Brand-new NYJO Video for “A Night in Tunisia”

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Check out this NYJO version of the timeless bebop classic "A Night in Tunisia", recorded during the UK's nationwide lockdown in the summer of 2020.

A Night in Tunisia

The true origins of “A Night in Tunisia” remain somewhat of a mystery. However, many sources have claimed to have located its genesis in Dizzy Gillespie’s time as a member of Benny Carter’s band in 1942.

The tune later became a staple number of Billy Eckstine’s big band, which is commonly referred to as the first ever bebop big band. This band featured (alongside Gillespie), saxophonist Charlie Parker, and vocalist Sarah Vaughan, and was originally introduced as “Interlude,” with lyrics by Vaughan. The “Divine One” herself was one of the first artists to record it too, which manifested in a slowed-down version released in December 1944, featuring Gillespie as a sideman.

Though later vocal recordings would feature alternate lyrics by Jon Hendricks that more appropriately fit the “new” title “A Night in Tunisia,” Gillespie would keep referring to his composition as “Interlude”, unaware of how, why or when the title change exactly occurred.

“Attractive as the idea is to use the piece as a symbol of ‘imaginings of Africa,’ the weight of evidence suggests that the piece existed well before it acquired the ‘Tunisia’ tag.”

Alyn Shipton from his biography Groovin’ High: The Life of Dizzy Gillespie

Nevertheless, this track shows its composer’s ambition to step away from the conventions of 1940’s jazz. This is shown by its Afro-Caribbean rhythms, innovative approach to harmony and melody, and by its departure from the standard walking bass line of 1940s jazz. Today, the song is recognised as one of the most influential tracks in the evolution of the modern jazz idiom and has allegedly appeared on over 300 different releases.


NYJO – A Night in Tunisia (Arranger: Mark Armstrong Video Editor: Tom Gimson Audio Engineer: Winston Rollins)

The Band

Flute: Maria Rehakova (Solo)
Alto Sax 1: James Romaine
Alto Sax 2: George Garford
Tenor Sax 1: Xhosa Cole (Solo)
Tenor Sax 2: Asha Parkinson
Bari Sax: Steph Frankland
Trumpet 1: George Jefford
Trumpet 2: Gareth Howell
Trumpet 3: Ruby Barber
Trumpet 4: Dan Coulthurst
Trumpet 5: Christos Stylianides (Solo)
Horn: Steve Payne
Trombone 1: Daniel Higham (Solo)
Trombone 2: Joel Knee
Trombone 3: Jasper Rose
Trombone 4: Michaias Berlouis
Bass Trombone: Eddie Curtis 
Keys: Matt Jacobs (Solo)
Guitar: Adam Chinery
Drums: Jack Thomas
Percussion: Alex Taylor
Bass: Matt Hollick

This video comes off the back of our latest blog-post Pioneer Profile | Dizzy Gillespie, which was released on the 6th Jan to coincide with the date of his passing back in 1993.

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