For at least a few days, my posts are going to be identified by song titles. These will not necessarily have anything to do with the content of the post. However, this one does.
This version of “Jumpin’ Punkins” is included in a 3-disc compilation, “The Blanton-Webster Band”, which was released in 1990. Of course, it’s digitized now. I’ve owned these CDs since around 1995, listening to them literally hundreds of times (again last week), and still I hear new bits. The period was Duke Ellington’s creative zenith, almost every song is essential, and I’ll always look to music, art and literature for inspiration in whatever business I’m pursuing.
Other people read spread sheets. Fuck that.
Mercer Ellington wrote Jumpin’ Punkins (1941) after being asked by his father, Duke, to join the band as a writer. It is believed that even though Mercer composed several compositions during this two-year period, Duke actually arranged this chart for the Ellington Orchestra himself. This accounts for the near perfect adherence to many stylistic concepts of harmony and voicing used by Duke during this period. This composition also contains the swing feel and style of many other Ellington Orchestra recordings of this time. The parallel voicing of the chromatic clarinet and baritone sax melodies are very reminiscent of many Duke Ellington compositions. The 32 bar form with a 20 bar interlude has blues and dance feel as its major focus. Still, the main emphasis of this composition is to showcase the greatness of the individual performers in the Ellington Orchestra including Duke Ellington on piano, Harry Carney on baritone sax, Jimmy Blanton on bass, Barney Bigard on clarinet, and Sonny Greer on drums. It seems obvious that this composition was specifically written for the dance era because of the traditional dance swing rhythms employed throughout, yet it is also a great vehicle for soloists.