A Night in Tunisia

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"A Night in Tunisia"
Instrumental by Dizzy Gillespie & His Sextet
Released 1942
Recorded 1942
Genre Bebop[1]
Bass vamp underpinning the A sections of A Night in Tunisia.

"A Night in Tunisia" or "Night in Tunisia" is a musical composition written by Dizzy Gillespie in and around 1941-2 while Gillespie was playing with the Benny Carter Band. It has become a jazz standard.

It is also known as "Interlude",[2] under which title it was recorded by Lennie Tristano (on Mercury), and, with lyrics written by Raymond Leveen[3], by Sarah Vaughan (from the EP "Hot Jazz", 1953) and Anita O'Day. Gillespie himself called the tune "Interlude" and says "some genius decided to call it 'Night in Tunisia'".[4] 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.

Gillespie said the tune was composed at the piano at Kelly's Stables in New York.[5] Strangely, on his live album A Night at Birdland Vol. 1, Art Blakey introduces his cover version with this statement: "At this time we'd like to play a tune [that] was written by the famous Dizzy Gillespie. I feel rather close to this tune because I was right there when he composed it in Texas on the bottom of a garbage can." The audience laughs, but Blakey responds, "Seriously." The liner notes say, "The Texas department of sanitation can take a low bow."[6]

Gillespie gave Frank Paparelli co-writer credit in compensation for some unrelated transcription work, but Paparelli actually had nothing to do with the song.[4]


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, since the chord progression of the B section is taken from the B section of the standard "Alone Together, " causing the V chord to lead 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 released a fragmentary take of it with the title "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 performed it.

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 her 1981 album 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.
  • Jamie Cullum in his 2014 album "Interlude".
  • The song famously recorded as "Night in Tunisia" and was the final recording of the album "Nothing Is Me" and "Spinnin' Through Miracles", with the sessions of congas and flute (especially from the albums) that was output correctly.


  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. ^ "Interlude (A Night in Tunisia) - Dizzy Gillespie & His Orchestra, Sarah Vaughan Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 2018-02-13. 
  4. ^ a b p. 172 To Be, Or Not... To Bop
  5. ^ p. 171 To Be Or Not... To Bop
  6. ^ It's not clear whether Blakey was mistaken or joking.
  7. ^ "A Night in Tunisia (Album Version)" at amazon.com. Accessed 19 march 2010.