Black and Tan Fantasy
Duke Ellington

date: 1927
style: early New York big band
form: 12-bar blues (with a contrasting 16-bar interlude)

personnel:

Duke Ellington, piano; Bubber Miley and Louis Metcalf, trumpets; Joe "Tricky Sam" Nan-ton, trombone; Otto Hardwick, Rudy Jackson, and Harry Carney, saxophones; Fred Guy, banjo; Wellman Braud, bass; Sonny Greer, drums

Chorus One (12-bar blues)

0:00
Miley (trumpet) and Nanton (trombone) growl a bluesy minor-mode melody (timbre variation) with tightly muted horns. The rhythm section (bass, drums, banjo) plays sharply on each beat, with Ellington adding offbeats at ends of phrases (0:07, 0:15, 0:19).

0:24
A cymbal crash signals the appearance of new material.

Interlude (16 bars)

0:25
The harmonic progression suddenly changes with an unexpected chord that eventually turns to the major mode. The melody is played by Hardwick (alto sax) in a "sweet" style, with thick vibrato, a sultry tone, and exaggerated glissandi.

0:37
During a two-measure break, the band plays a turn-around--a complicated bit of chromatic harmony designed to connect one section with the next.

0:40
Repeat of the opening melody.

0:52
The horns play a series of chords, then stop. Immediately afterward, the drummer plays several strokes on the cymbal, muting the vibration with his free hand.

Chorus Two

0:56
Over a major-mode blues progression, Miley takes a solo. For the first four bars, he restricts himself to a high, tightly muted note (the tonic).

1:04
For the rest of the chorus, Miley plays expressive bluesy phrases, constantly changing the position of his plunger mute over the straight mute to produce new sounds. The effect is almost vocal (like "wa-wa").

Chorus Three

1:21
Miley begins with a pair of phrases reaching upward to an expressive blue note.

1:23
The cymbal responds, as if in sympathy.

1:43
Ellington begins his piano solo.

Chorus Four

1:45
The band drops out while Ellington plays a cleverly arranged stride piano solo.

1:49
The left hand plays in broken octaves: the two notes of the octave are played separately, with the bottom note anticipating the beat.

1:55
Ellington plays a striking harmonic substitution.

Chorus Five

2:08
"Tricky Sam" Nanton begins his solo on tightly muted trombone.

2:12
Nanton loosens the plunger mute, increasing the volume and heightening the intensity of the unusual timbre.

2:23
Nanton precedes his last phrase with a bizarre gesture, sounding like insane laughter or a vaudeville imitation of a donkey's whinny--according to one contemporary reviewer, "distorted and tortured, but agonizingly expressive."

Chorus Six

2:32
Miley returns for an explosive bluesy statement.

2:36
This phrase (and the next) is answered by a sharp accent from the rhythm section.

2:46
The band enters to reinforce Miley's moan.

Coda

2:52
With Miley in the lead, the band ends by quoting Chopin's "Funeral March"--returning the piece definitively to the minor mode.

Copyright W.W. Norton