Paul Whiteman: Blue Belles of Harlem
Blue Belles of Harlem
Paul Whiteman and his Concert Orchestra
Carnegie Hall Concert: December 25, 1938 (Nostalgia Arts 303 3025)
Bob Cusumano, Bob Alexy, Harry Goldfield (trumpets), Vincent Grande, Hal Matthews (trombones), Norman McPherson (tuba), George Ford (flute/piccolo), Niles Fargason (flute), Anton Malay (oboe), Nat Reines, Morris Kirchner (bassoon), Murray Cohan (alto & baritone saxes), Frank Gallodoro, Art Drelinger (clarinets, tenor saxes), Jack Bell (flute, tenor sax), Harold Feldman (baritone sax), Vincent Capone (baritone sax, flute), Roy Bargy (piano), John Gianpietro (harp), Mike Pingitore (banjo), Art Ryerson (guitar), Artie Miller (bass), George Wettling (drums), Tom Richley, Chauncey Brown (percussion); 29-piece string section.
Composed by Duke Ellington; arranged by Fred Van Epps.
Recorded: live at Carnegie Hall, New York, December 25, 1938
Rating: 75/100 (learn more)
Paul Whiteman's final "Experiment in Modern Music" featured Artie Shaw, Whiteman's large orchestra, and a lot of new music written by old friends (Ferde Grofé) and new ones. Whiteman commissioned six composers to write pieces based on bells to be combined into a suite. Besides Ellington, contributions were made by Bert Shefter, Walter Gross, Fred Van Epps, Roy Bargy and Morton Gould. "Pops" took these concerts seriously (he was always hoping to discover a work comparable to Rhapsody in Blue, the standout of the first experiment back in 1924), and by including Ellington, Whiteman clearly believed Duke to be an important composer. As it turned out, "Blue Belles of Harlem" (aka "Blue Belle of Harlem") is a minor work at best; notice the spelling of "belles" not as noisemakers but as young women, a singularly Ellingtonian touch. A lead sheet of the piece was given to arranger Fred Van Epps to prepare for Whiteman's mammoth orchestra, and Charlie Teagarden, Al Gallodoro (one of the most technically amazing musicians of the 20th century), Miff Mole, Jack Teagarden and Sal Franzella are all heard playing bluesy written and improvised short statements at one time or another. (Whiteman certainly featured his all-star musicians at these concerts.) The piece would be substantially reworked by Billy Strayhorn into a mini-concerto for Ellington's piano and orchestra for the 1943 Carnegie Hall concert when Black, Brown and Beige was premiered.
Reviewer: Jeff Sultanof