Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Duke Ellington's Perdido: "You Are So Hip, We Just Don't Dare" Intro Arrangement

This year's Essentially Ellington set list includes the extended arrangement of Perdido that Duke invariably introduced by telling his audience that "And now, Jimmy Hamilton and Paul Gonsalves lead us into a number that we usually give our audiences three guesses as to what the title is.  But you are so hip, we just don't dare."  One of the most well-known live recordings of the arrangement is the one from the 1963 Great Paris Concert album.

The folks at EE attribute this arrangement to Gerald Wilson.  I have never see any notes or discographical information that would indicate that Wilson penned the extended arrangement.  It feels like Ellington arranged it himself, especially because the introduction is actually an obscure tune that Ellington recorded independently around 1950 or so (I have forgotten the title and am still trying to dig up that nugget of information!).  And I have Wilson's 1965 album On Stage, on which one of his arrangements of Perdido appears, and it has little in common with the Great Paris Concert arrangement.  But it is not for me to challenge the EE researchers, and I accept their ruling that the 1963 arrangement is Wilson's handiwork as the authoritative word on the subject.

The first tip for bands that are really serious about this chart is that they should add the obscure third chorus to the intro.  Get the album Duke Ellington's Spacemen: The Cosmic Scene.  The Perdido recording on that album has two choruses, but the first chorus of the Spacemen recording is the second chorus of the Great Paris recording.  The second chorus of the Spacemen recording flows naturally from the first, and--added to the original two Great Paris choruses--completes a full three-chorus introduction.  Bands with serious drive will learn all three choruses (or at least the combo playing the intro will!).

For vocalists, here are the lyrics as sung by Ella Fitzgerald on Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald: Sings The Ellington Songbook CD 1:

I look for my heart in Perdido
I lost it way down in Torido
The day the fiesta started

I swayed as they played the Bolero
I kissed me the listing sombrero
And that's when my heart departed

Was the sun when I held him close
Was the moon when we said Adios

My heart ever since is Perdido
I know I must go to Torido
To find what I lost, Perdido

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