"Black & Tan Fantasy" - Craig Klein

“Black & Tan Fantasy” (PDF) from the Craig Klein album, New Orleans Trombonisms.
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Lennon & McCartney, Jaeger & Richards, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart & Bret “The Hitman” Hart… just a few of the greatest tag teams in America’s ignorant history.  Better yet, Penn & Teller exemplify a model partnership: two individual talents who allow each other’s unique craft to better themselves.  The brute strength of one performer forces a light to shine on the technical subtleties of the other.  In song, the Duke Ellington & Bubber Miley composition, “Black and Tan Fantasy” presents this contrast in wonderful style.

In the New Yorker article “Black, Brown, And Beige,” Robin Wright suggests that the presence of contrasting styles is a reoccurring theme throughout Ellington’s career, predominantly within the elevation of African-American contributions to white society, and that The Duke was a master at crafting this kind of juxtaposition into sweet harmony.  In this case, Miley’s New Orleans “gutbucket” trumpet sound blends effortlessly with Ellington’s elegant and ornate use of chromaticism.  But of course when it comes time to solo, let’s forget all of that and just play some blues, eh?!

Throughout his career, and perhaps a motivation behind his album, Craig Klein’s ability to blend in with a variety of musical styles is an often overlooked quality of his musicianship.  Obviously, his talents get washed out when he’s part of Bonerama or Harry Connick Jr.’s big band, but when left to his own devices, like the growls, trills, and plunger wahs of the deep blues, Klein is masterful at interpreting the spectrum of American jazz.  And the story of the trombone as a lead instrument in jazz has been how the unconventional horn pulls off the impossible, or in other words, the dream of acceptance into high society.

Here is a YouTube video of Craig Klein, up close, playing with the New Orleans Jazz Vipers.

Recommended reading: Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History, from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago's South Side to the World by Robert Palmer.  Published by Penguin Books.