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In Mem'ry of that Caravan
September 2, 2009 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Duke Ellington recalled "... that's one of those things Tizol came up with. See, it wasn't in tempo, he stood [and played it] sort of ad lib. He played it, [the] first ten bars, we took it and worked out the rest of it." That thing was Caravan, and the instigator was Juan Tizol, who was a trombonist in Duke Ellington's orchestra. The track, originally recorded in 1936, became a jazz standard. The lyrics were penned in 1936 by publisher and manager Irving Mills, adding to the exotic feeling and romance of what is considered by many to be the first Latin jazz piece, before the late swing era and first decade of bebop when Latin Jazz (also called Afro-Cuban Jazz) came into prominence. The track didn't cross into other genres until Les Paul created his version of the track in 1948, which lead to other covers, and eventually a successful cover by The Ventures (source).

The Covers Project only lists 9 versions and Second Hand Songs lists 42 versions, but Instro-Rock Classics raises the bar and has collected 69 versions from 1936-1946, and an additional 55 from 1965 to 2002. The majority of Juan Tizol's credits on Discogs are for Caravan, though this list doesn't show the artists who played the songs. If you're interested in jazz covers, here are reviews of at Jazz.com

Older jazz and swing versions
Duke Ellington and his Orchestra in 1952 (4:14)
Valaida Snow (vocal, trumpet) And Her Orchestra, 1939 (3:30)
The Mills Brothers all voice version of the "instrumental" track (2:43)

Modern jazz versions
Quick fingerwork of Scotty Anderson (3:16)
Yoshiaki Miyanoue Super Quartet, including a guitarist (6:12)
Rosenberg Trio, live in Belgrade (4:30)
Hot Club of Phoenix with guitar and upright bass (4:17)
Oscar Peterson tearing up a piano version with an amazing solo intro (5:15)
Art Blakey (9:52), from his album of the same name
Jonathan Russell, (jazz violin prodigy), Bucky Pizzarelli, John Bunch, and Phil Flanigan (5:31)
Wynton Marsalis in 1988 (7:23)
An older Wynton at The House of Tribes (3:46)
Errol Garner, Wyatt Ruther, and Eugene "Fats" Heard jazz trio (7:14)
Kenny Dre Jr., Michael Formanek, and Clarence Penn jazz trio (8:01)
Arturo Sandoval With the Boston Pop Orchestra in 1993 (5:41)

Non-jazz versions
Les Paul and Chet Atkins with others, year not listed (3:27)
Les Paul and two others in 1991(4:51)
The Ventures in 1962 (2:10)
The Ventures, live in 1965 on their Japanese tour (10:05)
The Ventures, live in 2008: part 1 (2:18), part 2 (9:05)
Mister Jack in 2004, with electric guitar and bass, and a harmonica
Brian Setzer Orchestra, as recorded from the audience (2:56)
Miranda Sex Garden (Amazon.com sample)
Amon Tobin's Drummin' Caravan Mix (49:02) - a free mix of only drums and versions of caravan

Fun fact: during the 60's, The Ventures outsold the Beatles in Japan two to one. Their peak of fandom in Japan was covered in the 1965 film Beloved Invaders: The Ventures.
posted by filthy light thief (28 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'll confess that my knowledge of jazz musicians is limited, so I simply offered up the modern jazz links in a random grouping.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:14 PM on September 2, 2009


Weirdly, I was just looking for my favourite version of this -- Tony Bennett's cut -- on YouTube yesterday. No joy though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:15 PM on September 2, 2009


first time I heard that I was blown away. Love that song!
posted by Ironmouth at 1:18 PM on September 2, 2009


I saw some languid covers, and some terrible recordings, and I'm sure there are a million more of quality or renown that I've missed. The damned Brian Setzer Orchestra one kept popping up, but I opted for an audience recording, as the sound was more lively than the broadcast or DVD rip.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:18 PM on September 2, 2009


What about Claude Nougaro's cover ?
posted by nicolin at 1:23 PM on September 2, 2009


A sad anecdote about Tizol was that he didn't look black and had to wear dark makeup when playing in the Ellington band in order not to cause people to think the band was integrated. Yet on occasion his appearance could be an asset since no one would think twice if he was seen accompanying a white woman.

And now, back to the wonderful music.
posted by tommasz at 1:31 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


How about on the Mothers of Invention's album "Absolutely Free" where a lame voice requests "'Caravan' with a drum solo"? It might be on the song "America Drinks and Goes Home," but I haven't heard it in about 30 years. And doesn't Sandy Nelson ("Let there be Drums") have a version?
posted by Faze at 1:32 PM on September 2, 2009


what is considered by many to be the first Latin jazz piece

That honor probably goes to the song "Peanut Vendor" (which may have been recorded more times than "Caravan"), which first came out in 1927, and was a Victor Recording hit for Don Azpiazú and his Havana Casino Orchestra in New York in 1930.
posted by Faze at 1:36 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


THE drum solo song (hence the Zappa joke above). Back when I was a tyke, a standard lounge act device was to dim the lights at this moment and watch the drummer's glow-in-the-dark sticks rock. Oooh, cool!
posted by bonefish at 1:40 PM on September 2, 2009


TRUE FACT! My father, was one of a duo called "The Mambo Jets" who used to open Duke's shows in the 50s. He had a routine where he'd balance himself on top of a coke bottle :)
posted by liza at 1:49 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


That Mills Brothers footage is an amazing artifact of history.

That Amon Tobin track is an amazing artifact of, um, amazingness.
posted by ardgedee at 2:00 PM on September 2, 2009


That Ventures Japan '65 performance is great- I was all over that a while ago. That concert is worth checking out.
posted by Casimir at 2:34 PM on September 2, 2009


Hey, any post that includes the Mills Brothers is good in my book.
posted by spiderskull at 3:03 PM on September 2, 2009


Tommy Flanagan's old band (audio-only YouTube) — phenomenally cool phrasing
posted by nicwolff at 3:19 PM on September 2, 2009


Eat Static did a really awesome version on an album called Electro Lounge. It's pretty crazy and wonderful.
posted by redteam at 3:52 PM on September 2, 2009


excellent post - thank you.
posted by jammy at 3:57 PM on September 2, 2009


> what is considered by many to be the first Latin jazz piece

That honor probably goes to the song "Peanut Vendor" (which may have been recorded more times than "Caravan"), which first came out in 1927


I'll trump that with Tico Tico^ (1917), but it probably goes back well before that, because Jelly Roll was talking about the "Latin tinge" in jazz back in Storyville days.

Great post!
posted by languagehat at 4:34 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


tommasz, faze, thanks for the additional info.

Liza - the world, or at least Google, doesn't know much of this group. Please tell us (or at least me) more!

redteam, it seems that the track you are thinking of is from the weird Electro Lounge comp, and the Eat Static track is a remix of the version by The John Buzon Trio (quite a fun piece).

I just came across the lovely version by Nat King Cole, with Juan Tizol and others.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:48 PM on September 2, 2009


languagehat - the Wiki page for Peanut Vendor includes a note from the United States National Recording Registry stating: "It is the first American recording of an authentic Latin dance style. This recording launched a decade of 'rumbamania', introducing U.S. listeners to Cuban percussion instruments and Cuban rhythms." There's a footnote to this quote that says "This claim is not correct, though it may be the first one noticed by the National Recording Registry!" I think this bit of back-tracking could take a while.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:53 PM on September 2, 2009


I can only find a sample of my favorite cover of this song by Martin Denny.
posted by dammitjim at 6:11 PM on September 2, 2009


In what sense is Tico tico no fuba jazz? It's Brazilian choro. People may have given it a jazz treatment later, but it didn't start out in the US explicitly for a jazz big band like Caravan.

Having said that, thanks for the link, languagehat! I happen to be working up a version of this tune for a performance in a few weeks, and this gives me so much to chew on I think I'll get musical indigestion.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:41 PM on September 2, 2009


Not exactly a cover, but the version Ellington does with Charles Mingus and Max Roach on Money Jungle is pretty awesome.
posted by wobh at 7:25 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great post! I've always loved learning more about the standards like this...here are a couple more cover versions from north of the border:

Art Maiste (classical/jazz combo)
Les Tetes Blanches (surf rock)
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:06 PM on September 2, 2009


Yet another awesome cover, by Fanfare Ciocarlia.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:14 PM on September 2, 2009


And another one - Skaravan, by Jazz Jamaica All Stars.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:16 PM on September 2, 2009


A dance track with a slightly lengthy Caravan pseudo-sample: Dreams (Chus & Ceballos Club Mix). (Link to relevant portion of the song)
posted by Imhotep is Invisible at 12:11 PM on September 3, 2009


> In what sense is Tico tico no fuba jazz? It's Brazilian choro. People may have given it a jazz treatment later, but it didn't start out in the US explicitly for a jazz big band like Caravan.

I wasn't comparing it to "Caravan" but to "Peanut Vendor," which Faze was touting. If we're counting "Peanut Vendor," we have to count "Tico Tico."
posted by languagehat at 1:17 PM on September 3, 2009


Not exactly a cover, but the version Ellington does with Charles Mingus and Max Roach on Money Jungle is pretty awesome.

yes yes yes - that whole album is pretty awesome!
posted by jammy at 4:34 PM on September 3, 2009


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