Friday, December 10, 2010

First man on the Moon

As jazz standards go few can match the haunting beauty of Duke Ellington's "Moon Indigo," which was recorded on this day in 1930.  We've heard it played and sung by hundreds of artists through the years but no one tops the Duke's arrangement.

Players on the original recording:
Duke Ellington, piano
Arthur Whetsol, trumpet
Joe Nanton, trombone
Barney Bigard, clarinet
Fred Guy, banjo
Wellman Braud, bass
Sonny Greer, drums

The muting of the front line horns delivers what has been described as an "upside down" sound to balance Ellington's uptempo piano. It is very nearly repeated in another of Duke's classics, "(In My) Solitude" from 1932.

The origins of the song are traced back to New Orleans and Lorenzo Tio, who taught Bigard the clarinet and schooled him on a theme known as "Mexican Blues." It became "Dreamy Blues" when it was first broadcast for radio in 1930, and then someone -- probably Duke or Bigard -- changed it to "Moon Indigo."  A brilliant stroke to a brilliant piece. 

The lyrics are credited to Arthur Mills and have been sung by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra to Joe Jackson and Kelly Hogan.  Warning: If you just lost your sweetie or you're feeling low this one can drop you right to the floor.

You ain't been blue; no, no, no
You ain't been blue
Till you've had that mood indigo

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