Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Don't Get Around Much Anymore - Revisited

Recorded April 3, 1961
Track Time 3:31
Written by Duke Ellington and Bob Russell
Recorded in New York City
Accompanied by Duke Ellington, piano, Trummy Young, trombone, Barney Bigard, clarinet, Mort Herbert, bass, Danny Barcelona, drums
Released on the Roulette LP "The Great Reunion"
Currently on CD: "Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington: The Complete Sessions"
Available on Itunes? Yes (The rehearsal is available only by purchasing the full album)

Hey everyone, today is Duke Ellington's birthday. The maestro would have been a ripe, old 110 today...if he made it, he'd probably have a little trouble doing the "finger snapping bit" but he's still be the hippest guy in the room. Anyway, in a perfect world where I slept for more than two or three hours at a clip, I would have had a nice long entry about Armstrong and Ellington's work together. Their 1961 sessions contain numerous masterpieces, in my opinion, and I would have loved to have gone into detail about some of my favorite tracks from that session. Alas, the time is just not there yet so I reached way back to the second post I ever did on "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." As I like pointing out, the length of it is quite "normal" and to the point, but I was clueless about how to add music back then. Thus, here's the original post, complete with 10 minutes of rehearsal takes, plus the master take, to enjoy. Happy birthday, Duke!

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It's day two of this blog and I'm already kind of fudging things a bit. I pressed shuffle on my Ipod and the Armstrong-Ellington collaboration on "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" came up, a fine track by all means. But the 2000 Routlette CD issue of these recordings included a 10 minute, 43 second rehearsal of this performance that really adds to the experience of the master take, so I've decided to cover this track as well. This was from the first of two days of recording, a period when Armstrong was battling a cold. Now I know, Armstrong's vocal quality would never be mistaken for Johnny Mathis, but the cold does add a slightly nasal, deeper husk to his voice. Nevertheless, Ellington didn't bring any new material to the dates, which mainly consisted of Armstrong's All Stars, with Duke on piano instead of Billy Kyle, jamming on many of Ellington's most famous compositions. Thus, it's no surprise upon listening to the rehearsal that the musicians almost completely nail "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" on the first try. Before getting carried away, here's the entire rehearsal sequence, so you can listen along:



The potent duo of Armstrong and trombonist Trummy Young open the tune with a full chorus of melody, Armstrong staying in the middle register in the final eight, where he would go up higher on the master take. The vocal's a good one with fine support by ex-Ellingtonian Bigard on clarinet. A highlight is Armstrong boiling the descending melody to one note after the bridge. Duke's piano solo is a gem. His beginning sounds almost wrong, like he perhaps thought they were going right to the bridge. But he soon turns it into a motive, getting downright in Monkish is places (and kinda Dukish the rest of the time). Armstrong's trumpet picks up the last A section with a strong break and a nice high concert C towards the end. One problem: nobody knows how to end it! Armstrong starts to go into a typical ending and then realizes it's futile and asks Duke about making an ending. Armstrong's efforts, played a capella, are beautiful examples of the hugeness of his tone. Duke comes up with a simple ending for Barney and Trummy to play and they're off for another take.

The next time around is aborted after only one chorus. Armstrong gets bluesy in last eight bars and also breaks out of the middle register. Armstrong cracks his last note and the tune breaks down. It's hard to hear, but I think Duke jokes about spoiling "them good solos, like Cat, man," a reference to Ellington trumpeter Cat Anderson. Armstrong responds about "the one Duke plays with, he made a mistake," leading Duke to drop the name of another member of his trumpet section, "Willie Cook wouldn't stand for that." In a rare moment of humanness, Armstrong botches the opening phrase of the melody on the next take. Restarting yet again, Armstrong puts together his best opening solo yet. I love listening to these things gel. Armstrong's trumpet solo builds so logically, it's to marvel at, the vocal retains the one note phrasing, Ellington plays a more motivic, somewhat riff-based solo, really digging into the bridge. Armstrong's trumpet reentry is slightly delayed, but the solo contains another dramatic high note (a Bb, though, instead of a C). Only the ending still needs work. Armstrong climbs up high and holds a note, while Trummy and Barney botch the ending phrase, coming into to late. Duke and Pops scat how it should sound but on the master take, it's omitted completely; Armstrong hits the high note and the performance just ends, somewhat unresolved but it works.

The master take smooths out all the rough edges from the rehearsals. Here 'tis:


I love the interplay between Pops and Trummy. Often, the All Stars sounded like a quintet anyway when Barney was in the front line, as he would be drowned out by the trombone and trumpet. You don't even realize he's not playing on the opening chorus. Armstrong's trumpet chorus is textbook. It starts with just the melody, gradually improvising on the turnarounds before rhythmically rephrasing the bridge and bulding logically into the high register for the final eight bars. And let's give some credit to the rhythm section. Mort Herbert and Danny Barcelona were often unfairly criticized because they didn't gave gaudy "all star" names but they swung effortlessly and they wouldn't have lasted so long if Armstrong didn't approve. Herbert's bass lines are particuarly effective behind the vocal. And Ellington uncorks yet another delicious piano solo on the master. The bridge is so relaxed, yet swinging at the same time, it's irristable. Pick up the complete sessions and you won't be disappointed....oh, just pick up anything from Armstrong and you won't be disappointed!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well spoken are your the last words, Ricky !

Uwe Z.