Album Remarks & Appraisals:
From the Ralph J. Gleason archives come two significant Duke Ellington programs available on DVD for the first time ever, Love You Madly and A Concert of Sacred Music At Grace Cathedral. Both Emmy-nominated programs represent a significant piece of Ellington history, and this DVD celebrates the 40th anniversary of this premier performance of his Concert of Sacred Music. Love You Madly is an Emmy-nominated behind-the-scenes profile of Ellington including performances and interviews with the legendary bandleader. The performance footage was recorded in a number of places, from The Basin St. West Jazz Club, the 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival, and his first Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral. This program was described by Ellington in his autobiography as ''the best film about Duke Ellington ever made.'' A Concert of Sacred Music At Grace Cathedral (also an Emmy-nominated program) is a rare piece of history. Filmed on location at the premier performance on September 16, 1965, it is the first of what would be 3 Concerts of Sacred Music composed by Ellington between 1965 & 1973. These pieces combined classical, jazz, spirituals, gospel, blues music and dance and were performed in churches and cathedrals around the world. This Concert of Sacred Music was commissioned by the Dean of Grace Cathedral as part of a yearlong celebration for the completion and consecration of the Cathedral. Liner notes have been contributed by noted journalist and author Ashley Kahn.
Liner Note Author: Ashley Kahn.
Recording information: Grace Cathedral (1965); The 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival (1965); The Basin St. West Jazz Club (1965).
Author: Ralph J. Gleason.
The late jazz critic Ralph Gleason was heavily involved in the production of the two films compiled together on this DVD. The first, Love You Madly, intertwines concert excerpts, rehearsals, and listening to playbacks, interviews with Ellington (plus Earl Hines and others), plus Gleason's commentary. While Gleason's portrait of the maestro is wide-ranging and done with an obvious love of his music, jazz fans will be frustrated with the lack of complete performances or unrelated video appearing with the live material. A Concert of Sacred Music marks the premiere of a piece specifically written by Duke Ellington for the consecration of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. This ambitious project, which incorporated both old and new compositions, was two years in the making and featured an auxiliary of additional performers, including jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks, tap dancer Bunny Briggs, the Herman McCoy Choir, along with gospel singer Esther Marrow and vocalist Jimmy McPhail. In spite of the difficulties taping in the cavernous cathedral, the audio is excellent, though much of the video portions are done at a distance to keep cameras out of view. While Ellington refined much the program and played it on a number of engagements, the works that made up the concert never achieved the level of recognition of his better known secular pieces. The instrumental portions are more interesting than the vocals, as Hendricks doesn't really fit the music all that well and Ellington's strength was his music rather than his lyrics. But Ellington fans should investigate this often fascinating chapter from late in his career, taped less than a decade prior to his death. ~ Ken Dryden
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