on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2015 26 Jul

Conny Plank übt sich an Ellington

von: Henning Bolte Filed under: Blog | TB | Tags: , , , | Comments off

At first sight it seems no evident match: the then world-famous band leader Ellington (1899-1974) and the now legendary producer Conny Plank (1940-1987). Plank played a crucial role in shaping the recordings of music of Kraftwerk, Neu!, Guru Guru, Dieter Moebius, Holger Czukay, Scorpions, Einstürzende Neubauten, Eurythmics, Ultravox, Echo & Bunnyman, Clannad. The Duke and Plank met in 1970 at Plank’s Rhenus studio near Cologne. Ellington was rehearsing with his orchestra at the studio and Plank recorded it. It is well established that it happened but yet unclear when, in april or june.of that year. Also about the line-up there are some still open questions: who is the female vocalist on one track?

The recordings of the session were discovered recently,have been restored and released by the German Grönland label on cd. The cd contains two pieces, Alerado and Afrique, of each three takes. Listening to the recording, especially the takes of Afrique makes clear that the meeting of Ellington and Plank is much more than mere coincidence. The piece is gradually



shaped into clear gestalt. When the drum motif of Afrique played by Rufus Jones is rolling it could immediately be fancied Marc Ribot, David Murray, Arthur Blythe or Tim Berne joining in. Chuck Connor’s bass trombone and other instruments alternately place their sharp accents like percussive strokes. Ellington himself joins on piano: raw, rough and ragged, masterfully creating the jungle sound within a sophisticatedly accumulated, built up piece. It is a busting piece that leaves the swing genre of the other piece, the forward driving Alerado, far behind. The purely instrumental vocals in the last take of Afrique catapult it still more



into avant-garde realms. It is worthwhile also to listen to the recording of the piece made in New York in February 1971 contained in the Ellington-album The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse (OJCCD). The Plank-recording is much opener, sharper contoured with less orchestral hierarchy. It is edgier and the voices involved are more equal. The recording in Plank’s studio gives some interesting insight in both Ellington’s approach as well as that of Plank which became legendary and influential. Its is sensible and plausible to assume that Plank really worked on the pieces with Ellington in the studio. Plank was known as very sincere in choosing his musical partners. When Brian Eno suggested Plank to do the recording of U2’s Joshua Tree, it seemed that Plank have turned it down due to the singer he thought he could not work with.


Duke Ellington & His Orchestra – The Conny Plank Session. Grönland Records


Duke Ellington – The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse. Original Jazz Classics




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