Like so many millions of others last July we sat glued, goggle eyed, glazing at the wonderment of the Americans landing those men on the moon. That one of those pioneers was named Armstrong somehow seemed so right – it is a name long associated by jazz followers with a pathfinder. The imagination boggled, it all seemed so hard to believe, and yet there it was happening in front of our eyes.
The announcer droned on until he ran momentarily out of verbal ammunition – nothing more was happening up there or at Houston for him to report. We made to turn off the TV, if only to give our poor old eyes a rest, when suddenly and without warning there, in place of that eerie picture that resembled a vision seen through waterglass, was something quite different, the screen was filled with friendly faces – well known faces that we have loved for ages.
The unexpectedness came as a complete surprise, as the programme had been billed in the Irish papers as ‘Interlude’, with no further details. But there it was, without introduction, Ella Fitzgerald with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. And what a sparkling programme it was. Ella spoke a good script with notable relaxation and of course sang like an angel, and the band, well… She did People, Just One Of Those Things, Street Of Dreams, Can’t Stop Lovin’ You (with wonderful piano from Duke), Summertime, an ultra-quick scatted Lady Be Good, sung standing by the piano, with a beaming Duke in attendance. Don’t Get ‘Round Much Anymore performed with a trio of Duke, Keeter Best and Louis Bellson, a bouncing Sweet Georgia Brown with the band really wailing and an exquisite version of Lover Man – a superlative piece of Ella magic.
The band did a new version of Satin Doll, with a malevolent contribution by Cootie, a wonderfully swinging, shuffle-rhythmed Things Ain’t What They Used To Be, and a great off-the-cuff A Train—here an unknown trumpet player came as a complete surprise. He was not too well photographed, but I couldn’t recognise him. Can Mr. Dance please help identify? Duke we were happy to note looked very fit. He’s put on a little weight around the chops and it suits him. Master Hodges’ eye-bags make masterful television viewing, and Russell Procope, whose clarinet chorus during A Train was in the classic mould, is now sans beard but sporting a lush growth on his upper lip.
Someone missed the opportunity of slipping a version of How High The Moon into the programme, but I suppose it was hardly possible anyone knew the show was going to coincide with that historic journey.