Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Duke Ellington's Perdido: Major arrangement styles

Perdido went through a great many variations during the more than thirty years that it resided in the Ellington band book.  Years ago, the Essentially Ellington program released the Clark Terry feature version as recorded on the 1959 Festival Session album (and appearing in the live performance of the identical arrangement on the Live! At Newport '59 CD).  Any student learning to improvise on any arrangement of this tune should listen repeatedly to all of the major arrangement styles of the tune, notwithstanding that he will only be blowing over the changes on one particular arrangement.  We learn a great deal by not just approaching a structure as it has been built, but by also examining the composition of the structure, the plans for the structure, and the materials from which the structure is built.  Besides, there are plenty of licks to be played over Perdido that simply do not show up on one arrangement or another.

Here, then, are a few of the major arrangement styles, with sample recording sources:

Original Arrangement: Duke Ellington: In A Mellow Tone

The original arrangement features a piano intro, initial melody in the bari, improvised (or pseudo-improvised; see Gunther Schuller on suspiciously recurrent improvised solos in big bands circa this era) and notable solos by trumpet and tenor.  The speed of the tune is much slow than later arrangements, but it swings just as hard.  Students should be able to swing Perdido hard at this tempo before they can rest assured that they have mastered the groove at a faster tempo.  Why?  Because sloppy jazz students frequently substitute tempo for groove as a lazy way of avoiding their failure to fully master either.

This same recording is also on the RCA/Victor re-releases Duke Ellington: The Complete RCA/Victor CD 13, Duke Ellington: The Blanton-Webster Band, and Duke Ellington: Never No Lament.  The Complete disc has an alternate take.

Essentially the same arrangement shows up on several of the Storyville Records volumes in the Duke Ellington Treasury Shows series.

Extended Arrangement: Duke Ellington: Ellington Uptown

With the advent of the 33 RPM LP record, Duke could stretch ideas previously constrained to the approximately 3 minute length of a 78 RPM single side.  This lush arrangement does exactly that.  Extended piano intro, great section soli for the trombones, and--smack in the middle of the chart--the intro that would later be played by Hamilton & Gonsalves at the top of the 1963 arrangement!  And, of course, it's got plenty of trumpet solo work (and terrific bass and trombone solos).  So one could make a convincing argument that this recording isn't just an extended arrangement: it may actually be every arrangement!

Single Soloist Feature Arrangement: Duke Ellington: Festival Session

This is the arrangement that primarily features one soloist (though, of course, it is adaptable in all sorts of ways for bands that want to open up the solo section).  Soloists using other arrangements should copy liberally from the multitude of sax backing figures in this arrangement, because they would work great in a solo over any of the other arrangements, too.  Though Terry's solo is full of great phrases, too!

Same arrangement shows up on the live Newport '59 album and the Live At The Blue Note CD 2 recording, among others.  It also shows up on the much earlier The Forum, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (8 Feb. 1954) CD 1 recording!

"We Just Don't Dare" Arrangement: Duke Ellington: The Great Paris Concert CD 1

Actually, this arrangement is played more cleanly and at a much more manageable tempo (for students looking to transcribe the intro by ear or copy licks) on the studio take from Duke Ellington And His Orchestra: Piano In The Background.  If I were trying to learn this one, I would choose the Piano In The Background recording over the live Great Paris Concert recording any day of the week.  Why beat yourself up listening to the phrases blast past at a manic tempo when you could hear it much more cleanly and audibly on the studio take?

Again, bear in mind that this arrangement was not really "new" as of 1963.  Piano In The Background was recorded in 1960, as was a live recording of the same arrangement on the CD Live In Monterey 1960 The Unheard Recordings Part One.

Vocalist Arrangement: Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald: Sings The Ellington Songbook CD 1

Special arrangement for the Fitzgerald sessions.  Why not learn the lyrics?

"Busy" Mid-1960s Arrangement: Duke Ellington And His Orchestra: En Concert Avec Europe1_ Theatre Des Champs Elysees 29-30 Janvier 1965 CD 2

Fantastic Sam Woodyard drum solo at the end of this one, and very playful Ellington piano intro at the beginning.  There's a lot going on in this arrangement.  First soloist focus is clarinet, and main backing is trombones and rhythm (strong piano figures, especially in the lower register, show up in the backings under the clarinet).  Trumpet solo (of course) follows.  Then a nice trombone soli, followed by a sax soli.  Gonsalves jumps in, stylistically similar to his turn on Cop Out or Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue.  But man oh man, what a drum solo at the back end of this recording!  This may be the finest drum solo I have ever heard on an Ellington recording.  Certainly in the pantheon.

Small Group Arrangements

Then there are the nice small group recordings that Ellington made of this tune.  In no particular order (and with varying arrangements), they include:
Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn: Piano Duets_ Great Times!
Duke Ellington Octet - At The Rainbow Grill 1967
Duke Ellington's Spacemen - The Cosmic Scene

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