‘Chico Cuadradino’, by Duke Ellington And His Orchestra
Today’s song is from the beautiful but short album (36 minutes!) ‘Latin American Suite’, mainly recorded in 1968, the evening of the maestro’s career.
Duke Ellington always absorbed influences from the music he heard as he toured the world, and ‘Latin American Suite’ is no exception. Written during his first tour of Central and South America in 1968, Ellington premiered several of the pieces during concerts in the Southern hemisphere, though he didn’t record it until returning to the U.S.
This record was the first major work by Ellington after the death of his long time co-writer Billy Strayhorn. It’s sometimes considered half-baked (and in truth the compositions aren’t especially complex) but I love it: the band swings hard (hard!), and one can only imagine what it must have been like, seeing this band live.
‘Chico Cuadradino’ is a driving blues, co-written by his son Mercer, and features a boisterous trombone solo by Buster Cooper.
Lee Morgan, hard bop’s baddest trumpeter, may never quite have topped his iconic 1963 masterpiece ‘The Sidewinder’, but he came pretty damn close with ‘The Gigolo’ from 1965.
Jeff McMillan writes in his outstanding biography ‘Delightfulee, The Life And Music Of Lee Morgan’ (p. 144-146): “…The tune that proved hardest to capture was Morgan’s composition ‘Yes I Can, No You Can’t’. After numerous false starts, the band made it through the head melody to Morgan’s solo in the 22nd (!) take. The trumpeter struggles through an awkward two-chorus solo where his effort to bend and sound slippery undermines both his intonation and phrasing…The band finally wraps up the (June 25th, 1965) session with a complete take, the 49th (!!) of a long, unsuccesful session focused on one tune…”
“…Lion booked Van Gelder’s studio for six days later (July 1st, 1965) so Morgan and his men could record enough material to fill an album. In this second effort, the group produced one of the great recording sessions of Morgan’s career. The trumpeter, especially, was in top form, producing a standout performance of ‘Yes I Can, No You Can’t’. Notable in Morgan’s playing are razor-sharp execution and a brilliance of tone, qualities that were not reliably there for him in the previous session. Clearly, the trumpeter had spent time practicing the material, likely supplemented with technical trumpet exercises. On the July 1st session his chops are strong and sure…”
Lee Morgan - Trumpet Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone Harold Mabern Jr. - Piano Bob Cranshaw - Bass Billy Higgins - Drums