DUKE ELLINGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
01/1 April-July 2001
FOUNDER: BENNY AASLAND
Voort 18b, 2328 Meerle, Belgium
Telephone: +32 3 315 75 83
"HANK CINQ" IN ITS CONTEXT.
"Sonnet To Hank Cinq" is more complicated. Part A is a perfect blues, but instead of returning to the tonic in bars 11 and 12 and thus giving us the full blues formula, it introduces a contrasting new part in bar 11. The contrast is sharpened by the strong boogie-woogie pattern - another nod to Basie, I presume - of bars 9 and 10, which give us the cadence II-7, V7. This increases our expectation of the release. It does not come. Part B is established instead. B is a part, which by its own weight gives the whole composition a different structure. It ends on the tonic, which underlines its independence; no turnaround or bridge or channel here. - Against the simple structure of part A is set a sophisticated, thoroughly constructed piece of music. Part A is syncopated throughout and stresses the weak bars, putting the weight on the last beat of the two-measure phrase, on the very last note of the phrase. Part B prefers quarter-notes, the accents are on th!
e down beat. It's much lighter. It has a double time feeling: even eights in part B after the heavy swing phrasing in part A (drums shift from 4/4 swing to oompah eights as prepared by the previous two boogie bars; in fact, the two-bar boogie pattern is already executed in even eights). And part B is repeated: it is played first by the solo tb, then by tbs 2 + 3. According to Hajdu p. 161 Duke Ellington speaks of "changes of tempo". (The source: Irving Townsend's original liner notes). So this is not an extended blues ending like in Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" or in Gary McFarland's "One More Mile". Nor can it be compared to the part B of an AABA-Blues (12+12+8+12 bars) like John Coltrane's "Locomotion", or to Ellington's own beautiful and quiet piece "The Village of the Virgins", which is built: AABABAA, where A has 12 bars, and B has 10 bars. Here, again, the 12 bars of the blues are complete. In Hank Cinq it is interrupted. The whole composition presents itself as a!
n ABBA-form with parts of irregular length: 10+8+8+8 bars plus coda. S
o the symmetry of the overall construction ABBA confirms again the formula: a figure AB is immediately followed by its retrograde form BA.
Bill Dobbins found out how closely Ellington's "Sonnets" are related to Shakespeare's sonnet form: the number of the syllables of a Shakespeare sonnet equals the number of notes of an Ellington sonnet (Duke Ellington Reader p. 441n). But this is the case in all sonnets and cannot explain the specific form under consideration.
Let us have a closer look at part B of the "Sonnet". The shift of the first motif (the minor third) of Basie's part B a half-step up is cited at the very beginning of Ellington/Strayhorn's part B. Basie part B: E - G, F - A-flat. Ellington/Strayhorn part B: G - B-flat, A-flat - C-flat. Even the next shift to G (Basie) or B-flat (Ellington) is identical, but whereas Basie's part B is already fully described by the shifts, Ellington / Strayhorn condense the shifts into one bar. Part B then develops into a form that I should like to describe as the slow opening of a blossom. This is achieved by using the very, very old figure of a motif followed immediately by its retrograde reading. More examples: live-evil. Or, in music, the door-bell: C-E-G-C (up), C-G-E-C (down). Strayhorn loved to do things like that, so I am inclined to imagine that part B of the "Sonnet" is Strayhorn's contribution (which would imply that this part was not in the original conception from 1955). Cf. Hajdu! p. 245 about Strayhorn's mirror composition! In fact this is a cogging joint of several figures.
As if it were not complicated enough, the structure is veiled by the anticipation of three notes of figure X: the notes marked A, B, C. The figure Y ascends in whole tones and descends in minor thirds. Figures Y and Z are grouped around a pause. The fifth, the E-flat, is anchoring part B: it is in the very center of figure X, and at the same time in the center of part B as a whole (the last note of the fourth bar); and the trombone ends part B on E-flat, the fifth, which under the heading of King Henry "the fifth" must not pass unnoticed.
If we turn the "V" of Hank V. around, we get " ^ ", a pyramid, a picture very accurately shown by the formula up-and-down; the fine correspondance of the pictures shows one of Duke's predilections in music: the inversion. Here it means: something hanging down is reversed and shows upward now. The reversibility of the V lends itself to facetious interpretations. V = quintus = the fifth. The membrum virile is sometimes called the fifth limb of the body.
The Coda: solo-tb holds an A-flat, other tbs go: F, E-natural, F. Is it an ending in f minor, the related key of A-flat major? Or must the F be understood as an added sixth, which by inversion is in the bass, while the soloist has the root way up there? Basie's "High Tide" riff is arranged like this; in addition to the three voices who have the three tones of the triad (B-flat, D, F) the fourth voice has the added sixth G. Swing arrangers liked to do this in parallel voicings. Quite common at that time, too, was the minor chord with added sixth in the bass, what we are used to call a half-diminished chord now (e.g.: A-flat minor w. added sixth then, F half-dim. now: the chord on the seventh degree of the major scale). But after the triumphant A-flat of the trombone we are not easily seduced to accept the F as the tonic; is it the female having the last word? The last F is rather poor and unconvincing, a meagre eighth-note attached to a mighty E or F-flat, and the last full s! ounding consonance is E / G-sharp, or F-flat / A-flat. That establishes the chord progression of the coda as a nice little series of cross relations.
Johnny Dankworth's decision to end his arrangement of "Hank Cinq" on the tonic is plausible; it is, what we all expect to hear though it is not played by Ellington. A parallel to the suspended ending of the blues of part A, which seems to get its full ending in the coda, and is suspended again.
But can we neglect the last F, ephemeral as it is? The coda has to sum up the whole piece - which it does: the blues-section proceeds to its ending now, though not in a familiar way, and though the last note makes clear that we were deceived once again. As Hank Cinq is a part of a suite, the coda will possibly prepare us for the next movement, Lady Mac, which is in the key of F. But here another question rises: was the succession of the movements planned in advance or was it decided on after the recordings? Lady Mac was recorded before Hank Cinq. - Has Wilfrid Mellers the solution? Music in a New Found Land p. 327: "In the comic coda patriotism is reduced to March of Time heroics, with a telescoped version of the newsreel's habitual harmonic cliché." I do not know this cliché! Could someone help me?
Shakespeare, King Henry V. I, 1:
... you shall hear / A fearful battle render'd you in music.
The call-and-response pattern of the theme; the boogie-woogie pattern of bars 11 and 12; the intricate construction of part B; the form of the whole piece. They all give us the same formula. The "up-and-down formula": inversion as a means of musical formation, expressing the will to reconcile, is the link to the character of Shakespeare's King Henry V., which deals with provocation and settlement. The key is the king's striving to restore peace. He conjures his advisor: "We charge you, in the name of God, take heed; / For never two such kingdoms did contend / Without much fall of blood; whose guiltless drops / Are every one a woe, a sore complaint / 'Gainst him whose wrongs give edge unto the swords / That make such waste in brief mortality. / Under this conjuration speak, my lord..." But France wants to compensate Henry's claims by presenting him - tennis balls. Further provocation by the French ambassador: "You cannot revel into dukedoms there". An allusion to the k! ing's careless youth. But he has changed. War with France is unavoidable, but Henry's aim is reconciliation: of course he will marry the French king's daughter to make peace last after he took revenge. Wilfrid Mellers speaks of "the king's brassy insouciance" - a definitely wrong characterization, as it refers to the king's youth. Renewed provocation! A person can grow. "Shakespeare is so excellent for a person's growth," Strayhorn said, when he sat on his Shakespeare (Hajdu p. 156). Shakespeare's King Henry V. has grown up. Ellingtonians Britt Woodman, Paul Gonsalves, Clark Terry, Willie Cook, youngsters and modernists in the forties, were in full responsibility in Ellington's orchestra of the later fifties. They had grown up, too. The integration of the generations is one of Duke's achievements.
Shakespeare, King Henry V. I, 1:
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best / Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality:
And so the prince obscured his contemplation / Under the veil of wildness.