A Night in Tunisia

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"A Night in Tunisia"
Song by Dizzy Gillespie & his Sextet
Released 1942
Recorded 1942
Genre Bebop[1]
Writer Dizzy Gillespie
Audio sample
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Bass vamp underpinning the A sections of A Night in Tunisia.

"A Night in Tunisia" is a musical composition written by Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Paparelli in 1942 while Gillespie was playing with the Earl Hines Band. It has become a jazz standard.

It is also known as "Interlude",[2] under which title it was recorded (with lyrics) by Sarah Vaughan (from the EP "Hot Jazz", 1953) and Anita O'Day. Gillespie himself called the tune "Night in Tunisia", although the song is usually titled "A Night in Tunisia". It appears as the title track of 30 CDs and is included in over 500 currently available CDs. In January 2004, The Recording Academy added the Dizzy Gillespie & his Sextet’s 1946 Victor recording to its Grammy Hall of Fame.

"Night in Tunisia" was one of the signature pieces of Gillespie's bebop big band, and he also played it with his small groups.

Analysis[edit]

The complex bass line in the "A section" is notable for avoiding the standard walking bass pattern of straight quarter notes, and the use of oscillating half-step-up/half-step-down chord changes (using the Sub V) gives the song a unique, mysterious feeling. The B section is notable for having an unresolved minor II-V, as the V chord leads back into the Sub V of the A section. Like many of Gillespie's tunes, it features a short written introduction and a brief interlude that occurs between solo sections — in this case, a twelve-bar sequence leading into a four-bar break for the next soloist.

Cover versions and adaptations[edit]

One of its most famous performances is Charlie Parker's recording for Dial. (Dial even released a fragmentary take of it simply titled "The Famous Alto Break". See Charlie Parker's Savoy and Dial Sessions for more info.) The tune also became closely identified with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, who often gave showstopping performances of it with extra percussion from the entire horn section. On the album A Night at Birdland Vol. 1, Blakey introduces the piece with the story of how he was present when Dizzy composed it "on the bottom of a garbage can." The liner notes say, "The Texas department of sanitation can take a low bow."

It has been covered in various styles by various artists, including:

Chaka Khan included a version of the tune (with a guest appearance by Gillespie himself as well as an electronically altered sample of Parker's "The Famous Alto Break") on What Cha' Gonna Do for Me.

The song was a part of the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps' show in 1997.

In 2013, the song was featured prominently in the TNT mini-series "Mob City," sung by a female vocalist during an extended nightclub scene.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Porter, Eric C. (January 1, 2002). What Is This Thing Called Jazz?: African American Musicians As Artists, Critics, and Activists (3rd ed.). University of California Press. p. 74. ISBN 0520928407. 
  2. ^ "Night in Tunisia" at jazzstandards.com. Accessed 10 January 2008.
  3. ^ "A Night in Tunisia (Album Version)" at amazon.com. Accessed 19 march 2010.