RENE MARIE / “Caravan”
Caravan is one of the most popular of Duke’s huge body of work. 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. 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). 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. 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, 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. 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 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. 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? 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 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 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. 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. 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
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