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08 April 2010

Ray Charles on Duke Ellington's Sold On Soul Tribute (1970)

Backstage: Ray and B.B., Satchmo & Joe Adams (from Jet, Mar. 12, 1970).
On 23 February 1970, at Madison Square Garden, the NAACP organized a tribute to Duke Ellington, titled Sold On Soul.* If the miracle of suddenly finding some footage of this concert on YouTube wasn't big enough, the Web also provides us with an eyewitness account by Warren Marr II, in Crisis Magazine (March 1970, page 96 - 99):
The evening started at eight, and didn't end until 1:45 the next morning. The event was hosted by Sammy Davis Jr., but everything went spontaneous - there were no rehearsals, no choreography, no pre-arranged order. First miss Peggy Lee, the Les McCann Trio, Roberta Flack, Stevie Wonder (10 year old [sic!]), Irene Cara, Elayne Jones, the Voices Of East Harlem, Reverend Roberts and The Angelic Choir, did their things. But "[...] then a musical blitz krieg began": the Modern Jazz Quartet played a set, and then B.B. King.
"Mr. King remained on stage for an unbelievable, rocking blues duet with the great Ray Charles at the organ. [...] The Ellington musicians came on stage. And then the Duke himself. As Duke was taking his bows, Ray Charles switched to piano. Duke's organist took his place. Louis Armstromg walked on stage to sing Hello Dolly, accompanied by these men at piano and organ and Duke's full orchestra joining for a piece of the action. Satchmo said, 'Duke, I brought something for you.' He handed the honoree [the] trophy."
The Los Angeles Sentinel of March 5 reported that after intermission:
"Ray sat down at Wild Bill Davis' organ; Davis took over on piano; B.B. King picked up his guitar, and Ellington [...] helmed his band and the impromptu sidemen in some of Ray Charles' classics. Guest vocalist Louis Armstrong then joined forces, and Ellington batoned 'Hello Dolly', with Charles on piano interchanging verses with Armstrong, As the Duke remarked when the applause finally stopped, 'I always wanted a piano player who could sing as well'."
The TV coverage was produced by Charles Jones, on behalf of the NAACP.

Ray and B.B. played Laughin' And Clownin' (see second clip below). After that Ray switched to piano (Wild Bill Davis taking over the organ) to do Satin Doll. Also read this review.

*Initially called 'Silhouettes in Courage', in some sources also mentioned as 'Soul To Soul'.

Hello Dolly (with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, B.B. King, Wild Bill Davis):

Promo clip including Laughin' And Clownin' (with B.B. King).

Source materials of the video: Ina, ID CAF90011615 (first aired on TF 1, on 3 July 1970). A fun article about a preceding promotion for the concert is here. 

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