Incredible Ellington — in India ! Pt I

The search for Archival material for our documentary film Finding Carlton – Uncovering the Story of Jazz in a story in itself…Here is how we came across some rare (and probably the only footage) of Ellington in India – 1963 !!

The Ellington band toured India in 1963. This was their first ever visit to Asia and the Middle East..and it was a wide ranging series of concerts in Syria, Jordan, Afghanistan, India, Ceylon, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey !!!

With the support of dedicated jazz fans in India, we had started assembling a collection of photos, anecdotes, a first hand encounter in Calcutta and even concert programs, and yes tickets ! but what was missing was crucially important audio, and the holy grail – film footage.

Thanks to Jehangir Dalal, We came across a link in an archive of Duke Ellington tour information that hinted that the tour has been filmed in various countries , including India.. we tracked down the first link and it turned out to be from a concert in Iran..and then through an archivist in Belgium we came across some footage , stored in the National Archives in Maryland, that was not cataloged as footage from India..but had 2 or 3 clues that gave away its location..

Well, it was quite a hunt, that took us from New York, to Washington D.c , and then to Brussels, and back to an archive in Virgina…and what we unearthed is a treat , a delight for the eyes and ears…and yes the sound !!! Here is a brief except…

a) Marigolds spelling out the THE DUKE – Location: Shanmukhananda Hall, Bombay, 10th OCtober 1963
b) Chicago Radio on mike stand (with a classic Shure !) only in India !
c) AIR on mike
d) audience ..duh

In a future post , we will share our findings about how a Bombay born Jazz Trumpeter played with the Ellington Band..along with some interesting archival photos , and yes more video and music from the Ellington India tour

One thought on “Incredible Ellington — in India ! Pt I

  1. Hi

    My father was Lance O’Neil who went to India in the 1950’s. He was born in Glasgow in 1914 and was a professional jazz musician in the UK and played double bass. I’m uncertain who he played with but he would probably be known as Art O’Neil when in the UK.

    My mother Jessice was the singer in his band in India (who went under the name of Carmen something like Montenegra not sure) and they were either in Lahore or Karachi at the time of this tour. I know they jammed with Duke Ellington during this tour and my mum sang a few numbers.

    I have an autograph book of my mum’s which has personalised messages from Jimmy Hodges, Chico Hamilton, Paul Gonzales and a few others dated from 29.10.63-31.10.63

    I would love to know more about my dad really as this is all so long ago and he died the following year. But if there was any Pakistan information that would be great. I think my dad played with quite well know people in the UK as Art O’Neil.

    Anything would be great.


    Barrie O’Neil

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