Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


In the wake of yesterday’s discussion of “God Bless America,” Carl Wilson asked, what song would you nominate to have a book written about it? In the comments, I nominated the Tizol-Ellington standard, “Caravan.” (Here’s an MP3 of an excerpt of a terrific dissonant Latin-style arrangement, performer uncredited by whoever posted it.) Ellington recorded the song many, many times, in several different arrangements, and I’ve loved every version I’ve ever heard.

Ellington’s relationship to the song stands in strong contrast to most rockers’ relationships to their songs. Simon Reynolds wrote an interesting article a few weeks ago on Gang of Four’s new record, on which they faithfully cover a bunch of their own songs. In jazz culture, rerecording old hits would go unremarked; but in jazz culture, people wouldn’t recreate the older versions so faithfully as Gang of Four apparently has.

The oldest song on my band’s upcoming album is about 16 years old, and the song's main riff is about 20. I finished the song for my old band in Chicago, circa ‘90 - ‘91. The current band plays the song in the same tempo and basic style, but it's a different arrangement, with a completely new introduction and coda. My ambition is to write songs that last all my life.

Ellington amazes because not only did he constantly revisit his own standards -- sometimes with radical revisions, sometimes with no new ideas but simply new improvisors -- but he kept pushing and learning and writing new music, and with new musical vocabularies. The most dissonant, radical collection of his I’ve heard, he recorded past the age of 70 -- “Afro-Eurasian Eclipse.” He didn’t mellow with age. If anything, he got fiercer.

A procreatin’ role model, baby.
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?