“The Mooche,” recorded October 20th, 1928, is one of the most enduring of the early Ellington recordings. Its growling muted trumpet and feral clarinet provide the perfect example of the era’s “jungle style,” popularized by the Duke’s already legendary orchestra.
The trumpet on this recording is performed by the tragic and short-lived Bubber Miley, whose distinctive style was carried on by future Ellington alumni such as Ray Nance and Cootie Williams.
The clarinet on this first of many recordings of “The Mooche” is performed by Barney Bigard, last noted here on the Hymies blog (with his name unfortunately misspelled) when we listened to recordings of another Ellington standard, “Caravan.” Bigard remained the lead clarinetist for the Ellington Orchestra all through the Cotton Club years, and sometimes doubled on tenor sax as well. He and Ellington wrote “Mood Indigo” together during this period.
We are thinking of this first great incarnation of the Ellington Orchestra today because our friends, the Southside Aces, will be performing a program of Duke’s small group classics on Friday night at Vieux Carré in St. Paul. We are often reminding folks that the Aces appear the second Thursday of every month at the Eagles Club #34 right here in our neighborhood, but Friday presents a unique opportunity to hear some songs by the single greatest composer our country has produced. They are rounding out the regular group with guest pianist Rick Carlson, and promising the brass will be bringing along “buckets of mutes.”