Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kay Davis (1920–2012)

Kathryn McDonald sang as Kay Davis with the Duke Ellington Orchestra from 1944 to 1950:

Kay Davis was an honor student of Northwestern University, where she studied opera and majored in music. She had perfect pitch, could sight-read, and had all the gifts, so we decided to use her voice as an instrument. . . . I shall never forget her first Carnegie Hall appearance in January 1946. Subtitled “A Blue Fog You Can Almost See Through,” “Transblucency” was a last-minute kind of composition, and the two featured musicians (Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet and Lawrence Brown on trombone) had to have music stands at the mike, because it had been completed too late for them to memorize. So we put Kay’s part on a music stand at the mike, just like those of the musicians, and the performance was a smash.

Duke Ellington, Music Is My Mistress (New York: Doubleday, 1973).
Here from 1946 is “Transblucency.” And here from 2009 is a short film about Kay Davis, The Voice of the Ellington Orchestra. Are Herb Jeffries and Maria Cole (Marie Ellington) now the last links to the 1940s Ellington orchestra?

Related reading
Soprano was one of last links to Duke Ellington (Chicago Sun-Times)

[For any singers out there: yes, Ellington should have written instrumentalists, not musicians.]

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