Next, it reminds us that not all tunes in the 1920s and 1930s were structured in 12-bar or 32-bar formats. In fact, the first theme (Section A - see below) consists of 20 bars. Other examples of 20-bar tunes from our early repertoire are After You've Gone, Oh You Beautiful Doll, The Darktown Strutters Ball, I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan, Keeping Out of Mischief Now, You've Got the Right Key but the Wrong Keyhole, You Got Me Crying Again, and Papa De Da Da.
Now look at the second theme - section B – in the key of C minor. It has a 32-bar AABA structure, again using a pretty, dramatic riff for the A sections. The middle eight has its own striking, defiant melody ending with a powerful use of the G7 chord.
Improvisations are normally played on this B section and they can be very dramatic. The melody and the minor key lend themselves to growling, muted work, for example. Actually, the chord sequence is much simpler than it sounds: it is possible for a musician of average ability to produce something quite impressive from this material. I think that is why it is popular with trumpet and trombone players.
I have heard some bands also introducing a 12-bar blues chorus in Eb, and using this for improvisations. I think that spoils the overall impact of all the minor chord stuff. Ellington himself didn't do it in 1930, so why should we?
A very good way to end the tune is to play Section A again, with those bars 17 to 18 sustaining the drama and bar 20 bringing the piece to a striking sudden halt.
You can hear the tune being played by Ellington himself BY CLICKING HERE. And you may watch a band playing the piece in 2008 BY CLICKING HERE.
The book 'Playing Traditional Jazz' by Pops Coffee is available from Amazon.