The Great Paris Concert 1963
This is a recording of a series of live performances by Duke Ellington and his jazz orchestra in Paris in February 1963. Born in 1899, Duke Ellington was a great composer, pianist and the band leader of his jazz orchestra, which composed of a 10-piece ensemble CITATION Tuc95 p 3 l 2057 (Tucker and Ellington 3). Some of the most notable jazz musicians in the band were Cootie Williams (trumpeter), Johnny Hodges (alto saxophonist), Rex Stewart (cornetist), and Harry Carney (baritone saxophonist). The band played together in the 1920s through the early 1930s before some members left to pursue their careers.
Duke Ellington and his band performed 26 of their earlier recordings with great virtuosity. Described as one of the greatest music composers of the 20th century, Duke wrote more than 200 jazz compositions that he recorded with his orchestra. The concert showcased solos from some of the greatest jazz musicians of their time, with a great variety of harmony and time changes, and tonal color. The show begins with Kinda Dukish where Duke plays a cheerful piano introduction that sets the tone for a dancing mood. The rest of the ensemble finally joins in Rockin in Rhythm keeping the happy groove through play. Most notable in Rockin in Rhythm is the trumpeter Cat Anderson, who delightfully plays the high notes that made him famous. This was the perfect introduction to a program of magnificent compositions. The performance gets even better when Ellington introduces The Star-Crossed Lovers with a series of arpeggios followed by Johnny Hodges, who plays sustained saxophone chords before beginning his melody that is quiet and lyrical. Cootie Williams, the trumpeter, who rejoined the band after a 22-year absence does not disappoint. He showcases his prowess by playing diverse styles in Concerto for Cootie and Tutti for Cootie. From a steamy mute to a brassy cascading high notes. The performance of Perdido switched the tempo to a slow paced melody. This song was originally composed by Juan Tizol but was recorded by Ellington. Perdido means ‘lost’ in Spanish. The name was justified by how the orchestra played – a constantly repeated melodic phrase and a simple chord pattern in a slow tempo. The song ends by saxophone playing repeated patterns and the trumpet finishing with a solo line. The last piece in the program was Satin Doll. This song was written by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn in 1953. It was originally an instrumental, but Johnny Mercer added lyrics to the song later. The harmony for this piece was quite chromatic and complex though the melody was simple and easy to sing.
The Great Paris Concert was one of the best concert albums ever recorded. To find a band that played so much good music in a single concert is an uphill task. From Kinda Dukish, which set the audience into a jaunty and cheerful mood to the slow paced Perdido and through to the closing song Satin Doll, Duke Ellington, and his orchestra presented a classic after classic. The highlight of the concert to me was Cat Anderson and his ability to hit notes that made one exclaim, ‘only God can play like that.’ Such perfection made this concert worth the praise.
The live performance of these hits is much better than the studio recordings. Duke Ellington brings together a band give his audience an improved version of his previous hits and also adds new material. With solos from jazz greats such as saxophonists Johnny Hodges to the trumpeter, Cat Anderson this concert recording is a must have.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Tucker, Mark and Duke Ellington. The Duke Ellington Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.