[Dixielandjazz] Re: Ellington & Mood Indigo

Bill Haesler bhaesler at bigpond.net.au
Fri Apr 16 15:35:05 PDT 2004

Dear Craig,
In your reply to my comments regarding this matter and in particular: "Your
previous note mentioned the Nov 21 recording, but this one doesn't I'd be
interested to know if the Nov 21 version is another intermediate transition
in the piece."
So would I - and presumably Gunter Schuller.
The first 2 takes of "Mood Indigo" from the 21 Nov 1930 Ellington session
have never been found (as I indicated in an earlier reply regarding this
subject), notwithstanding some discographal claims.
Which is probably why it is not on the redhotjazz site. Or any LPs or CDs
that I know of.
The 21 Nov 1930 session for Victor was recorded as by Duke Ellington and His
Cotton Club Orchestra, the same band name used for the 10 Dec 1930 record
date. On the dat, apart from that 'lost' "Mood Indigo", the band put down
"Nine Little Miles From Ten-Ten-Tennessee" (2  takes, both issued and
available) and "I'm In Love With You" (issued). The vocalist on both the
above tunes was white singer Smith Ballew (as Billy Smith).
Regarding: "Even from your posts, I have yet to see why the Nov 21 version
is "the only good one" according the Schuller, though I don't now really
know his criteria nor objective."
If you read the extract provided by Steve more closely you will see that it
was Prof. Schuller who mentioned "For the next version, recorded in December
1930, Ellington adds an orchestral accompaniment.....".
Neither Schuller nor Haesler can comment on the 21 Nov 1930 "Mood Indigo"
because neither of us have ever heard it. And, unfortunately, we probably
never will. As we will probably never hear the rejected version of "Mood
Indigo" made by The Harlem Footwarmers for Okeh on 14 Oct 1930. The original
version which pre-dates them all.
I prefer not to get involved in the complex discussion regarding composer
credits for "Mood Indigo". Others more erudite in this field (and with
greater access to the LoC copyright information) may wish to comment.
However, for the record, my files (which could be inaccurate) show that the
label credits for the original 78 issues of the tune state (literally):
17 Oct 1930  Brunswick    Ellington, Mills & Bigard
30 Oct 1930  Okeh    (Ellington and Mills)
10 Dec 1930  Victor    (D. Ellington-B. Bigard-I. Mills)
With reference to your comment: "I thought Mills only added the lyrics AFTER
at least the first recording."
This is still probably correct, as the FIRST recording of "Mood Indigo" (for
Okeh) was made on 14 Oct 1930, but rejected.
So far as Mitchell Parish [note spelling], the lyricist for the 1928 hit
"Sweet Lorraine", having a hand in "Mood Indigo" I am unable to provide an
answer. Parish did collaborate with Ellington on "Sophisticated Lady".
Boy! I bet those DJMLers who hate discography will be as mad as hell - if
they have made it this far.
Very kind regards,
PS: I have just re-read Barney Bigard's account of his part in "Mood Indigo'
in 'With Louis And The Duke' (1987 Macmillan Press).
Too long to transcribe here, but he does deny that it was ever called
'Dreamy Blues'.
"That was never the title. I always called it 'Mood indigo' but maybe the
record company put the wrong label on the record. I never heard of 'Dreamy
Blues'; it was always 'Mood Indigo' to me and I ought to know."
Barney also mentions that he finally started receiving royalties for the
tune after 28 years [1958]. "You see in those days - just  to show how
stupid we were - we would write a number and sell it to Mills for
twenty-five or fifty dollars."
He also acknowledges (page 64) Ellington's part in the composition, which
Barney adapted from a theme given to him in New York, in 1930, by his old
teacher Lorenzo Tio. Barney mentions that he (Barney) and Ellington put it
together for a small group record date using 3 front line and rhythm. Which
correctly identifies the rejected version from the 14 Oct 1930 session.

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