Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ray Ellington - Jazz And Humour

Throughout the story of jazz humour has been a part of the show, however, often neglected in modern jazz that wants to be taken seriously and percieved as a special art form in music. That's alright, I guess, time and conditions of jazz and jazzperformance change, but once in a while it's good to bear in mind that jazz from the start was a part of entertainment in general, refined and developed through arrangements of music of the time, Tin Pan Alley tunes as well as ragtime, blues and gospel added rhythm and swing. When be bop entered the scene in the 1940s, the serious thing about jazz arrangements - the improvisation and the soloist role - seemed to catch the spotlight, often setting entertainment aside as not relevant - the critics and musicians wanted a personal statement and an individual contribution in jazz. However, this didn't mean that humour disappeared from the jazz scene, notable examples being contributions by be-bop pioneers like Dizzy Gillespie and Stuff Smith a.o. Some musicians, like Slim Gaillard, created their own musical universe combining the inspiration from the new jazz sound with a personal preference of the burlesque in contributions like the one inserted below.

Humour and entertainment also played a major role during the career of the English drummer, vocalist and bandleader, Ray Ellington. Ray Ellington was born of an American father and Russian mother in London on 17 March 1916. He took up the drums after leaving school and started accepting gigs with various small groups, often adding his distinctive vocal contributions in performance. His big break came in 1937 when he joined Harry Roy and His Orchestra as the band's drummer. His vocal talents were put to good use too. Through records and many radio broadcasts his name began to become known by the public. After the war he resumed his career, initially working in small groups led by Tito Burns. After a while he fronted his own be-bop group, but in 1947, he rejoined the Harry Roy band for a few months. The Ray Ellington Quartet evolved later that year when he joined the Caribbean Trio, a touring group comprising Dick Katz on piano, Lauderic Cayton on guitar and Coleridge Goode on bass. The quartet participated in radio and television broadcasts and had a recording contract. There were a few personnel changes within the quartet over the years from May 1949, when guitarist Lauderic Cayton was replaced by Laurie Deniz.

The shown cd contains 26 recordings by the Ray Ellington quartet made between 1948 and 1949 highlight some of the group's early contributions. The music is a mix of be-bop and jump tunes in the Louis Jordan style, i.e. "Five Guys Named Moe" and "The Three Bears". Other pieces, like "Old King Cole", refer to the inspiration of Nat King Cole's trio, standards like "Stomping At The Savoy", "Shine" and "Sweet Georgia Brown" get a swing treatment, "Sweedish Pastry", "China Bop" and "Boppy Soxer" are be-bop arrangements. And then there are the comedy contributions in "The Maharajah of Magador" and "I Didn't Know The Gun Was Loaded", further a session featuring Ray Nance in guest performance. - The cd has splendid audio and is worth adding to your collection, if you like good time jazz performed by a skilled ensemble.

The Ray Ellington Quartet had a regular musical segment on The Goon Show, a British radio comedy series, from 1951 to 1960. Ellington also had a small speaking role in many episodes, and his success with the public was secured through these appearances. He died in 1985, 69 years old.

The Goon Show, what kind of show was that? Well, maybe a subject for a future contribution ...
eh, by the way what time is it?...



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jo for this subject. I will study the Ray ellington music later as he is rather unknown to me. Of course I liked the nonsense language of Slim.
Thanks too for the philosophical view on time. I'll think about it !!


7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Stuff Smith Onyx Club Boys (late 1930-1940s?) version of "My Blue Heaven" is one of my favorite funny jazz tunes.
"My Blue Heaven is a Killer,
My Blue Heaven is a Diller!"

10:53 PM  

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