Great and wonderful sounds could be heard in Boston this past week from a couple of out-of-the-way places not generally frequented by Harvard men. One, of course, was the Keith Boston, which swerved out of its second-rate vaudeville groove long enough to present Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra and Ethel Waters in a thoroughly enjoyable sixty-five minutes. Despite sundry sepia entertainers from the Duke's revue, "Jump for Joy," the band itself was, as always, the big news, whether showing off its soloists or weaving a subdued and subtle background to a vocal refrain. Miss Waters was very good, special accompanist and all, but on at least one occasion I found myself trying to hear what Lawrence Brown's trombone was doing in the offing.
I thought Ivy Anderson, the band's regular vocalist, whose racy style fits it so well, was in exceptional fettle, particularly on "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good," which the Duke shrewdly used as his final number instead of some all-out screamer. With its varied, constantly changing orchestral background, it topped off the evening perfectly; and of course he planned it that way.
Well, the other musical oasis around town is the Savoy Cafe out on Columbus Avenue, where most of the Ellington menage repaired almost every night after their last show. There Frankie Newton's seven-piece colored band holds forth these winter nights before an enthusiastic mixed audience which doesn't miss the little dance floor that isn't there. For the past week such Ellington notables as Ben Webster and Lawrence. Brown have been sitting in with the boys regularly--high tribute in itself. There are interesting soloists on every instrument, but at least when I was there Frankie led all the rest. Last Monday, after lending Rex Steward his trumpet for a feverish ten minutes, Frankie, who always takes the last solo on each number, improvised chorus after chorus with the full, rich tone he induces from his open horn. And Rex himself clambered halfway onto the bandstand to hear him better. As George Frazier of the Herald would say, it was "jazz all over the place."