Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cotton Tail

Recorded April 4, 1961
Track Time 3:42
Written by Duke Ellington
Recorded in New York City
Accompanied by Duke Ellington, piano, Trummy Young, trombone, Barney Bigard, clarinet, Mort Herbert, bass, Danny Barcelona, drums
Released on the Roulette LP "Recording Together for the First Time"
Currently on CD: "Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington: The Complete Sessions"
Available on Itunes? Yes (The rehearsal is available only by purchasing the full album)

Today is Easter Sunday and after a few years of sharing "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket" on this day, I have decided to go another route laster year and celebrate the day with Louis and Duke Ellington jamming away on "Cotton Tail." It was very well received so let's do it again! The tune was the last song recorded on the second day of two long sessions that are now generally referred to as "The Great Summit."

After recording so much marvelous music over the two days, it was decided to close out the session with this jam session favorite. A snatch of rehearsal was saved and issued when Roulette put out a two-disc version of the Armstrong-Ellington collaboration about a decade ago. Here it is, everyone sounding relaxed and Louis having a lot of fun scatting Ben Webster's famed saxophone lines.

Louis sounds like he wants someone to play it but after Barney and Duke fumble with it, the idea is aborted. Still, a pretty hip look at how Louis listened to everything and absorbed it all. When the light when on, Duke carried the melody, leading to a string of one-chorus solos. Pops sounds great, very fluent and relaxed; he didn't do much with "Rhythm" changes but what he did do was always interesting. But nothing tops Louis's unbeatable scat chorus with the immortal line, "Chops are flying everywhere, look at ol' Duke laughing there!" It's a beautiful moment, taking us into the studio and giving us a priceless image of Louis scatting and Duke digging him immensely. How could he not? (2012 note: we just installed a new exhibit at the Louis Armstrong about Louis in the recording studio. In it, we have some precious artifacts, including Louis's handwritten lyric sheets for all the songs on the Ellington session. For "Cotton Tail," he simply wrote "SCAT VOCAL"!)

So put down the chocolate bunnies, put the hard-boiled eggs back in the fridge and put off church til a little later and listen to "Cotton Tail."

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