As we continue our celebration of the life and music of Duke Ellington this week, the song of the day for Wednesday, May 1, 2013 is Solitude.
About This Song
You might be forgiven for thinking that one of Duke Ellington’s most beautiful songs must have a few days or even weeks to write. But Duke Ellington once said, famously, that “I don’t need time; I need a deadline.” And, in fact, Solitude was written at its first recording session when Ellington found himself in need an extra number. He wrote it twenty minutes standing up against the glass enclosure at the RCA recording studio in Chicago (Al Gioia, Jazz Standards, page 378).
Written in 1934, (In My) Solitude is one of his most beloved (and most recorded) songs. Originally recorded as an instrumental in 1934, the lyrics were later added by Eddie DeLange and Irving Mills. Ellington himself recorded this song over 100 times, and it is a jazz classic recorded by performers including Paul Robeson, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald, among many others.
About This Version
Tony Bennett has recorded Solitude several times, the first being with Count Basie for his 1959 album In Person! and most recently for his 1999 album Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool.
Today’s version is from his 1962 Carnegie Hall concert. In a remarkable performance of 44 songs that night, Solitude was his 34th song that night. Following a spirited version of Chicago, Solitude starts gently and quietly, with Bennett touching the opening notes lightly and building to an emotionally powerful ending. The orchestration, featuring the work of Eddie Costa on vibes at the beginning, then adding strings and finally with the full orchestra is perfect for Bennett’s arc in the song. Or, to put it simply, it’s really, really good.
Solitude, as well as the full Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall album, is available from iTunes.