Surfing on Youtube we found this great song about Harlem, composed by the legend Duke Ellington in the 1950’s. Here Duke and his orchestra play a fifteen minute tug of war of the highs and lows of Harlem.
Harlem is a symphonic jazz composition by the American composer Duke Ellington. Originally commissioned by Arturo Toscanini in 1950 to be part of a larger project.
“Harlem” (orchestrated by Luther Henderson and Maurice Peress) was to be part of a group commission by the celebrated conductor, who was not known as a champion of American music. Duke, a master title-giver, described the work as a concerto grosso for jazz band and symphony orchestra.
In “Harlem”, we see Ellington as having learned from his “Black, Brown, & Beige” experience. It is one completely integrated movement, the first part of which is held together by the word “Har-lem” (a minor third), intoned by the growl trumpet.
The second half is built out of the street funeral dirge (Duke refers to an Elks Band) which begins as an eight-bar blues for three marvelously interwoven clarinets and builds to a climax combining both thematic ideas.
Ellington described “Harlem” in 20 to twenty pieces as follows:
- Pronouncing the word “Harlem,” itemizing its many facets—from downtown to uptown, true and false
- 110th Street, heading north through the Spanish neighborhood
- Intersection further uptown–cats shucking and stiffing
- Upbeat parade
- Jazz spoken in a thousand languages
- Floor show
- Girls out of step, but kicking like crazy
- Fanfare for Sunday
- On the way to church
- Church—we’re even represented in Congress by our man of the church
- The sermon
- Counterpoint of tears
- Chic chick
- Stopping traffic
- After church promendade
- Agreement a cappella
- Civil Rights demandments
- March onward and upward;
- Summary–contributions coda.
On this recording the musicians are:
- Jon Faddis – Trumpet
- Bill Easley – Clarinet
- Ron Carter – Bass
- Butch Miles – Drums
Here’s video of this gorgeous music via Youtube:
What do you think?
Become an Harlem World Insider - Sign-Up For Our Newsletter!