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Twenty-One Separate W2 Tax Forms for members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Circa 1945.
Offered here is a once in a lifetime acquisition for the serious collector of Ellingtonia.
These W2 forms were issued to members of the Ellington Orchestra by the Essex Amusement Corporation of Newark, New Jersey. Essex Amusement was the owner of the famous Adams Theatre in Newark.
The show that the Ellington Orchestra played at the Adams Theatre that year was a famous session for Treasury Broadcast No. 4 on ABC titled YOUR SATURDAY DATE WITH THE DUKE. The date took place on May 5, 1945.
Payment for band members ranged from $120 to $200, with the exception of Johnny Hodges who received $300, and the Duke who made $3,092.04.
All of the members who played the ABC session at the Adams Theatre are represented, with the exception of Billy Strayhorn whose W2 form is not included here.
Of particular interest to Ellington collectors is the presence of Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton's autograph. Nanton was one of the brightest stars of the jazz trombone, but died very young in 1946. His autograph is especially scarce.
The condition of the W2 forms range from very good to excellent.
Members whose W2 forms are included in this lot are:
Duke Ellington (leader, piano)
Johnny Hodges (alto sax)
Otto Hardwick (alto sax)
Al Sears (tenor sax)
William Cat Anderson (trumpet)
Rex Stewart (cornet)
Ray Nance (violin, trumpet)
Taft Jordan (trumpet)
Scad Hemphill (trumpet)
Claude Jones (trumpet)
Lawrence Brown (trombone)
Tricky Sam Nanton (trombone)
Harry Carney (baritone sax, clarinet)
Jimmy Hamilton (clarinet, tenor sax)
Sonny Greer (drums)
Fred Guy (guitar, banjo)
Junior Raglin (bass)
Al Hibbler (vocal)
Kay Davis (vocal)
Joya Sherrill (vocal)
Marie Ellington (vocal)
Below find additional information of each piece included:
Duke Ellington (1899-1974). The signature on this form does not appear to be from the hand of Duke Ellington - it was likely signed by an accountant or manager in his stead. From the All Music Guide: Duke Ellington was the most important composer in the history of jazz as well as being a bandleader who held his large group together continuously for almost 50 years. The two aspects of his career were related; Ellington used his band as a musical laboratory for his new compositions and shaped his writing specifically to showcase the talents of his bandmembers, many of whom remained with him for long periods.
Johnny Hodges (1907-1970). Mr. Hodges has signed his name John Hodges. From the All Music Guide: Possessor of the most beautiful tone ever heard in jazz, altoist Johnny Hodges formed his style early on and had little reason to change it through the decades. Although he could stomp with the best swing players and was masterful on the blues, Hodges' luscious playing on ballads has never been topped.
Joe Tricky Sam Nanton (1904-1946). Mr. Nanton has signed his name Joseph Nanton. From the All Music Guide: One of the most colorful trombonists of all time, Tricky Sam Nanton's expertise with the plunger mute (emitting a large assortment of growls and colorful tones) was a major part of Duke Ellington's original sound and has rarely been duplicated since (although Quentin Jackson sometimes came close). He was well featured on many classic recordings (including "East St. Louis Toodle-oo" and "Black and Tan Fantasy") and was a major attraction with Ellington up until his premature death in 1946.
Rex Stewart (1907-1967). From the All Music Guide: Rex Stewart achieved his greatest glory in a subsidiary role, playing cornet 11 years in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. His famous "talking" style, and half-valve effects were exploited brillantly by countless Ellington pieces containing perfect passages tailored to showcase Stewart's sound.
Al Sears (1910-1990). From the All Music Guide: It is ironic that tenor saxophonist Al Sears' one hit, "Castle Rock," was recorded under Johnny Hodges' name (the altoist is virtually absent on the record), denying Sears his one chance at fame. Sears had actually had his first important job in 1928 replacing Hodges with the Chick Webb band. However, despite associations with Elmer Snowden (1931-1932), Andy Kirk (1941-1942), Lionel Hampton (1943-1944), and with his own groups (most of 1933-1941), it was not until Sears joined Duke Ellington's Orchestra in 1944 that he began to get much attention.
Sonny Greer (1895-1982). Mr. Greer has signed his name William A. Greer. From the All Music Guide: He was never the greatest timekeeper, but Sonny Greer was perfect for Duke Ellington's Orchestra during 1924-1951, adding color and class to the rhythm section. He met Ellington in 1919 when he was a member of the Howard Theatre's orchestra in Washington, D.C. Greer visited New York for the first time with Elmer Snowden and was an original member of Ellington's Washingtonians, which was a five-piece group at its start. Greer's playing grew with the band, and his large array of sounds (using a drum set that included a gong, chimes, timpani, and vibes) added to the Ellington band's "jungle sound." He was with the orchestra until 1951 when, after a few arguments with Ellington over his drinking and increasing unreliability, Greer left to join Johnny Hodges' new group.
Ray Nance (1913-1976). Mr. Nance has signed his full name Willis Raymond Nance. From the All Music Guide: Ray Nance was a multi-talented individual. He was a fine trumpeter who not only replaced Cootie Williams with Duke Ellington's Orchestra, but gave the "plunger" position in Duke's band his own personality. In addition, Nance was one of the finest jazz violinists of the 1940s, an excellent jazz singer, and even a dancer.
Junior Raglin (1917-1955). Mr. Raglin has signed his name Alvin Raglin. From the All Music Guide: The answer to the trivia question of who replaced Jimmy Blanton in Duke Ellington's Orchestra, Junior Raglin was not up to Blanton's level (no one was at the time) but he was one of the first bassists favorably influenced by his predecessor. His first instrument was the guitar but Raglin was a bassist by the time he played with Eugene Coy's group in Oregon (1938-41). He actually joined Ellington's big band slightly before Blanton's premature departure (for a short period Duke had returned to using two bassists) and then he was officially the bassist in the big band from late 1941 until Nov. 1945 other than a brief period when he was in the Army.
William "Cat" Anderson (1916-1981). Mr. Anderson has signed his name W. Anderson. From the All Music Guide: Cat Anderson was arguably the greatest high-note trumpeter of all time. He first learned trumpet while at the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston and toured with the Carolina Cotton Pickers, a group in which he made his recording debut. During 1935-1944, Anderson played with many groups including those of Claude Hopkins, Lucky Millinder, Erskine Hawkins, and Lionel Hampton. Hampton loved his high-note mastery, although Hawkins reportedly fired Anderson out of jealousy. In 1944, Cat Anderson was first hired by Duke Ellington and it ended up being the perfect setting for him. Ellington enjoyed writing impossible parts for Cat to play, and Anderson received publicity and a steady income. He was more than just a high-note player, being a master with mutes and having a fine tone in lower registers, but no one could really challenge him in the stratosphere (although Maynard Ferguson, Jon Faddis, and Arturo Sandoval have come close). Anderson was with Ellington during 1944-1947, 1950-1959, and off and on during 1961-1971.
Lawrence Brown (1907-1988). From the All Music Guide: One of the great swing trombonists, Lawrence Brown tends to be underrated because he spent so much of his career with Duke Ellington's Orchestra. Actually, Brown's initial solos with Ellington upset some of Duke's fans because it was feared that his virtuosity did not fit into a band where primitive effects and mutes were liberally utilized. But over time, Brown carved out his own place in the Ellington legacy.
Taft Jordan (1915-1981). From the All Music Guide: A fine trumpeter, Taft Jordan was known early in his career (when he joined Chick Webb) as a Louis Armstrong sound-alike both on trumpet and vocals. Taft Jordan had played and recorded with the Washboard Rhythm Kings before starting his long stint with Webb (1933-1942), which continued after the drummer's death when the band was fronted by Ella Fitzgerald. Jordan was (along with Bobby Stark) Webb's main trumpet soloist throughout the 1930s and he gradually developed an original sound of his own. He gained a lot of attention during his period with Duke Ellington (1943-1947), although Jordan maintained a lower profile during his last 24 years.
Claude Jones (1901-1962). From the All Music Guide: For nearly 30 years, Claude Jones was a reliable trombonist who was both a fine soloist and a valuable section player in big bands. After attending Wilberforce College for a time, Jones dropped out in 1922 and joined the Synco Jazz Band (an ancestor of McKinney's Cotton Pickers). He played off and on with the group into 1929. Jones gained some recognition for his work with Fletcher Henderson (1929-31). He worked with a variety of top swing bands including Don Redman (1931-33), back with Henderson (1933-34), Alex Hill and Chick Webb before settling in for a long stretch with Cab Calloway (1934-40). In the early 1940's Jones played with the Coleman Hawkins big band, Zutty Singleton, Joe Sullivan, Henderson a third time (1941-42), Benny Carter, Don Redman (1943), a second period with Calloway and then Duke Ellington (1944-48). After working with Henderson's Sextet in 1950 and briefly back with Duke in 1951, he became a mess steward aboard the S.S. United States, passing away at sea 11 years later.
Harry Carney (1910-1974). From the All Music Guide: Although he was not the first jazz baritone saxophonist, Harry Carney achieved his goal of making the instrument "necessary" in a big band. His tone was huge and definitive, and his style mixed together Coleman Hawkins and Adrian Rollini; he was also one of the first jazz musicians to master circular breathing (which he generally used to hold an endlessly long note). Early on, he played piano, clarinet, and alto before deciding on baritone. Carney joined Duke Ellington's Orchestra when he was 17 in 1927, and remained for over 46 years, passing away in 1974 a few months after Ellington.
Jimmy Hamilton (1917-1994). From the All Music Guide: A longtime member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Jimmy Hamilton's cool vibrato-less tone and advanced style (which was ultimately influenced by bop) initially bothered some listeners more accustomed to Barney Bigard's warmer New Orleans sound, but Hamilton eventually won them over with his brilliant playing. As opposed to how he sounded on clarinet, Hamilton's occasional tenor playing was gutsy and emotional. Prior to joining Ellington, he had worked with Lucky Millinder, Jimmy Mundy, and most noticeably Teddy Wilson's sextet (1940-1942) and Eddie Heywood; Hamilton also recorded with Billie Holiday.
Shelton "Scad" Hemphill. From the All Music Guide: A fine section trumpeter who unfortunately rarely had opportunities to solo, Hemphill was a part of several major orchestras. Early on Hemphill toured with Bessie Smith as part of Fred Longshaw's band (1924). After attending Wilberforce College, he worked with Horace Henderson's Collegians. Hemphill was with Benny Carter (1928-29), Chick Webb (1930-31), the Mills Blue Rhythm Band (1931-37), Louis Armstrong's Orchestra (1937-44) and Duke Ellington (1944-49). After leaving Ellington, Shelton Hemphill (who never led his own record date) freelanced for a time but eventually retired from playing due to ill health.
Otto Hardwick (1904-1970). From the All Music Guide: Otto Hardwick had a sweet tone on alto and a fluid style. Hardwick grew up with Duke Ellington, and was originally a bassist until Ellington talked him into switching to C-melody sax in 1920. He was an original member of the Washingtonians, and was with Ellington until 1928 when he traveled to Paris, working with Noble Sissle. He had his own band by 1930, but two years later re-joined Ellington. Hardwick, who took a famous solo on the original version of "Sophisticated Lady" (a standard he co-wrote), was an important player (on alto and occasional baritone and bass saxes) with Ellington prior to 1928, but during 1932-1946 he was rarely heard from except in section work; Johnny Hodges got virtually all of the alto solos. Personal differences in 1946 resulted in him leaving the band and, after recording two songs as a leader the following year, Otto Hardwick retired from music.
Fred Guy (1897-1971). From the All Music Guide: Fred Guy spent most of his playing career with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He grew up in New York City. Guy worked with Joseph C. Smith's Orchestra and then led his own group. However after joining Duke Ellington's Washingtonians in the spring of 1925 (replacing the group's former leader Elmer Snowden who left after a money dispute), Guy was with Ellington for the next 24 years. He played banjo up until the early 1930's and his rhythmic and percussive style was an asset to the early band.
Al Hibbler (1915-2001). This form was not signed by Mr. Hibbler, who was blind at birth. It was likely signed by his brother, who signed most of his contracts for him. From the All Music Guide: Not just a distinctive singer but a true vocal wonder, Al Hibbler featured with Duke Ellington's Orchestra throughout the 1940s and recorded a few hits ("Unchained Melody," "After the Lights Go Down Low," "He") on his own for Decca and Atlantic during the 1950s and '60s. Born blind in Mississippi, he began singing early on and sang soprano in the choir of a school for the blind after moving to Little Rock at the age of 12. One of the most important singers Ellington ever showcased, Hibbler appeared on a range of Ellington standards including "Do Nothin' 'Til You Hear from Me," "Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues," "Don't Be So Mean to My Baby" and "I'm Just a Lucky So-And-So." He spent a total of eight years with Ellington's band, finally leaving in 1951 after Ellington refused to raise his salary by $50.
Joya Sherrill (Born 1927). From the All Music Guide: Jazz vocalist Joya Sherrill was one of Duke Ellington's favorite vocalists. Not only did he praise her clear diction and articulation, Ellington worked with Sherrill throughout the '40s. In turn, Sherrill worked with Ellington alumni like Rex Stewart and Ray Nance into the '60s, and albums like 1965's Sings Duke reunited her with Ellington's songs and players.
Marie Ellington Marie Ellington was a featured vocalist for the Ellington orchestra, but was not related to the Duke. She did, however, have some famous relations, being married to Nat King Cole and the mother of Natalie Cole.
Kay Davis Ms. Davis has signed her name Kathryn E. Davis. Kay Davis was a featured vocalist for the Ellington orchestra, and also recorded with Lionel Hampton and Billy Strayhorn.