RENE MARIE / “Caravan”

Caravan is one of the most popular of Duke’s huge body of work. juan tizol 01.JPG Valve trombonist Juan Tizol is the co-author of “Caravan” (and also of “Perdido,” another Ellington perennial). Tizol's facility on the valve trombone is legendary. Also, there are literally hundreds of versions of this song. My goal here was to offer a range of interpretations that in style and/or chronology virtually span the history of jazz. duke ellington 13.jpg We open with an air check recording of the Ellington Orchestra displaying one of his signature sounds: the jungle music. Pay particular attention to the definitive rhythm sounded on the rhythm sticks and to the violin (I believe that's Ray Nance). tessa souter.jpg Tess Souter, the daughter of a Trinidadian father and an Englishwoman, provides an appropriately “exotic” version built around a bass riff and Ms. Souter’s long tones. chucho valdes 03.jpg Cuban-born Chucho Valdés is one of the most powerful pianists in the world. He makes McCoy Tyner sound soft. This is not just a display of technique, it's also a dazzling display of melodic improvisation. Even amidst a bombastic arrangement, Valdés' flashing and slashing musical ideas more than match his prodigious technique. andy bey 13.jpg Andy Bey, what can I say? The man is a wonder. Listen to how he completely recasts the familiar melody and manages to make a cool, laid-back interpretation sound scorching hot. money jungle cover.jpg Duke Ellington returns for a second go round, this time in an innovative trio format abetted by drummer Max Roach and bassist Charlie Mingus. This is the fabled Money Jungle session on which Duke demonstrates how hip he was to the latest trends in jazz. In this interpretation you can hear echoes of Cecil Taylor in both sound and structure. Both Duke and Cecil were incredibly sophisticated and fully aware of modern classical music techniques including atonality and dissonant chordal techniques. dee dee bridgewater 13.jpg Dee Dee Bridgewater is always, always on the case. Here she gets a distinctively West African sound that includes subtle references to Islam. Dee Dee's version is also enlivened by Steve Turre playing conch shell—that's the soft "wooing" sound. rabin abou khalil 01.jpg Lebanese musician (he now resides in Germany) Rabih Abou-Khalil undertakes an Arab recasting. Rabin’s instrument of choice is the ancient oud. Isn't it amazing how authentical this jazz standard sounds in this context? martial solal 01.jpg Algerian born, French pianist Martial Solal undertakes an exquisite solo piano investigation that features both allusions to other jazz classics and rich recasting of the harmonies of the song. ray barretto 01.jpg Ray Barretto is one of my all time favorite congoleros and jazz arrangers. I love how he finds interesting wrinkles in presenting the music. It’s both fresh and exciting. I am especially impressed that he chooses to emphasize the full band rather than just rely on his truly dazzling conga playing. dizzy 03.jpg Dizzy Gillespie’s contribution is actually a remix by DJ Smash, and what a remix it is. Dizzy is credited as one of the founders of what is loosely called Latin jazz. rene marie 08-2.jpg The Rene Marie is my favorite. There is something fearsome about Ms. Marie. Her vocals literally move from a whisper to a scream, without stumbling, and with the maximum of taste and sophisticated swing. Her new CD, Experiment In Truth, is available from Rene Marie's website. mark de clive-lowe 04.jpg We’ve presented the Mark de Clive-Lowe version before. Vocalist Bembe Segue is strong, very, very strong but ultimately it’s Mark’s brilliant arranging on the fly that is truly hip. That’s the quick run down. Listen closely, observe the wide latitude of interpretations even as the song remains recognizable. What a wonderful trip "Caravan" is! —Kalamu ya Salaam CARAVAN MUSIC: Duke Ellington Orchestra - The Treasury Shows, Vol. 1 Tessa Souter - Listen Love Chucho Valdes - Afro Cuban Jazz Now Andy Bey - American Song. Duke Ellington/Charlie Mingus/Max Roach - Money Jungle Dee Dee Bridgewater - Prelude To A Kiss: The Duke Ellington Album Rabih Abou-Khalil - Roots & Sprouts Martial Solal - Solitude Ray Barretto & New World Spirit -  Contact Dizzy Gillespie/DJ Smash - RE-BOP: The Savoy Remixes  Rene Marie - Experiment In Truth Mark de Clive-Lowe - taken from his Myspace site  

         A wide range of music        
First off, I didn't know there was any such thing as a valve trombone. I was looking at that picture of Juan Tizol wondering what was that bizarre-looking instrument he's playing. Before today, I thought all trombones were slide trombones. In general, I think this is one of the better groups of covers Kalamu's put together so far. He said he was trying to cover a wide range of music, both in terms of eras and styles. It worked. Listening to all of these interpretations back-to-back, I was repeatedly struck by how different and interesting they all were even while that same strand of melody was there in every one. I mean, compare the Mark de Clive-Lowe version with the Andy Bey one. They're singing the same words and putting the words to the same melody and yet the results couldn't sound more different. I won't try to go through every version, but here's a quick comment about some of my favorites: The Money Jungle version (Duke/Mingus/Max) is funky and, like Kalamu said, quite dissonant. The first time through, I listen to the tracks without knowing who's playing; honestly, I thought this version was by Thelonious Monk. The pianist was so sly and off-kilter and modern (for the era) that I thought it had to be Monk. I haven't heard much Chucho Valdés, but every time I do hear him, I dig it. Dude plays hard and swings his butt off. Not only that, the percussion is right there with him. Dee Dee Bridgewater. Another musician I really need to hear more of considering that I like almost everything I've heard by her. This version also has a great arrangement. The percussion and bassline create a great foundation. On top of that, you get Dee Dee's vocals, the intermittent acoustic guitar and the mournful, long tones of the conch shell. Very good. The Martial Solal wasn't necessarily one of my favorites, but I was very impressed with the musicianship and very wrong about who I was listening to. Given the lightning-quick runs juxtaposed with the gentle turns of melody, I thought it was another of Kalamu's favorite pianists, Cuba's Gonzalo Rubalcaba. I missed by a mile. (Or several thousand miles, actually; Cuba's a long way from Algeria.) The Ray Barretto might be my favorite. This version encompasses a lot of the best aspects of the other versions. It's definitely a jazz interpretation but there's still the funkiness of the conga and other percussion. Ray (or someone else) sounds like he came up withhis own additional horn arrangement too. There's parts in there on the chorus that I'm not hearing in the other versions. Finally, there's the Mark de Clive-Lowe version - easily the most current-sounding of all of these covers. (Except maybe the DJ Smash, which I didn't like at all.) Kalamu posted Mark's version before - I liked i then and I like it now. It's a Bugz N The Attic meets Latin Jazz thing that really jumps. And before I go, I have to say Rene Marie is one of my favorite vocalists and I did like her version of "Caravan," but she's getting really, really close to going over the top with the drama. At this point, we know she's capable of doing just about anything she wants to do with her voice. I'm starting to think she should tone it down a little. —Mtume ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008 at 3:38 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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