Over the years, the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s head arrangement of “Auld Lang Syne” took on new colors and quirky solo turns each time the band played it, as they invariably did in their New Year’s Eve engagements. Once in the 1960s, my wife and I saw Ellington’s eyebrows elevate in surprise as, unannounced, the dance they were playing for transmogrified into a fashion show. Suddenly, models were gliding along in front of the bandstand. Harry Carney, Jimmy Hamilton and other members of the band extended their solos as the brass and reed sections improvised new instrumental backgrounds for the traditional New Year’s song.
By the time they took the piece into the studio in 1966, parts of it had settled into familiar patterns but, of course, there were new solo adventures. Here, Cootie Williams does the improvising.
The 5-CD Ellington box that includes “Auld Lang Syne” and 100 other Ellington tracks seems to have sold out of the Warner Bros./Reprise catalog, but this outfit offers it digitally and on disc through third-party sellers.
Happy, Happy New Year to all Rifftides readers.