Monday, November 11, 2013

Duke Ellington's Liberian Suite: I Like The Sunrise (Ellington Recording Without Al Hibbler Overdub)

The Most Invaluable Practice Tool And Teaching Tool That You And Your Students Have For This Chart

Sometimes, knowing a little jazz recording history can lead you to a profoundly useful practice tool.  In this case, it's one of the only authentic Duke Ellington And His Orchestra karaoke recordings you'll ever find--and quite possibly the earliest!  I think this one can even be said to beat the tar off of the Jamey Aebersold series (no offense, Jamey!).

A Phony Live Recording

The original 1947 studio recording of I Like The Sunrise sounds, as it was intended to sound, like the Ellington orchestra walked into the studio (or, Al Hibbler stood in front or off to the side, and Duke counted off the chart.  But, like the original studio recording of the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival concert (which contained an entirely studio-produced recording save for the single exception of the "bad microphone" recording of the live Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue performance), this recording was an artificial assemblage from authentic separate component parts.

The liner notes booklet for the CD reissue of Ellington Uptown, which contains a corrected copy of the ten-inch LP The Liberian Suite as extra tracks, discussed the chronological dating of the original masters:

"Discographers and historians agree that the entire instrumental suite was first recorded December 24, 1947, two days before its Carnegie Hall premiere.  An unsolved puzzle is why the first 'Liberian' acetate bears a handwritten date of May 19, 1947 with the notation that the vocal is to be overdubbed later.  It is also agreed that Al Hibbler was recorded afterward.  The date of, or reason for, his overdub is reported only in contradictory press reports in Billboard and other publications.  The May date is not viable because documentation exists on the band's activities that day--six stageshows at the New York Paramount Theater and Duke was guest soloist with the Percy Faith Orchestra on NBC's 'Carnation Contented Hour.'  Also, the procrastinating, deadline-driven Ellington never completed any project seven months ahead of time."

And this all might have been the final word on the matter, if it were not for the intrepid and unrivalled quest for completion on the part of the tiny little French "Classics" label, which reissued every jazz 78 RPM recording on CD over a 25-year period beginning in the late 1980s.

The Chronological Classics CD

The Holy Grail on this chart is a French CD entitled Duke Ellington: The Chronological Classics 1947-1948.  It will not come cheap--the lowest-priced used copy on Amazon, as I type this, is on offer for more than $90.  But if you can find it, Track 7 I Like The Sunrise (Instrumental) will yield you the original instrumental recording without Al Hibbler's vocal overdubbed.  This is not an alternate take.  This is the exact same recording that the Hibbler vocal was overdubbed onto at some later date, but without that later overdub.

For your vocalist, this track is a perfect opportunity to practice singing without the "safety net" of Al Hibbler to follow along with.  Want to check whether you, as a vocalist, are actually hitting the right pitches and coming in at the right points?  Just cue up this track and you can practice with the Ellington band to your heart's content.

For your instrumentalists, this track is a perfect opportunity to remove the distraction of the vocalist (sorry, vocalists) and isolate the instrumentals.  In a chart that has textures as thick as this one, being able to erase the vocalist enables the ear to very easily focus on the sax section blend, the responsive lines between bari and trombones in the second chorus, etc.  This is the primary source that your instrumentalists should be practicing with their headphones while preparing this chart.  It is simply an extraordinary tool.

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