A Night in Tunisia

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"A Night in Tunisia"
Instrumental by Dizzy Gillespie & His Sextet
GenreJazz, bebop[1]

"A Night in Tunisia" is a musical composition written by Dizzy Gillespie around 1940–42, while Gillespie was playing with the Benny Carter band. It has become a jazz standard. It is also known as "Interlude",[2] and with lyrics by Raymond Leveen was recorded by Sarah Vaughan in 1944.[3][4]


Gillespie called the tune "Interlude" and said "some genius decided to call it 'Night in Tunisia'". He said the tune was composed at the piano at Kelly's Stables in New York. He gave Frank Paparelli co-writer credit in compensation for some unrelated transcription work, but Paparelli had nothing to do with the song.[5] "A Night in Tunisia" was one of the signature pieces of Gillespie's bebop big band, and he also played it with his small groups. In January 2004, The Recording Academy added the 1946 Victor recording by Gillespie to the Grammy Hall of Fame.[6]

On the album A Night at Birdland Vol. 1, Art Blakey introduced his 1954 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] sanitation department can take a low bow."


Bass vamp underpinning the A sections of "A Night in Tunisia"

The complex ostinato 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, a tritone substitute chord for the dominant chord) 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.

Early recordings 1944-46[edit]

  • A live recording of "A Night in Tunisia" was made in January 1944 of the Gillespie-Pettiford Quintet at the Onyx Club in New York City.[7]
  • Sarah Vaughan, backed by Gillespie, recorded a vocal version of "Interlude" on 31 December 1944, which was issued on the Continental label in 1946.[8][9]
  • In January 1945 Gillespie and Pettiford made a studio recording of "Interlude (Night in Tunisia)" as part of 'Boyd Raeburn and His Orchestra'.[10][11]
  • A live recording of Gillespie and Charlie Parker performing "A Night in Tunisia" was made at the NYC Town Hall on 22 June 1945,[12]
  • Gillespie’s studio recording of 22 February 1946, for RCA Victor, was inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004. The personnel included Don Byas, Milt Jackson, and Ray Brown.[13]
  • Parker’s recording of 28 March 1946, for Dial Records, includes Miles Davis. "Ornithology" was on the B-side.[14] This session included the so-called "famous alto break" that became synonymous with Parker.

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ Porter, Eric (31 January 2002). What Is This Thing Called Jazz?: African American Musicians as Artists, Critics, and Activists. University of California Press. pp. 74–. ISBN 978-0-520-92840-4. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Night in Tunisia" at jazzstandards.com. Accessed 10 January 2008.
  3. ^ "Original versions of Interlude written by Raymond Leveen | SecondHandSongs". SecondHandSongs.
  4. ^ "Sarah Vaughan Discography: Early Years".
  5. ^ Gillespie, Dizzy (2009). To Be, or Not – to Bop. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 171–172. ISBN 978-0-8166-6547-1. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  6. ^ "GRAMMY Hall of Fame". 18 October 2010.
  7. ^ "Cover versions of Night in Tunisia by Dizzy Gillespie | SecondHandSongs". SecondHandSongs.
  8. ^ "Original versions of Interlude by Sarah Vaughan with Dizzy Gillespie and His Orchestra | SecondHandSongs". SecondHandSongs.
  9. ^ "Sarah Vaughan Discography: Early Years".
  10. ^ "Boyd Raeburn and His Orchestra – I Didn't Know About You / Interlude (Night in Tunisia) (1945, Shellac)". Discogs.
  11. ^ "Dizzy Gillespie Discography".
  12. ^ "Dizzy Gillespie Discography".
  13. ^ "Dizzy Gillespie and His Orchestra / Coleman Hawkins' 52nd Street All Stars – New 52nd Street Jazz (1946, Camden Pressing, Shellac)". Discogs.
  14. ^ "Charlie Parker Septet – A Night in Tunisia / Ornithology (1946, Shellac)". Discogs.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. New York City: Oxford University Press. pp. 299–300. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4.