Chick Webb’s & Benny Carter’s LIZA from 1938 — A Comparison

One of my favorite big band tracks was and will remain the mightily jumpin’ Liza with Chick Webb & His Orchestra, as arranged by Benny Carter, and recorded in New York on May 3, 1938.

Here we have one of the very first modern trumpet solos of the era: Bobby Stark, how he lives & flies.

Before him, we can hear Taft Jordan on trumpet, and on the bridge Sandy Williams on trombone. Listen to Chick’s dynamic drum breaks/ solos. This is hot!

Liza (1938)

I have rewritten the original arrangement for my “New Acoustic Lights” quintet with Matthias Schubert on tenorsax, and Henning Berg on trombone, Christian Ramond on bass and Felix Astor on drums. Yours truly is on trumpet.

Every big band arrangement – especially when it’s of this melodic quality – can be reduced, and interpreted by any instrumentation. The key-melodies of the horn sections are the most important assets here. I also added a balladesque introduction, played by the bass, and accompanied by muted brass & tenor. Then Mr. Astor is taking charge of the right tempo.

For making the sound big, I used dissonances, and widened the chords; so, it sounds like a mini big band.

Alert: You should turn down the volume before playing.

Liza, revisited, (1997)

If you want to learn more about Chick Webb’s Liza, feel free to read Ted Gioa’s brilliant analysis on the piece: HERE, or go to Christopher Popa’s Big Band Library, read an extended article on Chick Webb, and see some nice pictures with some of Liza’s heros: HERE

The Big Eighteen met groovy Liza too, but obviously in a very large, and empty ballroom, err, the RCA studios of course. Don Lamond is on drums, Charlie Shavers is on trumpet, I can’t tell who’s on trombone and tenorsax:

Liza, extended arrangement, (1958)

Hope you enjoyed the little time travel from Harlem via Cologne, right back to NYC.

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