Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Bañagale, Ryan Raul. “Rearranging Concert Jazz: Duke Ellington and Rhapsody in Blue.” In Arranging Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and the Creation of an American Icon, 96-118. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

By the 1960s, Rhapsody in Blue was generally not considered authentic to the African American jazz tradition, as it had become a standard of the more classicized genre of “symphonic jazz.” Duke Ellington was one of the few African American composers to engage with the piece regularly over the course of his career, allowing us to trace his relationship to the music over time. On his 1963 album Will Big Bands Ever Come Back?, Ellington and co-arranger Billy Strayhorn sought to create a more authentic, less classicized version of the piece through the reorchestration and reorganization of musical themes and by recasting the piano part in a more typical jazz role, comping chord changes and taking improvised solos. This 1963 arrangement stands apart from Ellington’s earlier arrangements of the piece. The earliest, from 1925, differs little from Ferde Grofé’s popular 1924 arrangement for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and it was likely thought of as a crowd-pleaser in a time when the Ellington band worked primarily on tips. His 1932 arrangement was likely also composed to please audiences, but here Ellington is more harmonically and thematically experimental, while maintaining the overall structure of the original. Ellington’s 1963 version was described by David Schiff as a “brilliant act of deconstruction—and renewal.” Ellington and Strayhorn’s arrangement was meant to be a historical retrospective as much as anything, and it achieves its historicism through stylistic allusions to earlier styles of both “black” and “white” jazz. But an even more telling historical narrative of jazz at large may be traced in the stylistic progression of Ellington’s three arrangements.

Works: Duke Ellington (arranger and performer): One O’Clock Jump (97), Woodchopper’s Ball (97), Rhapsody in Blue [1925 version] (101-3), Rhapsody in Blue [1932 version] (104-10); Duke Ellington (arranger and performer) and Billy Strayhorn (arranger): Rhapsody in Blue [1963 version] (110-17); Robert Sadin (arranger) and Marcus Roberts (performer): Rhapsody in Blue (115).

Sources: George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (97-115); Count Basie: One O’Clock Jump (97); Woody Herman: Woodchopper’s Ball (97); Ferde Grofé (arranger): Rhapsody in Blue (101, 107).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Jazz

Contributed by: Molly Covington

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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