Tunes on Tuesday: Isfahan

Why this tune?

Once again, the long running Facebook group Jam Of The Week inspired me to learn a new tune. Each week the group leader sets the theme for the week, calling for members to post their take on a specific song, or a work by a specific composer or player. Last week was Billy Strayhorn week, which led me to “Isfahan,” a new tune for me.

Strayhorn wrote “Isfahan” in 1963 for the Duke Ellington Band, and named it after a city in Iran after Ellington’s tour of that country. The song was released as part of Ellington’s Far East Suite album, and has been recorded almost 150 times since then.

Strayhorn wrote a beautiful melody with lovely flowing harmonies, that are a joy and a challenge to play. Ellington plays it as a slow, languid ballad, which certainly fits the melody. The song also works at a faster clip, as Art Farmer proved on his 1987 album dedicated to Strayhorn’s music. My version is more of a ballad, but not quite as slow as Duke’s arrangement.

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Complete track

Duke Ellington

Art Farmer

Published by Oren Levine

Jazz pianist and composer from Washington, DC. Also a digital product and technology consultant currently working with nonprofit cllients

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