From the liner notes by Maurice Peress:
“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.
Here are note from Ellington’s “Harlem”:
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- 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.
The musicians include Jon Faddis on the trumpet, Bill Easley, the clarinet, Ron Carter on the big bass and Butch Miles the drums.
Here’s the recording: