Posted by Jay Livingston
Edward Kennedy Ellington, born April 29, 1899. His work – its quality, quantity, and diversity – is one of the treasures of American music. And he wrote most of it while working full-time as CEO of a touring band. Here is a 1940 recording of “Cottontail” – “modern jazz before there was ever such a term,” according to David Rickert (here)
One early morning years ago, I was driving to work, feeling not especially cheerful about, well, everything. The radio was on – WBGO – and the DJ played this recording, and suddenly the fog lifted. I especially like the saxophone section chorus that starts shortly after the 2:00 mark.
There’s also Ben Webster’s famous solo on the second chorus – “one of Webster's best solos, and also one of the greatest ever recorded,” says Rickert ,adding that it’s a great example of a solo telling a story. But for the full story, listen to the lyric by Jon Hendricks – Beatrix Potter meets Duke Ellington. It begins,
Way back in my childhood(Hendricks wrote it in around 1960 – it’s on LHR’s 1962 album (listen here). But “boo” is a 1940s term for what we now call weed. )
I heard a story so true
’Bout a funny bunny
Stealing some boo from a garden he knew.