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Question about "Take the A Train"

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by AJ Love, Dec 27, 2003.

  1. AJ Love

    AJ Love

    Oct 8, 2002
    Madison WI USA
    do you guys play the head in C, and then alternate choruses in C and Eb ala the original 1941 Ellington recording, or do you play the solo choruses just in C? had a disagreement about this with a musician friend recently.....the 1941 version has the head in C, a solo chorus in C, an interlude and then a solo chorus in Eb and then the end of the song...wondering how you guys arrange this song when playing it live these days?
  2. When you play this tune, alot of times it's a session, and you gotta simplify because not everyone's a historian...Just the tune in C, choruses in C, and one SHOUT chorus on the way out, and the head again.
  3. I'm with Wellbutrin here. The tune is most commonly done in C throughout. Without a detailed arrangement for your group, or a lengthy discussion prior to playing it down, it's probably the safest. Or if your leader can communicate key changes on the fly...

    The Ellington/Strayhorn version probably went through several revisions or incarnations in its lifetime, so the original may not even be the definative for big band. While it can be fun to try and distill those arrangements for a small group, the focus of small group playing has always been more on improvising and less on arrangements, with the reverse true for big band. So it's best to keep it simple.

    One alternative that I've encountered is to play the whole tune in C, then modulate to Eb for the shout, for the first half, blow over the bridge and melody out for the last A in Eb.

    The possibilities are endless.
  4. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    A bit of folklore as told by Clark Terry; there was a great pianist in St. Louis that Duke loved. He would play it in C, and when resolving each phrase, instead of resolving to C, he would resolve to Db. Duke loved it. We've done it a few times, and when ending we do half an Ellington ending on Db, and then end with another on C.
  5. I was wondering when someone would come up with this one (Wellbutrin) Congratulations T!

    Or have the horns play the first four of the shout in unison with the bass playing the melody with the front line and letting the drums have the second four. Same with the second eight, then letting the drums take the bridge. Then everyone back in for the last eight of the melody in C.
    The bass playing the shout line melody is kind of demanding if you incorporate those down-slurs in the melody.

    The possibilities are endless.
  6. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    A pianist friend and I have our own method of playing tunes that get done to death, such as A Train. We play the tune in A, B natural, or C#. That'll quickly break your playing habits.

    You can do whatever you want. There's no reason why you can't alternate between C and Eb on every chorus. When playing Just Squeeze Me, in C, I like the last 4 bars in Db. It's a harmonic jolt that gets attention. The melody ends on F, the third of a Db chord, hold the note and slide into G7, and you're back in C for the top.
  7. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    With one of my groups this tune is played A flat! In my attempts to discover WHY?? I thought for sure some horn player would have been responsible. In fact, it seems to have been a previous guitar player who got them going in A flat...
  8. bass_means_LOW


    Apr 12, 2004
    Las Vegas
    Man, I played with a pianist who used that half-step ending chord on just about any song where the melody would end on the tonic or the 5th. It got trite after a while and he would use it as a musical 'control' device (as he was a bit of a control freak.) Watch What Happens, Blue Moon, A Train, Sentimental Mood, In a Mellow Tone, you name it, he could over use it! :meh:
  9. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    "My first jazz band" play this, we played it last night (what a fantastic tune, I love the Maj7 up a tone to min7b5 change)... anyway we play it in Db.. so the first change is Db to Ebmin7b5 and the B section start on 4 bars of F#.

    I learnt on a version by Ellington, I had a real book sheet which was in C, so I'd figured out the new chords in Db as per the record.

    Is that unusual then?

    Terminology question, when you say "the shout" what do you mean?

    ta :)
  10. Howard, the "SHOUT" part of some tunes and I stress SOME tunes...is just a melodic line written on the same changes as the regular tune. On A Train, it's that part the Ellington band played instead of the regular melody on the out chorus...the two A sections being the SHOUT, the drums usually playing the bridge the the whole band coming back to play the regular last eight bars of the regular melody.
    Shout choruses are usually what the name implies......Exciting brass figures meant to get everyones Mojos all stirred up. Some of these actually become part of the tune, as in this case!!
    They're also used as an effective way to set-up a drum break, bass or piano break.
    Ain't Jazz wonderful? It's hard to explain stuff like this without the ability to write stuff out on a computer....hope this worked for you. Ta right back to ya>>>
  11. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    thanks paul, gottit :)

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