Nil Significat Nisi Pulsatur

November 25, 2010 at 11:51 pm (jazz, Jim D, modernism, music, United States)

Only a brief blog tonight because I’ve been at a rehearsal of ‘Kinda Dukish’, a West Midlands-based fifteen-piece band that plays  Messrs. Ellington and Strayhorn’s original arrangements (ie, not just their compositions): what a thrill! I pretend to be Sonny Greer and/or Sam Woodyard. We’ve even got a motto: “Nil Significt Nisi Pulsatur.”


  1. Mike Killingworth said,

    Sheer heaven.

    Do you call it a violin or a fiddle when it’s played in a context such as this?

  2. Rosie said,

    Love the motto, Jacobe.

  3. jim denham said,

    Mike: it’s “violin” in jazz, though (strangely) the term “fiddler” is allowed. The fiddler in that clip was Ray Nance, better-known as a trumpeter. He also sang and danced and was nicknamed “Floorshow”: here’s why:

  4. Mike Killingworth said,

    Well, he’s got that swing all right. Cheers, Jim.

  5. Bruce said,

    By strange coincidence I’ve listened to a few Ellington LPs not heard for a while in the last couple of days. Somehow I admire [the] Duke but do not end up listening to him all that often but as recent listens include Isfahan, Chelsea Bridge and Squatty Roo I’m convinced I should polish up my medium sized collection (with the exception of A Woman is a Drum which manages to be horribly sexist, naff and musically not up to much).

    I am puzzled by how this Brum band can play from Ellington’s original arrangements as by q number of accounts I’ve heard the written material he gave his musicians to play was rather cryptic and sparse. Or is this wrong?

  6. jim denham said,

    From: “” View Contact
    To: Jim Denham


    I think sometimes not much was written down, or only what was necessary. I don’t think Duke wrote out piano or drum parts. Most pieces would need writing, though Duke’s notation was a bit idiosyncratic at first. It becomes more orthodox in the forties, perhaps under the influence of Strayhorn. Duke’s archive is now in the Smithsonian, & has been used in preparing scores for performance. We have some charts that have been produced in this way by Michael Kilpatrick, whose website might give more information. There are also musicians who have a good enough ear to take down an arrangement from a recording. David Berger has done more than 100, (perhaps using the Smithsonian archive as well) & his transcriptions are used by Jazz at Lincoln Center in their Essentially Ellington school & college project. We have bought a lot of these. I hope this helps. Mike

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