One session, two songs: three takes each of “Alerado” and “Afrique.”
They weren’t just alternate takes, like you often get on reissues of jazz classics; you can really hear Ellington working. He’s not just looking for the best take to get something clearly defined, he’s experimenting.
The tempi change, solo instruments are switched around, and, on the last take of “Afrique,” you can even hear soprano vocals.
“Alerado” is a straightforward swing number, it features Wild Bill Davis on the organ, and, most notably, Cat Anderson on the trumpet, who provide a foundation for striking concepts of sonority and solo performance. The musical approach to “Afrique” is freer and more avant-garde; the foundation of the piece is a tom-tom based beat that is sustained throughout and layered with improvisations and arranged segments.
In addition to the musical aspects, this recording also documents a special moment: an American jazz legend in the twilight of his life encounters a young sound engineer and producer who is preparing to give pop a new sound.