Ellington's influence on Frits Schjøtt

This message on the Duke-LYM discussion list in October 2005 is reproduced with the kind permission of the author, Frits Schjøtt.

Dear Charlotte,

David Palmquist contacted the Duke-LYM-group, to which I belong, to ask others than himself to send a few words to you on our favorite subject, Duke Ellington, and I am delighted to follow his lead.

I am Danish, 70 years old and recently retired from psychiatric practice. In the late forties, as a young teenager, I took to jazz, which was then the young peoples' protest music in relation to the elder generation. My taste was broad and unrefined, going from Glenn Miller (In the Mood) to Dixieland and revival (= young white musicians, American as well as European, your own Humphrey Lyttleton being the prime example playing authentic New Orleans-style music).

Records were scarce and expensive in Denmark because of the postwar-situation, so most of my collection was second-hand. One day I stumbled over a His Master's Voice copy of Mood Indigo and The Mooche by DE from around 1930 and I was completely carried away. The sound, the mood, the atmosphere never had I heard anything like it (and never ever since, by the way...). I started reading about DE and, by and by, built up a collection of his recordings -- not very difficult as time went by, as he has been put to wax, vinyl and CDs from 1924 to 1974, literally counted in thousands of records. Shelf-space and finances are the only limits by now.

In 1950, 15 years old and in high school I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to a live concert with him and his famous orchestra in the city of Aarhus, Jutland (western part of Denmark). My two pals and I could only afford one ticket each, even if he played two concerts the same evening, but what an experience... we walked on clouds after curtainfall and, being young and courageous, went backstage to collect autographs. On the stage a few tired musicians (among them Billy Strayhorn and Wendell Marshall) were noodling their instruments in a silent Blues, and as we walked around in the corridors, we managed to meet a dozen of the players, that were all very friendly and kind and wrote their names in our programmes. The maestro himself had retired to his dressing room and didn't receive visitors, but his handyman brought my programme to him and returned with the treasured signature. It is framed on my wall to this day...

My two year old grandson is being brought up on Duke's train-music Happy-Go-Lucky Local, Daybreak Express, Track 360, and Take the A-Train, and is already an avid fan. The torch is carried on...

Frits Schjøtt (aka Frits from Denmark)