Duke Ellington’s Wordless Melodies for the Soprano (Podcast #19-020)

Dr. Lisa M. Clark’s thesis, Synchrony of the Sublime: A Performer ‘s Guide to Duke Ellington’s Wordless Melodies for Soprano can be found here


Adelaide Hall

Adelaide Hall [1901-1993]

“The Victor recording of Creole Love Call introduces a device which Ellington was to use at intervals throughout his career – the blending of a wordless female voice with the instrumental textures. The singer her is Adelaide Hall, and the first chorus presents the main them sung by her over three low-register clarinets, a delicious tonal combination…”

-Eddie Lambert, Duke Ellington: A Listener’s Guide


Kay Davis

Kay Davis [ 1920-2012]

“Kay Davis was an honor student of Northwestern University, where she studied opera and majored in music. She had perfect pitch, could sight-read, and had all the gifts, so we decided to use her voice as an instrument. This was in addition to her interpretations of regular songs with words, and it proved very successful on several numbers.”

-Duke Ellington, Music Is My Mistress


Alice Babs

Alice Babs [1924-2014]

“[Alice Babs] is just one of the rare people, one of the rarest artists. Whenever I get an opportunity to do anything I feel is out of the ordinary, I think of her. So when I got ready to do my second sacred concert in 1968, where I had to go up over the top of the first, I sent to Sweden to bring her to New York. There were a couple of things in that concert which required real musicianship, which had to read and executed just as they were planned, and she was the one I had complete confidence in to do that. She is a terrific musician, and when I look at the pictures of her taken in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine – why, I think she looks like an angel! She is a beautiful person who has overcome the problem of singing as pretty as she looks. In referring to her, one never says, “There are just a few left,” because she was probably the only one born.”

-Duke Ellington, Music Is My Mistress



The recordings heard on this podcast episode:



early ellington rcaCreole Love Call/Blues I Love To Sing (CD:  Early Ellington (1927 – 1934), Bluebird 6852-2-RB)

Recorded 26 October 1927, New York City

Bubber Miley, Louis Metcalf – trumpet; Joe Nanton – trombone; Rudy Jackson, Otto Hardwicke, Harry Carney – reeds;  Duke Ellington – piano; Fred Guy – banjo; Wellman Braud – bass; Sonny Greer – drums, Adelaide Hall – vocal.


bbbcdTransbluency ( A Blue Fog That you can almost see through) (CD: “Black, Brown & Beige” Bluebird 6641-2-RB)

Recorded 9 July 1946, Los Angeles

Shelton Hemphill, Taft Jordan, Cat Anderson, Francis Williams, Ray Nance, Harold Baker – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Joe Nanton, Wilbur De Paris, Claude Jones – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Al Sears, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Fred Guy – guitar; Oscar Pettiford – bass; Sonny Greer – drums; Kay Davis – vocal.


jazz collectors

The Beautiful Indians: Minnehaha (CD: “The Jazz Collector Editor ” Laserlight Digital  15 753)

Recorded 5 December 1946, New York City

Shelton Hemphill, Taft Jordan, Francis Williams, Reunald Jones, Ray Nance  – trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Joe Nanton, Wilbur DeParis, Claude Jones – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Al Sears, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Fred Guy – guitar; Oscar Pettiford – bass; Sonny Greer – drums.  Kay Davis – vocal.


duke 100On a Turquoise Cloud (CD: “Duke Ellington: The Columbia Years 1927-1962” Columbia 5176872)

Recorded 22 December 1947, New York City

Ray Nance – violin; Lawrence Brown, Tyree Glenn – trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Al Sears, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; Oscar Pettiford, Junior Raglin – bass; Sonny Greer – drums; Kay Davis – vocal.


Second_Sacred_Concert

T.G.T.T. – Duke Ellington (LP: “Second Sacred Concert” Prestige P-24045)

Recorded 22 January 1968, New York City

Duke Ellington – electric piano; Alice Babs – vocal.


— Our closing music —-

0000120517It’s Something You Ought To Know (Paul Gonsalves – “Ellingtonia Moods and Blues,” RCA Victor / RCA63562)

Recorded 29 February 1960, New York City

Paul Gonsalves- tenor sax; Johnny Hodges – alto sax; Ray Nance – cornet; Mitchell “Booty” Wood – trombone; Jimmy Jones – piano; Al Hall – bass; Oliver Jackson – drums.

This entry was posted in podcast and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s