Stan Tracey albums
The Stan Tracey Big Brass
Columbia SX 6320
Arrangements by Stan Tracey

Were there such things as a Jazz Lover's Diary (And why not? Boy Scouts have 'em; so do motorists; even philatelists!) one page thereof would surely be especially gilt-edged... notably that bearing the date, April 29th. For it commemorates a singular occurence in jazz history - and possibly one of the half-dozen most significant anniversaries in the whole of that world of music - the bithday of Duke Ellington, born Edward Kennedy of that ilk in Washington DC in 1899. Which means further that April 29th 1969 marks a particularly important anniversary - the seventieth birthday of a man still active, vital and contributory in a business generally regarded as a relatively youthful pursuit. To paraphrase Jelly Roll Morton, Creole Love Call by Duke Ellington was no doubt the first record I ever bought in my life... in 1931, Lazy Rhapsody, on date of issue, was the third - Louis Armstrong c/w Joe Venuti interposing! As further affirmation of my credentials as a bona fide Ellington lover I claim to be one of the survivors of the Great Transpontine Trek of '33... to the Trocadero, Elephant-&-Castle, to witness Duke Ellington's premier concert appearance in London.
When this album was conceived, as a dedication to a great man on a great occasion, I turned instinctively to Stan Tracey for co-operation, for I could think of no British Musician more deeply wedded to Ellingtonia in all its aspects, nor one - despite the highly originality of his own writing and playing - more deeply infixed by the Ducal influence.
The selection of soloists was self-evident. All are musicians long associated with my own recording career: all shared my personal enthusiasm for this project. Acker Bilk first recorded with me in 1958; Ian Carr in 1960. Don Rendell is one of my oldest mates in the business: he broadcast for me in BBC Radio Rhythm Club back in the 'Forties, and recorded with me for the first time in 1956. Joe Harriott has recorded with me ever since he first came to this country from Jamaica in '52, and Tony Coe has been a much-appreciated associate on many a session - off and on - since the old clarinet-alto days with Humphrey Lyttleton.
The choice of the musicians was left to the soloists. Acker's could almost have been guessed at, as could Stan's choice for a piano feature. The luxuriant Passion Flower (by Ellington's alter ego, the late Billy Strayhorn) gave Don Rendell the opportunity of displaying his ever-increasing mastery of the soprano saxophone: Lay By gave Tone Coe the opportunity of displaying his mastery of the swining tempo and the booting chorus. The odd men out seem to have been Ian Carr - a very progressive player, in the most meaningful sense of the word - choosing that old though loved war-horse, I'm Beginning To See The Light, and Joe Harriott - that most viciously aggresive of modernists - the appropriately titled In A Sentimental Mood.
It is not coincidental that the oldest piece in this album, Creole Love Call, and the most recent, Lay By, are both blues, for this album is a form which Ellington has utilised more effectively, more adventurously and, indeed, more frequently than any other noted jazz composer. Blue Feeling, which dates from 1934, is an example - a melodic 8-bar theme alternating with a 12-bar extempore passage. Tracey used the original Ellington concept for this one, re-scoring the ensemble passages and allocating the solo passages with an ear to contrast and effective climax - achieved in the highly exciting "chase" by Tony Coe and Don Rendell on tenor saxophones.
There were at least twenty active Ellington enthusiasts within the environs of Lansdowne Recording Studios when this album was being made - twelve bandsmen, five soloists, Stan Tracey, Adrian Kerridge and myself. And we like to think that our mutual veneration of this titanic jazz figure and the excitement we shared in this project have been transmitted to the grooves of these recordings, whose overall title is expressive of all our feelings, and those of tens of thousands more... DUKE ELLINGTON... WE LOVE YOU MADLY!