Sophisticated Lady – 1952

Duke Ellington

 

Harry Carney (on bass clarinet) and altoist Willie Smith star

Duke Ellington composed “Sophisticated Lady” in 1932 and first recorded it the following year.

Originally a feature for altoist Otto Hardwicke, the song went through several different arrangements during the next 40 years, eventually becoming a showcase for Harry Carney’s baritone sax and his ability to play an endless note via circular breathing.

At the time of this Snader television transcription from 1952, Ellington’s arrangement for the song was a bit different.

Harry Carney, who in addition to being jazz’s first great baritone saxophonist was also its first significant bass clarinetist (even though he only played the instrument on a very part-time basis), starts out this version by playing the melody on bass clarinet and soloing melodically.

Ellington on piano has a spot and then altoist Willie Smith, who was only in the band for a year, plays beautifully, sometimes quoting Hardwicke’s original solo while displaying his virtuosity and distinctive tone.

Duke Ellington concludes the piece, sounding advanced and wrapping up the song perfectly.

-Scott Yanow

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