background on the second live performance, together with the demise of Ellington’s composer, pianist, lyricist, arranger, and collaborator Billy Strayhorn.
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This live performance additionally introduced the introduction of Ellington’s new Swedish vocalist, Alice Babs.
Billy Strayhorn was recognized with most cancers of the esophagus in early 1964. Even below the supervision of Ellington’s private doctor, Arthur Logan, his well being went on a downward spiral. His look with Lena Horne on the First Sacred Live performance in December 1965 was the final time he performed in public. Ellington couldn’t stand to see Strayhorn within the hospital, however referred to as him on the telephone each day. Furthermore, he inspired Strayhorn to proceed writing for the band. Strayhorn’s emotionally wrenching “Blood Depend” was despatched to the band from the hospital. It might be his ultimate composition. When Strayhorn died on Could 31, 1967, Ellington was on the highway in Reno. He rushed again to New York for Strayhorn’s funeral, and wrote an eloquent tribute to his good friend which included Strayhorn’s 4 Freedoms, a set of ethical codes which discovered a spot in Ellington’s Second Sacred Live performance. Strayhorn’s passing was an apparent signal to Ellington about his personal mortality, and with out anybody to take Strayhorn’s place, Ellington knew that he was the one one to jot down new music for the band. Ellington recorded a tribute album to Strayhorn in September 1967—the extraordinary “…And His Mom Known as Him Invoice”—after which he set to work writing a wholly unique set of latest sacred music.
Nobody may exchange Strayhorn, after all, however Ellington constructed his Second Sacred Live performance across the abilities of an excellent musician who would give new voice to his music. That musician was the vocalist Alice Babs. For individuals who could also be unaware of her, Babs may very well be thought-about the Swedish model of Julie Andrews. Like Andrews, Babs first caught the general public’s consideration as a young person, she was blessed with an astounding voice and a large vocal vary, and he or she promoted her sunny and optimistic demeanor by a collection of movie, radio and tv appearances. She carried out and recorded classical works, folks songs and pop music, however Babs’ biggest expertise was as a jazz singer. She had unerring pitch, good English diction, and was an impressive scat singer. Ellington may put any music in entrance of her, and he or she would sight-read it with out error.
The 2 first met in February 1963, when Ellington was booked to movie a tv present in Sweden. The producers needed to have a neighborhood singer carry out with the Ellington band, in order that they handed Ellington a pile of data by main Swedish artists for him to audition. All it took was a fast take heed to Babs’ 1959 LP “Alice and Wonderband” for Ellington to make his resolution. As soon as the particular was accomplished, Ellington informed Babs, “We should always make a file collectively”. Babs was flattered on the supply—she had been an Ellington fan since she was 12 years outdated—however was utterly shocked when Ellington referred to as three weeks later, asking her to fly to Paris within the coming days to file. The ensuing album, “Serenade to Sweden” was a rewarding collaboration highlighted by Babs’ beautiful model of “Come Sunday”. Maybe the reminiscence of that rendition satisfied Ellington to rent her to sing his new sacred music. Whereas Babs carried out the Second and Third Sacred Live shows many occasions, she was unable to tour extensively with the band, owing to her personal profession and household commitments. When she wasn’t out there, Ellington mentioned he needed to rent three vocalists to take her place.
Watch Babs sing the wordless “T.G.T.T (Too Good To Title).”
Babs would be part of Ellington for the third Sacred Live performance, which was held at London’s Westminster Abbey on Oct. 24, 1973. It was United Nations Day, and so U.N. Chairman Sir Colin Crowe launched the present, held simply seven months earlier than Ellington joined the ancestors. This present opened with “The Lords Prayer, My Love” sung by Babs, and closed with “The Majesty of God.” The live performance featured notable performances from the John Alldis Choir, performed by Roscoe Gill Jr.
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The UK’s Nationwide Jazz Archive has an exquisite 1974 interview Ellington did with Les Tomkin for Crescendo, all about his sacred music. The Duke made it clear that writing these concert events didn’t in any means battle together with his jazz work, mentioned his conversations with theologians, and signed off with an entreaty for Tomkin to “inform all of your pretty readers that we do love them madly, please. God bless.”
Benefit from the audio of the third Sacred Live performance under.
Whereas this weekend brings holidays for many individuals of a number of faiths, I don’t suppose you need to be spiritual to be uplifted by this “sacred” music; as Ellington famous within the opening of the third live performance, the theme of the music was “love.”
Be a part of me within the feedback for much more Ellington, and orchestras and soloists who’re performing his sacred works at present. Moreover, to have a good time the second anniversary of “Black Music Sunday,” I’ll even be posting hyperlinks to earlier tales within the collection that readers might have missed within the final two years.
As at all times, please be at liberty to put up music that lifts you up in these making an attempt occasions. Thanks once more for being a part of the Black Music Sunday household of listeners.