Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ad-Lib#3: Prima Bara Dubla

The only official recording of Gerry Mulligan with Duke Ellington that I can think of is that of Newport 1958 in which the mind-blowing late-night call-and-response between two baritones, Mulligan and Harry Carney, in Prima Bara Dubla, repeats the memory Newport '56 in its own right. Unlike the revolution of 1956 and Paul Gonsalves' restless solo that ended all solos in his and other people's career in Ellington company, Prima Bara Dubla is a dark, reserved and unhurried conversation. If Gonsalves," by injecting a new aggressive blood to the veins of the orchestra, "made history, this one is "about history" and a commentary on that through juxtaposition of two sounds, two styles and two eras while each comment on the other: Big Band Swing reflecting Cool, and vice versa.

The liner notes of the 1958 Newport recording says: "Duke, who had been complimented so effectively all evening, paid his own compliment to Gerry Mulligan by writing a duet for Mulligan and Harry Carney, the two premier baritone saxophonists of jazz. Gerry, who made several appearances at this year's festival, including one with Marian McPartland paying tribute to Ellington earlier in the evening, came back on stage in his red jacket at this point in the programme and he and Harry took their places at the front of the stage to play Prima bara dubla, which is probably limp Spanish for a couple of first-class baritone sax men. It became a highlight of the concert and an honour both to Gerry and to Duke."

Released on vinyl by Columbia Records, it is available here and also as an import Mosaic CD, alas not exactly affordable.

Everyone knows about Ronnie Scott's routine jokes. This Scott classic has been signed by him.

Among the films Austrian-born Erich Von Stroheim played in France - most of them atmospheric mystery pictures with chiaroscuro lighting - I came across Série Noire (Pierre Foucaud, 1955) which I haven't seen in complete form, but judging from the cast and the title, it seems like a typical French film noir of the period. However, the reason I mentioned the film and Stroheim was the presence of another American expatriate in Paris, Sidney Bechet, who plays a song in the there. 

In this scene Monique van Vooren is singing À toi de payer (written by Bechet and André Coffrant), while Bechet plays some soulful solos as the accompanist. Following the tradition of female torch singers, Monique walks flirtatiously among the tables till her eyes catches Robert Hossein. (Later, the Belgian actress van Vooren appears in Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, after she was seen with Kissinger and Woody Allen, and incidentally, Hossein's father - from  Persian origins - writes some jazzy scores for his son's film noirs which I wrote about here.)

You can see the clip below. Other musicians in the scene are Guy Longnon (trumpet), Jean-Louis Durand (trombone), Georges d'Halluin (bass) and Michel Pacout (drums)

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