DUKE ELLINGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
01/1 April-July 2001
FOUNDER: BENNY AASLAND
Voort 18b, 2328 Meerle, Belgium
Telephone: +32 3 315 75 83
"HANK CINQ" IN ITS CONTEXT.
First Scraps. By Hans-Joachim Schmidt.
Copyright by the author
"Come, your answer in broken music." Shakespeare
"I call the police." Taps Miller
How can we see Duke Ellington in "our mutual music world" (Music Is My Mistress p. 171)? The musical material is ubiquitous and available to everyone. It is the use he makes of it that distinguishes a composer from his colleagues and competitors. By comparing Basie's "I Ain't Mad At You" and Ellington's "Sonnet To Hank Cinq" we will find Ellington deeply rooted in his community as well as distinguishing himself.
The musical sketches of "Sonnet To Hank Cinq" and "I Ain't Mad At You" should give you an idea of what I am trying to demonstrate. I compared the following recordings:
High Tide* / I Ain't Mad At You (Basie - Green - Rutherford) Count Basie 15May45. Taps Miller, vocal.
* You may wonder what "High Tide" has to do with it: "High Tide" and "I Ain't Mad At You" were recorded and published together in 1945. These are actually two tunes put together. It became a long number (5:18)! In later performances the tunes were separated, though there are always hints at the other one.
High Tide Count Basie 9Oct45
High Tide Boyd Raeburn Dec45, with Britt Woodman
I Ain't Mad At You Count Basie 22May47. With Taps Miller, vocal; Paul Gonsalves.
High Tide Count Basie Royal Roost 18Sep48, with Clark Terry, Paul Gonsalves. Scat vocal by Clark Terry?
Sonnet To Hank Cinq (copyright 1957 Ellington - Strayhorn): Such Sweet Thunder 3May57 / En Concert avec Europe 1: Alhambra 29Oct58 / 5 LP set 6Nov58. All three recordings with Britt Woodman, Paul Gonsalves, Clark Terry (trumpets do not play on Hank Cinq). - With words by William Shakespeare: Take All My Loves - Sonnet No. 40. Cleo Laine: Wordsongs Jan77 - Feb78. Sheet music in DEMS Bulletin 2000/1 p. 7-8.
"Hank Cinq" forms a part of the Shakespearian Suite "Such Sweet Thunder". It was not composed for it (Steve Voce: Britt Woodman obituary in DEMS Bulletin 2000/4 p. 2 says that it was composed and played in 1955 during a week at New York's Birdland), but found suitable to characterize King Henry V. Why? One could easily cut short the relationship and refer to a scene put into music: Henry's sueing for Catharina, his directness expressed in the masculine part A, her comme-il-faut behavior or putting-on-airs in part B. It would not be wrong, because the whole play is about settlement, reconciliation, and eventually love. Yet it is too simple and does not explain why exactly this music fits this character. As the music was not written for this character, there must be something more general behind it that makes the application possible.
The music of Hank Cinq recalls the mad leaps up and down of Basie's "I Ain't Mad At You", rec. 22May47 by Count Basie & His Orchestra with Paul Gonsalves, a bebop novelty with Taps Miller's scatting. The tempo is MM = 132. It goes like this: "I Ain't Mad At You [up] - You Ain't Mad At Me [down] - and that's all!". It was sung by the whole band in unison, the voices bending over into falsetto for the high B-flat. The use of a figure followed immediately by its inversion makes it a conjuration or a formula of exorcism. Let me call it the "up-and-down formula", which in music is commonly called a call-and-response pattern. It can be understood as a typical laconic Basie settlement of a quarrel. The lyrics state clearly that a situation had to be cleared up.
But to speak of Duke's recalling the formula and imitating the leaps does not imply that he "stole" it: on the contrary. It is highly interesting to see what Duke made out of the rather simple idea, if he remembered the music or if Paul Gonsalves or Clark Terry or Britt Woodman noodled around using this theme on a certain occasion. They all knew it. And as there were quarrels in Duke's band, too, a musical comment in the form of a quotation from "I Ain't Mad..." was certainly understood.
An excursion into magical folklore: Ford "Buck" Washington showed Mary Lou Williams some great runs, including his own prized one, which he warned her to play backwards so that Art Tatum, when he heard it, was not able to "steal" it. (Dahl: MLW p. 40). Superstition, yes. But by the middle of the century it had become a game, though its magical roots must not necessarily have been forgotten. Strayhorn used "Anal Renrut" for Lana Turner (Charpoy), Smada = Adams, Snibor = Robins, and proposed Nova = Avon for the Shakespearian Suite. Even Tonk can be read as Knot, and BDB is an example of a protected name. Ellington has: Madame Zajj (Jazz), Klop (Polka), Knuf, Ortseam, Oclupaca. Gillespie: Emanon. Navarro: Eb Pob. Monk: Eronel. MLW: Tisherome. Hey Pete, Let's Eat More Meat? More Shit, says MLW. Benny Carter: Eelibuj Blues. Thad Jones: Evol Deklaw Ni.
The belief is: if I spell things backwards, they can do me no harm. You can put a spell on a person by spelling his or her name backwards. But you can also break the spell by using the same procedure: read the spell backwards. A perfect name, a perfect spell would be one that reads forwards and backwards alike: ANNA. Or: SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS. No spell can be put on such a name, and such a spell cannot be broken, because it cannot be spelled backwards. In music an inversion in time is usually called a retrograde reading. If a figure in its original form is immediately followed by its retrograde form, you have the perfect figure that cannot be broken up. It is reconciliation in itself. It is protection, it is shelter like a tent or a roof.
Basie used it very appropriately to settle a quarrel: "I Ain't Mad At You - You Ain't Mad At Me." (Up: F Bb D F Bb; down: Bb F D Bb F). It is in a 32-bar AABA-form. The up-and-down formula is repeated in part B, but slightly veiled, and now used as a means of construction, whereas in part A it is overtly a call-and-response pattern. The pyramid or reversed V is built by taking the pattern of bars 1 and 2 of part B stepwise up and down: E in bar 1, F in bar 3, G in bar 5, F-sharp in bar 7, F-natural in the last bar of part B. Part B functions as a bridge, leading back to the tonic and the final statement of part A.
"Sonnet To Hank Cinq" is more complicated. Part A is a
perfect blues, but instead of returning to the tonic in bars 11 and 12
and thus giving us the full blues formula, it introduces a contrasting
new part in bar 11. The contrast is sharpened by the strong
boogie-woogie pattern - another nod to Basie, I presume - of bars 9 and
10, which give us the cadence II-7, V7. This increases our expectation
of the release. It does not come. Part B is established instead. B is a
part, which by its own weight gives the whole composition a different
structure. It ends on the tonic, which underlines its independence; no
turnaround or bridge or channel here. - Against the simple structure of
part A is set a sophisticated, thoroughly constructed piece of music.
Part A is syncopated throughout and stresses the weak bars, putting the
weight on the last beat of the two-measure phrase, on the very last note
of the phrase. Part B prefers quarter-notes, the accents are on th!
e down beat. It's much lighter. It has a double time feeling: even
eights in part B after the heavy swing phrasing in part A (drums shift
from 4/4 swing to oompah eights as prepared by the previous two boogie
bars; in fact, the two-bar boogie pattern is already executed in even
eights). And part B is repeated: it is played first by the solo tb, then
by tbs 2 + 3. According to Hajdu p. 161 Duke Ellington speaks of
"changes of tempo". (The source: Irving Townsend's original liner
notes). So this is not an extended blues ending like in Oliver Nelson's
"Stolen Moments" or in Gary McFarland's "One More Mile". Nor can it be
compared to the part B of an AABA-Blues (12+12+8+12 bars) like John
Coltrane's "Locomotion", or to Ellington's own beautiful and quiet piece
"The Village of the Virgins", which is built: AABABAA, where A has 12
bars, and B has 10 bars. Here, again, the 12 bars of the blues are
complete. In Hank Cinq it is interrupted. The whole composition presents
itself as a!
n ABBA-form with parts of irregular length: 10+8+8+8 bars plus coda. S
o the symmetry of the overall construction ABBA confirms again the
formula: a figure AB is immediately followed by its retrograde form BA.
Bill Dobbins found out how closely Ellington's "Sonnets" are related to Shakespeare's sonnet form: the number of the syllables of a Shakespeare sonnet equals the number of notes of an Ellington sonnet (Duke Ellington Reader p. 441n). But this is the case in all sonnets and cannot explain the specific form under consideration.
Let us have a closer look at part B of the "Sonnet". The shift of the first motif (the minor third) of Basie's part B a half-step up is cited at the very beginning of Ellington/Strayhorn's part B. Basie part B: E - G, F - A-flat. Ellington/Strayhorn part B: G - B-flat, A-flat - C-flat. Even the next shift to G (Basie) or B-flat (Ellington) is identical, but whereas Basie's part B is already fully described by the shifts, Ellington / Strayhorn condense the shifts into one bar. Part B then develops into a form that I should like to describe as the slow opening of a blossom. This is achieved by using the very, very old figure of a motif followed immediately by its retrograde reading. More examples: live-evil. Or, in music, the door-bell: C-E-G-C (up), C-G-E-C (down). Strayhorn loved to do things like that, so I am inclined to imagine that part B of the "Sonnet" is Strayhorn's contribution (which would imply that this part was not in the original conception from 1955). Cf. Hajdu! p. 245 about Strayhorn's mirror composition! In fact this is a cogging joint of several figures.
As if it were not complicated enough, the structure is
veiled by the anticipation of three notes of figure X: the notes marked
A, B, C. The figure Y ascends in whole tones and descends in minor
thirds. Figures Y and Z are grouped around a pause. The fifth, the
E-flat, is anchoring part B: it is in the very center of figure X, and
at the same time in the center of part B as a whole (the last note of
the fourth bar); and the trombone ends part B on E-flat, the fifth,
which under the heading of King Henry "the fifth" must not pass
If we turn the "V" of Hank V. around, we get " ^ ", a pyramid, a picture very accurately shown by the formula up-and-down; the fine correspondance of the pictures shows one of Duke's predilections in music: the inversion. Here it means: something hanging down is reversed and shows upward now. The reversibility of the V lends itself to facetious interpretations. V = quintus = the fifth. The membrum virile is sometimes called the fifth limb of the body.
The Coda: solo-tb holds an A-flat, other tbs go: F, E-natural, F. Is it an ending in f minor, the related key of A-flat major? Or must the F be understood as an added sixth, which by inversion is in the bass, while the soloist has the root way up there? Basie's "High Tide" riff is arranged like this; in addition to the three voices who have the three tones of the triad (B-flat, D, F) the fourth voice has the added sixth G. Swing arrangers liked to do this in parallel voicings. Quite common at that time, too, was the minor chord with added sixth in the bass, what we are used to call a half-diminished chord now (e.g.: A-flat minor w. added sixth then, F half-dim. now: the chord on the seventh degree of the major scale). But after the triumphant A-flat of the trombone we are not easily seduced to accept the F as the tonic; is it the female having the last word? The last F is rather poor and unconvincing, a meagre eighth-note attached to a mighty E or F-flat, and the last full s! ounding consonance is E / G-sharp, or F-flat / A-flat. That establishes the chord progression of the coda as a nice little series of cross relations.
Johnny Dankworth's decision to end his arrangement of
"Hank Cinq" on the tonic is plausible; it is, what we all expect to hear
though it is not played by Ellington. A parallel to the suspended
ending of the blues of part A, which seems to get its full ending in the
coda, and is suspended again.
But can we neglect the last F, ephemeral as it is? The coda has to sum up the whole piece - which it does: the blues-section proceeds to its ending now, though not in a familiar way, and though the last note makes clear that we were deceived once again. As Hank Cinq is a part of a suite, the coda will possibly prepare us for the next movement, Lady Mac, which is in the key of F. But here another question rises: was the succession of the movements planned in advance or was it decided on after the recordings? Lady Mac was recorded before Hank Cinq. - Has Wilfrid Mellers the solution? Music in a New Found Land p. 327: "In the comic coda patriotism is reduced to March of Time heroics, with a telescoped version of the newsreel's habitual harmonic cliché." I do not know this cliché! Could someone help me?
Shakespeare, King Henry V. I, 1:
... you shall hear / A fearful battle render'd you in music.
The call-and-response pattern of the theme; the boogie-woogie pattern of bars 11 and 12; the intricate construction of part B; the form of the whole piece. They all give us the same formula. The "up-and-down formula": inversion as a means of musical formation, expressing the will to reconcile, is the link to the character of Shakespeare's King Henry V., which deals with provocation and settlement. The key is the king's striving to restore peace. He conjures his advisor: "We charge you, in the name of God, take heed; / For never two such kingdoms did contend / Without much fall of blood; whose guiltless drops / Are every one a woe, a sore complaint / 'Gainst him whose wrongs give edge unto the swords / That make such waste in brief mortality. / Under this conjuration speak, my lord..." But France wants to compensate Henry's claims by presenting him - tennis balls. Further provocation by the French ambassador: "You cannot revel into dukedoms there". An allusion to the k! ing's careless youth. But he has changed. War with France is unavoidable, but Henry's aim is reconciliation: of course he will marry the French king's daughter to make peace last after he took revenge. Wilfrid Mellers speaks of "the king's brassy insouciance" - a definitely wrong characterization, as it refers to the king's youth. Renewed provocation! A person can grow. "Shakespeare is so excellent for a person's growth," Strayhorn said, when he sat on his Shakespeare (Hajdu p. 156). Shakespeare's King Henry V. has grown up. Ellingtonians Britt Woodman, Paul Gonsalves, Clark Terry, Willie Cook, youngsters and modernists in the forties, were in full responsibility in Ellington's orchestra of the later fifties. They had grown up, too. The integration of the generations is one of Duke's achievements.
Shakespeare, King Henry V. I, 1:
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best / Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality:
And so the prince obscured his contemplation / Under the veil of wildness.