“Harlem” (orchestrated by Luther Henderson and Maurice Peress) was to be part of a group commission by the celebrated conductor, who was not known as a champion of American music. Duke, a master title-giver, described the work as a concerto grosso for jazz band and symphony orchestra. In “Harlem”, we see Ellington as having learned from his “Black, Brown, & Beige” experience. It is one completely integrated movement, the first part of which is held together by the word “Har-lem” (a minor third), intoned by the growl trumpet. The second half is built out of the street funeral dirge (Duke refers to an Elks Band) which begins as an eight-bar blues for three marvelously interwoven clarinets and builds to a climax combining both thematic ideas.
Ellington described “Harlem” as follows:
“…The piece of music goes like this (1) Pronouncing the word “Harlem,” itemizing its many facets—from downtown to uptown, true and false; (2) 110th Street, heading north through the Spanish neighborhood; (3) Intersection further uptown–cats shucking and stiffing; (4) Upbeat parade; (5) Jazz spoken in a thousand languages (6) Floor show; (7) Girls out of step, but kicking like crazy; (8) Fanfare for Sunday; (9) On the way to church; (10) Church—we’re even represented in Congress by our man of the church; (11) The sermon; (12) Funeral; (13) Counterpoint of tears; (14) Chic chick; (15) Stopping traffic; (16) After church promendade; (17) Agreement a cappella; (18) Civil Rights demandments; (19) March onward and upward; (20) Summary–contributions coda.
On this recording:
Jon Faddis – Trumpet
Bill Easley – Clarinet
Ron Carter – Bass
Butch Miles – Drums