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Sonothèque/Jazz/Ellingtonia/Duke Ellington & Count Basie/First Time! The Count meets the Duke

Duke Ellington & Count Basie - First Time! The Count Meets The Duke 
Track Title Year Length Comment Mode Codec Bitrate Size
1 Battle Royal 1961 05:35 Stereo Vorbis 240 9,71 MB
2 To You 1961 03:57 Stereo Vorbis 220 6,32 MB
3 Take The "A" Train 1961 03:49 Stereo Vorbis 238 6,62 MB
4 Until I Met You 1961 04:57 Stereo Vorbis 236 8,46 MB
5 Wild Man 1961 05:45 Stereo Vorbis 244 10,16 MB
6 Segue In C (original CD release)
Segue in C (remastered 1999)
1961 08:25 Stereo Vorbis 229 13,92 MB
7 B D B 1961 04:05 Stereo Vorbis 223 6,63 MB
8 Jumpin' At The Woodside 1961 03:07 Stereo Vorbis 246 5,61 MB
8 file(s) Length: 00:39:40 Size: 67,42 MB See bonus tracks below

Studio album by Duke Ellington and Count Basie, released in 1961, recorded on July 6 & 7, 1961 (Columbia 30th Street Studio, NYC) - Label: Columbia
Track listing (all compositions by Duke Ellington except as indicated):
  1. "Battle Royal" - 5:33
  2. "To You" (Thad Jones) - 3:53
  3. "Take the "A" Train (Billy Strayhorn) - 3:46
  4. "Corner Pocket" [a.k.a. "Until I Met You"] (Freddie Green, Donald Wolf) - 4:53
  5. "Wild Man" [a.k.a. "Wild Man Moore"] - 6:20
  6. "Segue in C" (Frank Wess) - 8:22
  7. "B D B" (Ellington, Strayhorn) - 4:43
  8. "Jumpin' at the Woodside" (Count Basie) - 3:09
  • Duke Ellington, Count Basie - piano (C.B. replaced by Billy Strayhorn in Take the "A" train)
  • Cat Anderson, Willie Cook, Eddie Mullens, Ray Nance, Sonny Cohn, Lennie Johnson, Thad Jones, Snooky Young - trumpet
  • Louis Blackburn, Lawrence Brown, Henry Coker, Quentin Jackson, Benny Powell - trombone
  • Juan Tizol - valve trombone
  • Jimmy Hamilton - clarinet, tenor saxophone
  • Johnny Hodges - alto saxophone
  • Russell Procope, Marshall Royal - alto saxophone, clarinet
  • Frank Wess - alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute
  • Paul Gonsalves, Frank Foster, Budd Johnson - tenor saxophone
  • Harry Carney, Charlie Fowlkes - baritone saxophone
  • Freddie Green - guitar
  • Aaron Bell, Eddie Jones - bass
  • Sam Woodyard, Sonny Payne - drums

The musical event which is presented in this collection is without precedent in the history of jazz. History largely consists of chronicling momentous occasions, and it was such an occasion when the full orchestras of Duke Ellington and Count Basie recorded together, side by side, on July 6th, 1961. The result is almost an embarrassment of riches. It is great in significance, great in musical content and, above all, great in demonstrating the two famous leaders’ mutual appreciation and understanding of each other.

The album takes its title from Duke’s opening number. A general melee is suggested, but there is no battle of bands. Fourteen soloists display their various skills in contributing to a work devised for a thirty-piece orchestra. What tilting there is between individuals is conducted as in some royal tournament governed by the canons of chivalry.

“I didn‘t want to make a contest out of it,” Duke said afterwards.” I just wanted to have a very pleasant visit. When friends get together you have a visit, not a fight. I greatly appreciated having Count Basie as our guest at Columbia. He is wonderful, of course, and he represents something very special. He has a great band, and they play exactly what they want to play, and no one else can play what they play like they play it. The session was a triumph, because we did something together that had never been done before".

Count Basie valued the opportunity no less than his host. “This has always been one of my life’s ambitions," he said during a brief intermission. “We‘re playing with the champions.” In fact, one of the more moving aspects of the collaboration was the musical tribute he so willingly paid, and with such grace and sincerity, to the musician he admires so much, Duke Ellington. He provided, in turn, his own inspired simplicity, his blues truths, his sense of rightness and inevitability.

The feeling of mutual esteem extended from the leaders throughout their bands. Gathered this day was the cream of the profession, men with a thoroughly professional and sophisticated attitude, who recognized one another‘s gifts not only as soloists but as capable musicians with whom they could work harmoniously towards the creation of an orchestral whole. The measure of their ability is found in these eight performances, cut without rehearsal in one long, charged session. Essential and magnificent qualities came together, sparked and fused to make an unique music.

Duke‘s brilliant Battle Royal serves to introduce, at up-tempo, some of the major talents in the assembled company. Besides the solo voices of the two leaders are those of Cat Anderson and Thad Jones (in a brief fanfare), Frank Wess, Johnny Hodges, Ray Nance, Harry Carney, Jimmy Hamilton, Frank Foster, Lawrence Brown, Cat Anderson again, and Paul Gonsalves. The rhythm section here consists of the pianists, Freddie Greene, Aaron Bell and Sam Woodyard, but it is joined by Sonny Payne for a brisk exchange with Sam and for the stormy climax where Cat orbits and Duke, rising to conduct, entrusts the piano part to able hands.

To You, as created by Thad Jones, is a dark, richly textured orchestral tapestry in which the only solo is by Quentin Jackson. Five trombones provide a sombre background to his melancholy plunger artistry.
On Billy Strayhorn’s Take the “A“ Train, Count Basie bowed out in favor of the composer. who was on hand in the studio. So Billy solos here with an accompaniment by Duke. who finds new chords to introduce his familiar signature tune. Trumpets Sonny Cohn and Ray Nance dialog first in eight»bar passages, then in fours as do Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet and Budd Johnson on tenor.

Freddie Greene’s Until I Met You, formerly known as Corner Pocket, has Count and Duke back at the pianos. The spread of the scoring sets the fourteen brass off to advantage. The soloists are Willie Cook and Paul Gonsalves, and Duke can be heard feeding his men in the manner to which they are accustomed.

Wild Man is another new work of Duke‘s devising. Juan Tizol’s tambourine supplements Sam Woodyard’s handbeaten drums in the introduction. Frank Wess and Jimmy Hamilton converse wittily on flute and clarinet respectively. There is a muted chorus from Lawrence Brown and two from Johnny Hodges, who answers the ensemble in his inimitable fashion. Then Thad Jones and Cat Anderson take a chorus each before chasing each other through a third. Next, there‘s a chorus by Frank Foster, followed by one from Paul Gonsalves, followed by two in which they trade fours. Lawrence Brown appears again; Cat and Johnny Hodges are heard with the ensemble; and then there is a return to the flute and clarinet duo.

Frank Wess‘ Segue in C is one of the outstanding arrangements in the Basie book and both bands clearly find its color and variety stimulating. The pianists make a very important contribution on this one. Frank Wess is heard on flute and Budd Johnson in four authoritative tenor choruses. Louis Blackburn, who maintains the tradition of plunger trombone in Duke’s band, takes two choruses, and there is a moment of heightened interest when he is followed by a predecessor, Quentin Jackson, now with Count Basie. To the trio part he usually plays with the muted trumpets of Sonny Cohn and Thad Jones, Frank Wess adds Ray Nance’s fiddle with great success. The saxes play a low recurring phrase and the muted brass sets up its own strong rhythm. This is a swinger at one of those tempos Count Basie is so skilled in setting.

BDB (for Basie, Duke and Billy) was written by Billy Strayhorn in collaboration with Duke. It’s a pretty blues in a minor mood at an insinuating tempo. The two reed sections are extensively featured.

Jumpin’ at the Woodside is a Basie classic arranged by Frank Foster, and Frank and Paul Gonsalves are the stars of an uproarious performance. After each has soloed, they set out, above a torrent of fourteen brass, on a wild chase in which continuity is marvelously preserved.

With the exception of the opening number, on which both take part, Sam Woodyard drums on the Ellington camp's pieces, Sonny Payne on those from Basie‘s. Freddie Greene plays on all, joining the operative bass and drums in each case. The urge to play proving too strong, both basses are to be heard on occasion, but generally it is Aaron Bell with Sam Woodyard and Eddie Jones with Sonny Payne. The sensitive interplay between the two pianists highlights the entire album. They should be pictured as peering at one another beneath the lids of their instruments, sometimes intent, sometimes smiling enigmatically, and often communicating in mime.

Liner notes taken from the original analogue release.

This album was re-released by Columbia in 1999, part of the Ellington Centennial Edition. The 1999 release contains seven bonus tracks.

Duke Ellington, Count Basie - Duke Ellingtont meets Count Basie [1999 Remastered] - Bonus tracks
Track Title Year Length Comment Mode Codec Bitrate Size
09 One more once [Bonus] 1961 03:27 Stereo Vorbis 316 7,89 MB
10 Take the A train (The Count departs) Rehearsal & Alternate takes [Bonus] 1961 05:51 Stereo Vorbis 328 13,84 MB
11 Jumpin' at the woodside [Alternate take] [Bonus] 1961 03:14 Stereo Vorbis 328 7,71 MB
12 B D B [Alternate take] [Bonus] 1961 04:30 Stereo Vorbis 298 9,72 MB
13 Blues in Hoss' flat (Blues in Frankie's flat) [Bonus] 1961 03:14 Stereo Vorbis 313 7,38 MB
14 Wild man (aka Wild man moore) [Alternate take] [Bonus] 1961 05:56 Stereo Vorbis 339 14,52 MB
15 Battle royal [Rehearsal & Alternate takes] [Bonus] 1961 06:32 Stereo Vorbis 312 14,69 MB
7 file(s) Length: 00:32:44 Size: 75,75 MB

1998 notes by Phil Schaap:
This “everything but the kitchen sink” adventure in Big Band Jazz is not an illustration of more is less but grand art large scale. That this merger of two large orchestras into one works must be the result of premeditated action taken by the bandleaders: Count Basie, the master of less is more, and Duke Ellington, conceivably music's greatest orchestrator and arranger.

Their joined talents and approaches prevented the studio meeting of their orchestras from collapsing under its own weight.

Basie’s concept ts the key, for rarely is everyone playing. But if all that was involved was a taking of turns, then the sum of First Time would not equal its superstar parts. Maestro Ellington knew how and when to use the extra pieces. Beyond their successful effort to blend two Big Bands into one divine ensemble is their collaboration at the pianos, perhaps the greater union.

The success of First Time, therefore, is its triumph over simplistic “think big” packaging, as a cumbersome design was streamlined and refined by genius.

It is not the album’s only glory. First Time is one of 5 attempts by 4 labels to place the still vibrant and creative—though “aging out”’—Duke Ellington alongside other members from Jazz’s pantheon before it was too late.

Roulette Records went first. In April 1961 they slipped Duke Ellington onto the piano bench of Louis Armstrong's band, recording two albums’ worth of Ellington repertoire. Columbia was second in July with this meeting of the Count and the Duke. The following year Impulse matched Duke with the master saxes: Coleman Hawkins in August and John Coltrane in September. September 1962 also saw United Artists taking a turn in this “series” by teaming Charles Mingus and Max Roach with The Maestro.

It seems a collective consciousness existed among competitive corporations determined to facilitate these historic unions. Rarely has the record industry been so visionary and acted in so timely a fashion.

Columbia’s entry in this string of superstar sessions, however, is strikingly different. For one thing, Duke Ellington was a signed Columbia artist. First Time found Ellington recording for his home label even using the familiar—and legendary—Columbia 30th Street Studio. A second distinction is in the enlargement of the ensemble. The others took the Big Band away from Duke Ellington, this one doubled its size which led to the album’s unique musical triumph. But that increase, this placement of two orchestras in one studio suggested to many, including Columbia Records, the old Swing Era Big Band battles.

In the 1930s and 1940s, two Big Bands would play the same place. Such events were billed as battles: often winners were officially declared. Indeed, the Count Basie Orchestra’s last performance before leaving Kansas City (10/31/36) was a Big Band battle with Duke Ellington!

This was how Columbia felt this outing should be marketed. The album was prepared by the label under the title Battle Royal with cover art which depicted a fierce struggle between the aristocrats, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

It is not clear how Ellington actually felt about this, but Basie, or his manager, was livid. Columbia had their guest artist up to the office to approve the packaging. Basie, after all, was a defacto co-leader. Count Basie brought to the meeting his manager, a gruff bulky individual named Teddy Reig. The proposed cover artwork was shown to them. Reig excused himself to visit the men’s room. He took the cover art with him and threw it into the toilet bowl. Upon his return to the meeting—sans art work he explained Count Basie’s position to Columbia’s executives: the title and artwork were unacceptable. Basie believed that his collaboration with Ellington was about compatibility not competition and the album’s name, liner notes, and visual elements should reflect that. There were some changes to be made.

Columbia was not pleased with Teddy Reig’s approach and disappointed by the Basie camp's position. While giving them what they requested, Columbia’s art department created a lackluster cover which to this day not only masks the original album name and marketing concept but leaves unclear what the actual name of this record truly is. A recent search to find the original cover proved fruitless. Maybe the copy Reig destroyed was the original, the only copy.

Thankfully the original session reels weren't destroyed and they have provided us with two extra tunes plus numerous alternate takes of the initially issued titles.

A highlight is the revealing studio scene in the indexed track 10, “Take The A Train (The Count Departs).” Producer Teo Macero is heard from the control, soon noticing that Basie—determined not to perform on “Take The A Train”—has made himself scarce. Even Duke Ellington asks.“Where’s Count Basie?” Ellington finally spots Basie and musically maneuvers the Count towards the other piano. But Basie —who later admitted that he was terrified— will have no part of it. Duke’s decision to just play his famillar piano introduction, then turn it over to Basie for the only real piano improvisation probably made the challenge of recording Duke’s theme, and in front of its composer, Billy Strayhorn, more daunting to Count. You can hear Duke speaking to Billy Strayhorn: “Play for Basie.” Strayhorn’s voice is audible too as Duke talks to yet another individual that Strayhorn will take over the piano chair with the Basie band. Strayhorn seems to make an effort to characterize Basie’s concept, particularly on the alternates heard in Track 10.

Another fascinating studio episode occurs in this CD’s final selection, the indexed Track 15 with the alternate “Battle Royal.” This time the pianist with a problem isn’t Count Basie but Duke Ellington. Duke has a piano lick he wants to use as a lead-in to “Battle Royal.” His explanation is more seamless than his execution as his rhythm section teammates can’t find the pulse. Producer Macero calls for another start and Duke asks “What am I doing? Too fast?” Different voices give different opinions, but Sam Woodyard’s “Yeah, Yeah!” shows the drummer’s concern. Aaron Bell, Duke Ellington’s bassist, whose reflections and memories of the date grace this release, has a solution. Aaron suggests to the maestro that Bell and guitarist Freddie Green walk 8 bars in time to set the pace before Ellington’s entry lick. Duke accepts this approach even as Woodyard is still heard explaining “Can’t get no groove, Maestro.” The actual guitar and bass introduction is 4 bars.
Also fascinating is the variant solo orders in the alternate takes. Considering that this album was recorded in one day, the shifts in routines and tempo are radical.

Take The A Train.” The master take is much faster in tempo than the complete alternate heard in Track 10 (index 15). This is not the usual speeding up that additional takes often lead to. Duke Ellington specifically instructed the bands to take it at this faster tempo on what turned out to be the final take. By that time the improvised piano passages had become full solos by Strayhorn. The opening chorus and the bridge of the second chorus are more piano duets on the earlier take. But the horn duets aren’t there!

Trumpeter Sonny Cohn plays a full chorus followed by Jimmy Hamilton’s clarinet for 32 bars. On the master Cohn trades with Ray Nance and Hamilton exchanges with Budd Johnson on tenor. Sonny’s 32-bar solo on the alternate more fully illustrates his knowledge and reverence for Nance’s blowing on Duke’s 1941 original hit version of “Take The A Train.” Cohn, however, points out that even in the exchanges on the master take he “tipped his mitt” about his love for Nance’s solos on the 1941 classic. Paul Gonsalves doesn’t play in the coda on the alternate. His tenor sax may have been added there to mask flaws in a difficult chunk of music that was never comfortably played by this huge band.

Jumpin’ At The Woodside.” The motif on both takes is the dueling tenors of Frank Foster and Paul Gonsalves but there’s more of it on the alternate. This early take finds Foster and Gonsalves splitting the 8-bar bridge. By the time the master was cut, composer Basie took all 8 bars on the bridge in the melody chorus. By the way, “Jumpin’ At The Woodside” is themeless in its release, or bridge; on the 1938 original Basie’s lead alto Earle Warren took the solo.

B D B.” This G-minor episode may be the delight of the many piano dialogues between Duke and Count. There are so many delicious differences between the takes from Duke’s opening piano cluster done in different registers on each version to the ending duet, three choruses worth on the master but 2 choruses and a 4 bar coda on the alternate.

Wild Man (aka Wild Man Moore).” The two takes are wildly different. The master, the last take, is much faster and once again this isn’t due to the normal creeping up of tempo one often gets with multiple takes. Producer Teo Macero called a dinner break after the early take, the alternate, was recorded. When recording resumed at 7:00 PM, the nourished “Wild Man” moved more swiftly, particularly by the final master take, while travelling a different path. Even the introduction is different. On the master the drums play 2 bars alone then are joined by bass and tambourine. On the alternate—possibly a mistake—the tambourine joins on bar two and the bass follows a bar later. Next, on both takes, Frank Wess on flute is joined after one chorus by Jimmy Hamilton’s clarinet. On the later master take they might be standing together as they're both heard on the left—or Basie channel. Before dinner they stood apart;

Wess is with the Basie band in the left channel and Hamilton plays in the rightor Ellington—channel. Flute is followed by full ensemble laced with trombone fills. On the master it’s a neat 12 bars with the trombone worked out as if written, but on the alternate it’s two choruses and trombonist Lawrence Brown seems surprised it continues into a second 12 bars. He misses the first fill of the second chorus and is tentative thereafter. The “Wild Man” chart called next for Johnny Hodges and the ensemble for 22 bars to be followed by a two bar trumpet break. Here master and alternate play the same but the trumpet and tenor sax work which follows is dissimilar. On the alternate Thad Jones on trumpet (plausibly cornet) and Frank Foster’s tenor sax take two chorus solos. But on the master there is interplay by Jones with trumpeter Cat Anderson and by Foster with Paul Gonsalves. Thad and Cat each solo for a chorus then trade twos for 12 bars. After Frank and Paul each solo for a chorus, the tenors trade fours for 24 bars. The final ensemble choruses take-to-take offer some semblance of a similar design but, nevertheless, are widely different:

Wild Man (aka Wild Man Moore)” and “Battle Royal” were among the tunes Ellington had created for the Universal Pictures film Paris Blues. These titles on that soundtrack feature Louis Armstrong and it is intriguing these are the only two from Paris Blues that Ellington brought to the date with Basie.

Battle Royal.” After Aaron Bell’s intervention, the tempo holds; but the solo routine alternate-to-master again changes. The big difference comes after Ray Nance’s trumpet solo. Harry Carney kicks off the next chorus for 8 bars on both takes but on the alternate he is followed by Basie’s baritone, Charlie Fowlkes, for 8 bars with Duke taking the bridge over the ensemble before Carney returns to finish the chorus. The master finds Carney followed by Frank Foster for 8 bars, Jimmy Hamilton’s clarinet on the bridge and Foster, not Carney, getting the second helping to finish the chorus. The next chorus is even more distinct take-to-take. On the master Duke and Count offer another charged-up piano dialogue over orchestra with Duke soloing on the bridge; but on the alternate, the trumpets scream over the band with Cat Anderson spotted then soloing from the bridge to the end of the chorus. Thereafter the arrangement remains the same but the performance doesn’t go as slickly on the alternate. Duke sensing another take will be necessary tells Cat not to waste his lip but Anderson keeps playing. So, Duke directs the ending after which a voice (Butter Jackson’s?) admonishes all to end up together, while Duke calls out to the control booth—“we can paste that together.”
— Phil Schaap
November 1998
Aaron Bell's notes (1998):
There was a lot happening on that date with Count Basie and Duke Ellington. It was at Columbia’s big and special studio on 30th Street and there was this little and special bar right on the corner. While Duke was getting it together with Basie they would work together at one piano for a long time—the guys in the bands kept sneaking out to that bar. Before the night was over everybody was drunk. It was a hilarious scene.

The big studio was important because it allowed them to set up two separate bandstands. They (the Count Basie Orchestra) were sitting there and we (the Duke Ellington Orchestra) were sitting here. It was good that we had the space, so we could go over the music as a separate band. Some of the music we had hardly played or even seen. I mean our music, Duke’s music, such as “Battle Royal.” This was as much of a challenge to play as the Basie music which you would think would be more difficult for us, the Ellington band. But we had been catching that Basie band at Birdland, so we had heard “Segue In C.” I think it was Duke’s idea to put Ray Nance on violin into that one. Also through the years, we had been catching Basie’s band as individual musicians. If you had any experience at all, you knew “Jumpin’ At The Woodside.” Some of us had played “Jumpin At The Woodside” in our high school bands. It’s not a complicated piece.

What was complicated was putting the two bands together and keeping it together. That was complicated. I not really sure how it was done. There was absolutely no rehearsal. The sum total of warning was the announcement that the gig coming up would be doing an album with Basie: that was it. That’s Duke Ellington’s style anyway, and for that matter, Billy Strayhorn’s. I imagine they did things that way because they thought it would make the music more spontaneous. They'd figure out things right on the date: Duke, Strayhorn, and Tom Whaley. There must have been someone helping out Basie on the other bandstand. Some semblance of rule and order was instituted and it worked as a guide; for instance they would pre-determine the solo order. Also, both rhythm sections didn’t play at the same time although Duke and Basie would be playing. Since Basie was playing on everything and Freddie was the only guitarist—Duke didn’t carry rhythm guitar or any type of guitar when I was with the band—so Freddie Green played on everything. But we kept Sonny Payne (who was Chris Columbus’ son) and our drummer, Sam Woodyard, separate. I don’t think there’s anytime when they are both playing. It would not have worked, their approach to playing backbeat in particular would have been a huge problem. I admire Sam Woodyard, he’s the only drummer who can play a forceful backbeat without interfering. Eddie Jones and I developed a system of communicating so that we could both play on the same numbers. But listening back to the album there aren’t too many times when we are both playing simultaneously or even many numbers on which we both play but at different times. Basically, it had to be one rhythm section for the two bands, or it wouldn’t have worked. Even so it was a challenge. Take that first take of “Take The A Train.” The two bands don’t hit together and are not playing at the same tempo. I chuckle hearing it now, but this out-take illustrates how formidable was the challenge of keeping it together.

Keeping order was not strictly a musical thing. Right in the middle of the session we had a fight... a real physical fight. It was between Juan Tizol and Cat Anderson. That’s the night that Tizol, who had been with Duke at the beginning, left the band forever.
Cat Anderson was the trumpeter who sat closest to Sam Woodyard. Cat took one of Sam’s cymbals and threw it at Tizol, and they went at it. After order was restored, Tizol was still very upset: “Duke, if you don’t fire that man, I'm quitting and I'll never be back.” Tizol meant it. I know that Juan Tizol had left and come back several times, but this was it—he never came back.

Duke Ellington was not a disciplinarian but he also wouldn’t tolerate demands such as Tizol’s to fire Cat. In fact, to me, Tizol, who had known Duke and worked for Duke far longer than me, was foolish to have backed Duke into a corner. I have never seen it work with Duke. However, I later learned that Tizol had once succeeded in getting Duke Ellington to fire an orchestra member—and it was Mingus!

The circumstances were similar. Tizol and Mingus got into a big fight at The Apollo. Tizol took out his knife while Mingus grabbed an axe from the fire emergency box. It looked as if it would come to real bloodshed but several members of the band, at considerable risk, intervened and order was restored. Juan Tizol then went to Duke and demanded he fire Mingus.

And Duke did fire Mingus. Later on Charles Mingus stated that Duke knew Tizol was wrong but since both Mingus and Tizol had violent temperaments, The Maestro based his decision on seniority as Mingus was new to the band. But I sounded Duke on why he had gotten rid of Charles Mingus and Ellington had an entirely different take on it. Ellington didn’t like Mingus’ frequent use of the bass’ upper register. Duke told me that he told Mingus: “If I wanted a cello player, I would have hired one.”

Anyway, I wasn’t in the band when Mingus and Tizol had their thing, but the fight I saw between Cat Anderson and Juan Tizol at the Basie-Duke big band date was probably Cat Anderson’s fault. He had a lot of problems and was something of a kleptomaniac. Shortly after I joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra we were playing a country club in Cincinnati. During the intermission, Duke, Johnny Hodges, Cat Anderson, and Shorty Baker were playing Tonk, and I was winning. Cat’s a bad loser. He was sitting next to me and making remarks. It was getting pretty hot, but I said “That’s OK, say anything you want: just don’t put your hands on me.” But he did and I just saw red. I hit Cat and he fell backwards, hit his head on a radiator and was knocked out cold. He missed the rest of the night. Duke came over to me and said “You're a college man, you should know better than that.” Duke wasn’t really mad at me and in the Ellington band we had numerous spats, even so the guys were just having fun but Cat was evil.

Actually, it was an inferiority complex and I'll explain in music this time. Cat Anderson was the king when it came to high notes but he wanted to prove to Duke Ellington that he could play it all, play way down low and also do Cootie Williams’ stuff. But Cat Anderson couldn't do it well, at least that’s what I thought and I know shortly after this album, Duke went and got Cootie Williams back.

Regardless of the squabble, in relistening to this date it doesn’t seem to affect us and I think that relates to Duke Ellington. Duke said “I don’t care if he’s a good little boy or a bad little boy all I want is to hear the music played right. That’s all I care about.”
— Aaron Bell
August 1998

Filed on 17/06/2016