WILLIAM Hunter’s brilliant front-page account in the Glasgow Herald of the visit of Duke Ellington, in February 1967, is worth re-visiting.

“Duke Ellington came in wearing a soft blue shirt, black jacket with brass buttons, grey slacks, gleaming black shoes, eyes enormous with sleep, hair tousled at the back”, Hunter began.

“He had arrived in Glasgow by road from Liverpool 12 hours earlier. ‘Good morning’, he said.

“It was 5pm.

“He had taken what he called his ‘foundation meal’ - grapefruit and steak. He is 67.

“’It’s the thing to do. You must do it. So you retire and sit about and somebody says, ‘Go empty the garbage’.

“’A band is not just for money. It’s something else. It’s my toy. Because it has taken a long time to make this toy, why let someone else play with it? I’m the selfish toymaker.

“’I used to drink a lot. I used to drink a gallon of whisky a day when I was 20. I can’t stand the smell of it now. A drink now and again, yes. You feel tired or there is this cold coming on. Those germs coming towards you begin to look a little monstrous so you give your germs a drink to make them a little monstrous back.

“’All I do is sit and figure what the other guys are going to play. My main function is to wait till they have blown themselves crazy and get up and bow.

“’I was on a strong Delius kick back in the ‘thirties. But all the old masters are great. The symphony is the thing I was brought up on.

“’Every cinema had a symphony orchestra. I need to go there and try to make the same sound afterwards with a six-piece.

“’My perspective hasn’t changed. I haven’t changed. I still write to the tonal personality of the people who have to play it. My favourite piece? The one coming up.

“’I would love to play at the Edinburgh Festival. There was talk of it once. But it didn’t work out somehow’.

“At the Odeon Cinema, Glasgow, later in the evening”, Hunter continued, “both houses were not badly attended and after seven long years of absence Ellington made no concessions to nostalgia. Harry Carney, baritone sax, is warmer; Cat Anderson, trumpet, more stratospheric; Ellington himself more serene.

“But it took two big fat ‘growl’ trumpet solos from Cootie Williams to move the band very much. Johnny Hodgson stayed very subdued and seemed reluctant even to take the final sweet, somehow significant, solo on ‘Things Ain’t What They Used to Be’.

“Dundee gets its chance to catch-up tonight”.

At one point in his stay in Glasgow, the Duke was presented (main image) with a commemorative edition of the Evening Times.

Ellington was however without his arranger Billy Strayhorn, the man who was often described as his musical alter ego; Strayhorn died of cancer on May 31 that year.

Read more: Herald Diary