Ellington in Brooklyn

Ask and ye shall receive.

Last month I was listening to the LP Ellington Indigos – No, let’s go back to American Hustle  – NO! Let’s start in December, when I was working as producer on A Man Full of Days. I met Steve Holtje, who’s composing the score for it. Steve is also manager and publicist at the legendary avant-garde jazz label ESP-Disk. Just for fun he deejays on the last Monday each month at Flatbush Farm in Brooklyn; for a guy who can talk at length about Ornette Coleman and Erik Satie, he knows when it’s time to just spin some Prince or Kinks and let it rock.

Weeks later I saw American Hustle, and let’s just say Christian Bale’s character hit a little close to home for me. Not the combover, but the way he effused about Duke Ellington – “Who starts a song like that?!” – is something I might say on any given night. A few months after that, while listening to Ellington Indigos, I lifted the needle to repeat “Autumn Leaves” a few times, loving Ray Nance’s violin over and over again.

An enthusiasm for Ellington soloists doesn’t have the aphrodisiac effect it has in the movies, let me tell you. It’s more of a solitary experience, and I had one of those “There are two and a half million people in Brooklyn, I can’t be the only one reading Ray Nance’s Wikipedia page” moments. “Who else is?”


The only person I could think of who might be was Steve Holtje. I emailed him suggesting a night of Ellingtonia, with sets that feature his various soloists, starting with Nance. He wrote back a week later: “Monday April 28 is one day before Duke’s birthday. Your wish will be granted.” So you know where I’ll be Monday night 6 to 8 pm, 78 St.Mark’s Place.

Remember, it’s Duke’s birthday, not Nance’s. Ray “Floorshow” Nance was born in Chicago on December 10, 1913. That means the snowy day I drove upstate to work on A Man Full of Days, and met Holtje…was Nance’s 100th birthday.

POSTCRIPT:  LOTS going on in screenwriting. Updates coming soon.