4 March 2015

Post 179: 'CARAVAN'

'Caravan' - according to one of my busker's books - was composed by Duke Ellington, Irving Mills and Juan Tizol in 1937.

Traditional jazz bands rarely play it. Why is this? Possible reasons are these. It has a tricky melody (even the 'Middle Eight' melody notes add 9ths to their chords). It is considered to be a 'big band' number. Its structure - as written in 64 bars - deters players who like neat 32-bar packages.

However, I know there are a few traditional jazz bands who have attempted it with success, for example as a feature for the trombonist.

It is such a good and unusual haunting tune that I encourage more bands to try it. It would give variety to programmes, and as it's very distinctively in a minor key, it is useful as a contrast with the major key tunes that normally fill a programme.

Here's how to make it approachable.

Re-think it as a tune of 32 bars. Do this by halving the length of all the notes as printed. You then have a tune as follows:

a(1)   :  8 bars
a(2)   :  exactly the same as a(1)
b       :  middle eight
a(3)   : exactly the same as a(1)

So you really have to learn ONLY 16 bars. That should not be difficult.

It is all the easier because 'a' hovers for the entire first six bars round one chord, so improvising is easy.

For b, the melody needs to be learned (not too difficult) and improvising on these bars is easy because they have an intuitive chord progression. For example, if you play the tune in D minor, then the chords for the Middle 8 are:

 D7  |  D7  |  G7  |  G7  |  C7  |  C7  |  F  |  F:A7

Give it a try. I'm about to do so.