25 April 2013

In the Shadow of Mount Harissa (Interlude)

Or the umpteenth return of the son of drummige...

This one falling somewhere midway between Ellington's own "jungle music" of a prior era, and the "jungle" sound of nearly three decades later. I fell deeply in love with the latter when it first came around, with its "'amen' break" sample chopped, reconfigured, accelerated, and pitch-shifted every which way.

Note the similarities with the beat on the above, its patterning and fills, which was recorded some three years before the Winstons recorded "Amen, Brother." The beat on "Blue Pepper" is an unusual one -- more of a "pop" rhythm more likely to turn up on a Ramsey Lewis jawn of the same vintage, but not something you'd expect to hear behind Ellington.

The drummer for the session was one Rufus 'Speedy' Jones, who I'm otherwise unfamiliar with beyond Ellington's Far East Suite. Maybe because I was never much of a swing/big band aficionado; which was the domain where Jones did most of his work. A little research reveals that Rufus Jones originally hailed from South Carolina, and first gained notice behind the kit while working behind Lionel Hampton and Maynard Ferguson. This was followed by a three-year stint in Count Basie's ranks before being lured away by the Duke for the recording session at hand. Here's a clip of Jones kicking up something more akin to the standard big-band style solo...

Some sources have it that Jones also played with James Brown at some point. But I can find nothing that supports the claim, and am inclined to call bullshit since I can't imagine how or when it might've happened. Dunno, seems unlikely, especially seeing how Jones (accounts concur) was forced to put down his sticks in 1973, due to the debilitating effects of early-onset arthritis. He died in 1990, after reputedly having spent his later years working as a janitor.

Admittedly, it'd been many, many years since I last heard The Far East Suite. I'd forgotten about this number until it crossed my path again the other day. Weird to be reminded, to hear that a type of riddim that would figure heavily into part of your adulthood turn up in another earlier form, as recorded roughly around the time of your own birth.

While we're on the topic: Bonus beats. Some classic, disrobed oldskool choppage...

An old personal favorite, that one.

1 comment:

David W. Kasper said...

Ellington - fuck yeah. Far East Suite still probably his best, album-wise.

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