As we enjoy the dulcet tones of the Duke Ellington orchestra, let us contemplate palms swaying in the breeze, spitting camels, and stripey tents by oases on moonlit desert nights. Imagine all of this, of course, in the rich spectrum of white, grays and black so characteristic of 1930s cinema.
Caravan is my favorite Duke Ellington number. Totally classic and yet new even seventy-some years after he wrote it, this song is a masterpiece. I can hear in this music the DNA of Béla Bartók and Django Reinhardt, and so much of what was right and evolutionary about 20th century music.
Can you imagine what it was like to hear this in the 1930s? This must have felt like an entirely new musical vista had shifted into focus, with things destined to turn toward the high-brow and extremely intellectual. Listen as the melody shifts to the only obliquely referential minor modulation-- only to be reeled back into the fold as the tonic's familiar arabesques are restored to that place our ears long to have tickled. All the while, the arrangement is extremely tight and you can feel the musicians at the helm never lost their sense of true North.
This is pure-dee brain food, and the logical progeny of Beethoven and Bach. This instrumental is superb, but my absolute favorite recording of this is the vocal arrangement by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross-- which is perfection, in my opinion. Look it up, if you get the chance.
Here's a rather delicious Les Paul version of same. Yummy rhythm guitar on this one.
And yet one more interpretation-- Brian Setzer Orchestra. Smokin'! Fantastic bass on this one.
Fine musicians recognize they don't need to re-invent the wheel, but it's permissable, on occasion, to slap some lipstick and whitewalls on that puppy.
Wait. Is it a full moon?
joe allen sagely pointed me in the direction of this impeccable version by Michel Petrucciani. If this one doesn't make your toe tap, you need a medical professional to check you for a pulse. He captures the majesty and the brilliance of Caravan in a million notes or less. Me likee.
...and they keep rolling in, courtesy of Joe, again. This one features jazz banjo. frontporchradio Speaking of the banjo guy (they're all great- lURVED the accordion guy), notice how he alludes to Flight of the Bumblebee in there. Good stuff!