Ellington Society to Salute Revue

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It was 50 years ago this summer in Los Angeles that Duke Ellington staged what he later described as one his most significant achievements: the musical-comedy revue “Jump for Joy.”

The show, which ran more than two months at the downtown Mayan Theatre, starred singers Ivie Anderson, Dorothy Dandridge, Herb Jeffries and Big Joe Turner and comedian Wonderful Smith.

The production, featuring Ellington leading the orchestra, introduced such now familiar material as “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” “Rocks in My Bed,” and “Subtle Slough,” the tune that evolved into “Just Squeeze Me.”


To mark the anniversary, the Southern California chapter of the Duke Ellington Society will salute the music from the show when it hosts the upcoming “Ellington ‘91,” the 10th annual International Ellington Conference.

The conference, which runs June 13-16 at the Pacifica Hotel in Culver City, will include musical events, panel discussions, film and slide shows and a city tour.

The “Jump for Joy” retrospective, set for June 15 at 8 p.m. at the hotel, will feature Jeffries, singing and leading the Bill Berry big band, as well as singers Barbara McNair and Paula Kelly.

“Sid Kuller, who produced the original show, has managed to gather all of the original music, like ‘Concerto for Clinkers,’ which has not been heard since the show was staged,” says Steven Lasker, program director for the conference.

Arcane Ellingtonia abounds in the four-day event, including the playing of such rare recordings as an alternate take of W.C. Handy’s “Memphis Blues” at one of the panel sessions.

The private side of Ellington will be explored in a program spotlighting Carter Harman, who wrote a 1956 Time magazine cover story on Ellington and has 20 hours of interviews on tape.


Musical performances will be by Berry’s All Stars (with ex-Ellingtonians Marshall Royal, Buster Cooper and Louis Bellson), Tom Talbert’s big band and pianist Dick Hyman. Information: (213) 290-1291, (213) 399-3112.

Rim Shots: “Blood Sweat & Tears/Live and Improvised” (Columbia/Legacy), the band’s first “live” recording, captures the group--with lead singer David Clayton-Thomas augmented by such jazz players as guitarist Mike Stern and pianist Larry Willis--at several 1975 appearances. . . . Leaders of jazz quintets may apply for performance grants funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Deadline: July 12. Information: (202) 682-5445.