Column: Jazz Event To Honour Duke Ellington

April 22, 2024 | 0 Comments

[Written by Dale Butler]

Once again the legendary saxophonist, music teacher, and big band leader, Wendell “Shine” Hayward has organized a spectacular evening of jazz celebrating Duke Ellington, who would have been 125-years-old had he been alive on his birthday. Duke was born on April 29, 1899 and passed on May 24, 1974. International Jazz Day is Tuesday, April 30th.

This year, Mr. Hayward will be honouring local pianist Tony Bari in the Princess Room of the Hamilton Princess Resort on Monday, April 29th with The Stefan Furbert Quartet featuring Gita Blakeney Saltus, Paul Smith [steel pan], and he just added The Saltus Grammar Jazz Quartette. If you think that is a lot, get ready to hear a 14-piece All Star Big Band bringing back memories of Bermuda’s Ernie Leader and Gandhi Burgess, bands Shine actually played in. Cocktails are at 6.30pm, while the dinner and show are at 7.30pm.

The emphasis placed on Duke Ellington is significant to my own music development and Bermuda as a whole.

Our family were music fanatics, making sure we were exposed nightly to classical, opera, gospel, soul, African, and jazz genres. Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Cab Calloway were at the top of the jazz pile of vinyl records, which stood beside the vintage record player with two small built-in speakers. Used every night, it had durability, lasting over 30 years. My uncles were big fans of Duke Ellington. Sailing on the Queen of Bermuda and Ocean Monarch allowed them to see him live in New York and purchase his records. Inevitably, Bermuda bands played his music. Songs like:

  • Caravan
  • In a Sentimental Mood
  • It Don’t Mean a Thing, along with his much recorded Take the “A” Train

International Jazz Day Duke Ellington Poster Bermuda April 2024

I reached out to local musicians and I think that pianist/filmmaker, Milton Raposo, who attended the Berkeley School of Music in Boston, summed it up best when he said, “If a Mount Rushmore were ever built for musicians, Duke Ellington’s face would have to be included. His contributions as an architect of modern jazz were indelible; it wasn’t his skill as a piano player that ranked him amongst the greatest, but the fact that he was also a composer of those jazz standards that continue to be taught, studied and performed the world over. Duke Ellington’s legacy continues to be one of the greatest of any art form.”

Bermuda was not asleep in 1964. The genius called Little Stevie Wonder hit the Rosebank on March 13th of that year with Bermudian groups The Appegios, Gene & Pinky, The Dancing Hats, and Elva Simmons on stage with none other than Big Daddy Gates, MC. Presented by Olive Trott.

News was released in April 1964 that the famous Forty Thieves Night Club was thinking about bringing Duke to Bermuda to perform at The Rosebank Theatre on May 12th and 13th. Duke had a chest full of awards and had played all over America, in Russia, and for Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia. The closest Bermuda had come to Duke was in 1954 when the Bermuda Theatrical Company presented a Minstrel Frolic with Hoya Sherill described as “of the U.S.A. a former vocalist of the Duke Ellington Band.” Cedric Thomas was the producer and the event was held at the New King’s Stadium.

It was confirmed on May 1, 1964 that Duke and his famous orchestra were booked and would feature famous performers like Johnny Hodges, Ray Nance, Harry Carney, Milt Grayson, Slappy White, and Joan Proctor. Local entertainer Joe “Conch Shell” Benjamin and his Shell Steel Band were to be the opening act.

International Jazz Day Duke Ellington Bermuda April 2024 (1)

You could have had dinner before the show at about 30 restaurants like:

  • The Penthouse
  • The Belvedere Restaurant
  • The Little Venice Restaurant
  • Danny’s Hideaway
  • The Breakers Club, just a taste to refresh your memory of a few

If Duke and company had arrived as tourists, they would have had a choice of 30 venues with entertainers. Here are a number:

  • The 40 Thieves Club: Ghandi Burgess and his all-star 40 Thieves Orchestra. Show times 11pm and 1.15am .Bermuda’s number one showplace.
  • Ace of Clubs: George Rogers Trio.
  • Clay House Inn: Bermuda’s First Night Club: Host: Robert Wilson, singer Maxine Brown, Bobby Scott’s 7 piece Orchestra direct from the Apollo Theatre and Louis Jones singer and master of ceremonies.
  • Inverurie: The hotel at the water’s edge: Lou Alexander – comedy star of TV and leading supper clubs, The Original and Authentic Esso Steel Band, Johnny McAteer, his piano and orchestra from 9.30 to 1am. Entertainment charge was 10 shillings or $1.50
  • The Bermudiana: Music by Stan Burrows at the Lower Organ. Gilbert de Voghelaere and his violin and dance in the Moongate Gardens to the music of Geraldo’s London Orchestra featuring the Holiday Island Revue. Cover was 7/- or $1.00 per person
  • Carlton Beach: Hubert Smith and his Coral Islanders; Calypsonian Stan Seymour; The Erskine Zuill Trio; Howard Lee and his Islandtones, The Exotic Limbo Dancers; Calypsos by Ted Ming and “Uncle” Bob Burns as your host; plus dancing to the music of Ruby Newman’s Celebrated Society Orchestra under the direction of Eddie Greene.
  • Inverurie: Lou Alexander – comedy star of TV and Leading super clubs; Lloyd Simmons; Johnny McAteer.
  • Castle Harbor: offered some of the above groups who alternated and Calypso Capers – songs and dances of the island, The Tropicana’s Lively Calypso Rhythms, and The 1964 Holiday Island Revue with dancing nightly to the music of Michael Word and his Orchestra.
  • Elbow Beach: also had some of the above and plus The Surf Club Frolics, the Charlottes and dancing nightly with, Ben Cutler and his New York Society Orchestra and Geraldo’s London Orchestra directed by Aidan McNally.
  • The Bermudiana: also had a combination of the above and Robert Pembroke, Limbo Dancers with “Moira”, The Gombey Dancers, Stan Burrows on the Lower Organ, Gilbert de Vogheloare, Geraldo’s London Quartette and dancing in the Moongate Garden to Geraldo’s London Orchestra directed by Aidan McNally.
  • The Briton had: The New Tropicana’s Revue featuring Dee Dee – Queen of Limbo; and on Saturdays, dancing the famous basket dance and a strictly native show and the spectacular Tropicana’s Revue and Calypso by Rudy. Dancing to the music of The Tropicana’s with Graham Bean and the song stylings of Moira.
  • Harmony Hall -The Gombey Room: some of the above and Ming and Johnston; The Bermuda Strollers and Bishop Caines and dancing to the popular music of The Wally Durant Trio.
  • The St. George’s Hotel: added Norman Smith and his St. Georgians.
  • The Princess: Joe Wylie and his Princess Society Orchestra, Don Woods and his Calypsonians, Brian Butterfield and his Fire Dancers, including King Trott and his Bongo Drums; and the remaining six nights: Hubert Smith and his Coral Islanders sometimes with The Travellers or The Limbo Dancers plus Antonio Santillan, Continental Ensemble. The Travellers – Bermuda’s Folk-singing Sensations.
  • Sherwood Manor Hotel on the sea in Fairylands: Simeon Riley and The Calypsonians, Lance Hayward and a few of the other groups mentioned above.
  • The Reefs: The Reefs Trio with Harry Nixon at the piano and some of the groups mentioned above. The Reefs Trio plus One.
  • Belvedere Restaurant: Alvin Brangman Combo with Gilbert Rowling on bass; Lance Hayward and his Piano.
  • The Clayhouse Inn: She and the Limelites plus Bobby Scott’s Orchestra featuring Louis Jones.
  • Bermuda’s Exclusive Night Club Tour taking tourists the “The Intimate” Inverurie and the “Lavish” 40 Thieves Club
  • The Penthouse Club had Red Smith and the Penthouse Serenaders
  • Tom Moore’s Tavern: Lou Frick at the piano.
  • The Gunpowder Cavern – Ocean Monarch Night – That fabulous, exciting group “The Little Monarchs” Earl S. Roach, pianist entertainer and “The St. Georgian Gombeys.”
  • The Jungle Room: The World’s Greatest Limbo Calypso Revue with two great bands “Big Al” Harris Trio and The Dimensions and on Sunday nights only: “The Big” Al Harris Talent Show.
  • The Ex-Artilllermen’s Association: The Aldano Sextette
  • The Buccaneer: At the Bermuda Tennis Stadium: [May 23rd] The Isley Brothers and their six-piece band.

Local artists: The Golden Tones, The Calypso Trio, Tiny Ratteray, Clement Joell, Violetta Carmichael, Big Daddy Gates and Speedy Ming.

International Jazz Day Duke Ellington Bermuda April 2024 (2)

Community groups were also promoting:

  • Allen Temple A.M.E. : Barbara Hamilton with the Governor’s ADC playing piano
  • Howard Univ. Alumni Association: The Berkeley Institute Choir, Mr. Austin Thomas and a short travelogue about Russia from Elmira Hunt
  • Fame Magazine : showcase Time with Elma Jackson a top Boston professional model, singer and hairstylist at the Clay House inn, March 20, 1964. Music by The Clay House Inn Band with local girls modeling wigs, Larry O’Neil, Gene and Pinky Steede. Semi-formal with dancing from 9.00pm to 3.00am

On the day of his departure, during breakfast he made a commitment to return to what he called “jazz heaven on a small island paradise.” But it would be years before he would plan to get back. The return show was booked for May 24, 1975 but he died the day before, leaving his son and designated successor, Mercer, to perform in Bermuda. Duke was also honoured on May 31, 1992 at a special tribute at No. 1 Terminal by “Shine” Hayward, keeping his memory alive.

Playing that night were Carl Shackman, Winston Degraff, Hiram Edwards, Ron Lightbourne, Graham Maule, John Johnson, Doug Frith, Maxwell Maybury, Jack Kripple, Paul Nichols, and Wendall “Shine” Hayward, with special guests June Ventzos, Abdul Burgess, Ghandi Burgess, Al Davis, and Jackie Robinson.

International Jazz Day Duke Ellington Bermuda April 2024 (3)

All of this, and more, taking place while the island’s legislators tackled unsolved crimes, the Franchise Act, the building and land development policy of Bermuda, and raising the school leaving age to 16. Bermuda was a busy place socially, politically, and musically.

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