You can include the Duke among those who were disappointed with the Ellington engagement at the RKO Boston last week. That plushy platform which served as a bandstand might have looked dandy from out front, but it played hob with the section work. Dividing the brasses up with the trumpets on one side and the trombones on the other, putting the saxes in between, and splitting the rhythm section north, east, south, and west, all may have been artistically perfect, but it was acoustically lousy.
Most theatres have the bandstand mounted on rollers, so that it can come forward between the vaudeville acts. But not the RKO Boston. That jumble you heard was the music getting its feet tangled in the scenery. It's a pity, because the band sounded wonderful backstage. They ought to scrap the from part of the theatre and put the seats behind the band.
Over the Crimson Network last Monday, Duke explained why the program, at the Boston theatre was so disappointing, but he didn't have time to express himself, too clearly. Boiled down, it all comes to this: regardless of the success which Ellington has had playing his own choices, the theatre managers have to have their own way, or else Ellington just doesn't play return engagements. It isn't a matter of what the public likes, you have to please the managers.
This Friday evening at the Roseland-State Ballroom, you'll be able to hear Duke in more suitable surroundings. He can make his own choices there. The Roseland is near Loew's State in Back Bay.
Sunday afternoon another big jam session will be held, this time in Symphony Hall. You needn't be worried too much about the acoustics, as they have a fine public address system with plenty of mikes. In addition a screen will be erected behind the performers so that the music won't echo around the bare stage.
In keeping with the dimensions of the place, the session is expanded to more than double the size of the last one. Definitely coming are, hold your breath: Coleman Hawkins and Pete Brown again; Teddy Wilson's band minus Teddy, but including Edmund Hall, clarinet, Benny Morton, trombone, Johnny Williams, bass, Sidney Catlett drums, and Emmett Berry, trumpet; Frankie Newton and some of his old band, such as Ernie Trottman, and possibly Vic Dickenson.
Negotiations are still on for other well-known jazzmen, such as Cozy Cole and Billy Mason, so there should be plenty of good solos. As for the ensembles, we shall see. Tickets are on sale today as seats are reserved.