Monday, November 25, 2013

Duke Ellington's Anatomy Of A Murder: Flirtibird (Alternate Recordings And Almost Cried)

Ever since the critical failure (notwithstanding its musical triumph) of Ellington's Black, Brown & Beige symphony following its Carnegie Hall premiere in January of 1943, he adopted the "suite" format as a substitute for the "symphony" format.  The practical result for record collectors was that nearly all of Ellington's suites from 1944's Perfume Suite through the Third Sacred Concert were recorded once in their entirety in the studio, once at their live premiere (though most of those live premiere recordings were not even released to the public until after Ellington's death, as in the case of the Prestige 2-LP Carnegie Hall sets that first hit listener ears in the late 1970s!), and never again in their entirety.  The live premieres in the 1940s were almost always made at Duke's Carnegie Hall gigs, and that, standing alone, is reason enough to get all of the 1940s-era Carnegie Hall concert albums.  Very occasionally, a suite would be re-recorded after the passage of long years, but this was the exception rather than the rule (see, for example, the 1961-era re-recording of The Perfume Suite on Side 2 of The Girl's Suite & The Perfume Suite).

Instead of playing full suites before audiences worldwide, Duke would adopt one, and occasionally two, movements from each suite and add them to the regular performance book.  For example, in the late 1950s, in the years immediately following the studio and live performances of Such Sweet Thunder: The Shakespearean Suite, it is common to find Ellington performing the tune (as opposed to the suite) Such Sweet Thunder in isolation or paired with Sonnet To Hank Cinq.  Later, in the 1960s, Such Sweet Thunder fell out of favor from live concerts and audiences instead heard The Star-Crossed Lovers (Pretty Girl) performed live.  But they virtually never heard the entire suite.

And so it is with Anatomy Of A Murder.  The tune that Lambert, Hendricks & Ross made a vocalese bebop success out of, Happy Anatomy, was never recorded live by Duke himself.  Meanwhile, Flirtibird showed up on a number of live albums.  Perhaps not coincidentally, Flirtibird was used to feature Hodges around the same time that The Star-Crossed Lovers (Pretty Girl) filled the same role.  Anyone studying Flirtibird should seriously listen to the recording of the tune off each of the following.  Note that, as is fairly common in film scoring, the same theme emerged more than once; the melody of Flirtibird re-surfaces in a trumpet-oriented arrangement, also from the film score:

Flirtibird recorded as Flirtibird

Duke Ellington: Anatomy Of A Murder

Original studio recording with melody in the Hodges alto.

Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington Live At The Blue Note CD 1

With an extended and almost haunting (well, not nearly meandering enough to really make it haunting, but certainly a nice touch) piano introduction by Duke.  Melody in the Hodges alto.

Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington Live! At The Newport Jazz Festival '59

Again, Duke plays the piano intro.  Melody in the Hodges alto.

Duke Ellington: Verve Jazz Masters 4

Again, Duke plays the piano intro.  Melody in the Hodges alto.

Duke Ellington: The Feeling of Jazz

This time, the melody is in the trumpet!  One wonders whether perhaps the studio ought to have labeled this take Almost Cried rather than Flirtibird...

Flirtibird melody recorded as Almost Cried

Duke Ellington: Anatomy Of A Murder (Movie take)

A more direct arrangement, starting right out of the gate with the trumpet solo, obviously necessary for use in short film scenes.  Even so, much of this recording was still left out of the movie.

Duke Ellington: Anatomy Of A Murder (Studio take)

A much more relaxed recording, though only thirteen (13) seconds longer.  Begins with a lush ensemble section before the trumpet--far more restrained than in the movie take--comes in.

Duke Ellington: Live At The Blue Note CD 1

Same arrangement as the studio take from the film soundtrack.  Ensemble starts it off before the trumpet comes in.

Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra: Essentially Ellington 2001

If you have the 2001 Essentially Ellington reference recording CD, that album has a very nice recording of the studio arrangement played by the LCJO.

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