When this year’s Tony Award nominations were announced on April 29, After Midnight was among the most-recognized productions of the season with seven nominations including Best Musical. The critically-acclaimed show, which has been running at Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre since October of last year, picked up one Tony for Warren Carlyle’s vivid choreography. But After Midnight has recently announced a closing date of June 29. With its departure from the Great White Way, prospects for an original cast album seem even dimmer than before. Happily, Legacy Recordings has come along to partially fill in the gap with a collection of the vintage big band recordings that inspired the musical. On June 17, the label will release The Original Recordings That Inspired The Broadway Hit After Midnight from legendary composer-bandleader Duke Ellington (1899-1974), whose music is played eight times a week onstage by the Lincoln Center Jazz All-Stars.
The revue celebrating Ellington’s music and the rich legacy of Harlem’s Cotton Club was conceived by Jack Viertel in cooperation with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center, and directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle. With evocative snippets of text by Langston Hughes as connective tissue, the musical features the 17-piece All-Stars and a cast of 25 multi-talented performers (including a rotating guest slot that has so far included Fantasia, Vanessa Williams, k.d. lang, Toni Braxton, and currently, Patti LaBelle) to bring the Jazz Age to life via a variety of vocal songs, instrumentals, dance specialties, comedy and more. Under Marsalis’ guidance, the band plays the classic period arrangements – as heard on Legacy’s new compilation disc in recordings made between 1927 and 1940.
Though born in the final year of the 19th century, few figures in 20th century music were as influential as the composer, arranger, pianist and bandleader. After Midnight features songs from one of the most creatively fertile periods of Ellington’s long and distinguished career. On December 4, 1927, he began his engagement at New York City’s Cotton Club, and he led the house band there until June 30, 1931. Ellington recorded over 100 songs during this period, gaining national exposure via both radio and recordings even as word traveled of his band’s incendiary live performances. By the time of his first ever long-playing album, 1951’s Masterpieces by Ellington, he was true American cultural royalty, well-established via films, Broadway musicals and the enduring now-standard compositions he gifted to the Great American Songbook.
In addition to composing his own music at the Cotton Club, Ellington arranged music by other great songwriters including Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, and Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields. Songs from these talents represented in both the musical and on the companion disc include “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, “Stormy Weather,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Cotton Club Stomp”. The recordings here were made between 1927 and 1940; as Ellington recorded many of these tunes numerous times for various labels, Legacy has a vast archive of performances to draw upon. The Original Recordings includes vocals by African-American trailblazers Ethel Waters, The Mills Brothers and Ivie Anderson; their spirits are all affectionately channeled onstage in the production.
After the jump, we have more including the complete track listing with verified discography, and order links!
The Original Recordings That Inspired The Broadway Hit After Midnight is sequenced in the order that the songs are heard in After Midnight, from the exciting opening “Daybreak Express” to the rip-roaring finale “Rockin’ in Rhythm.” All told, 15 of the musical’s 27 struttin’ and swaggerin’ selections are represented on this disc produced by Didier C. Deutsch and Mark Wilder. If you can’t make the trip to the Brooks Atkinson by June 29 for 90 minutes or so of thrilling music and vibrant performances, Cotton Club-style, The Original Recordings will give you a taste of the evening’s captivating entertainment. It’s available for order below!
Duke Ellington, The Original Recordings That Inspired The Broadway Hit After Midnight (Legacy, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. Link TBD)
DD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. Link TBD
- Daybreak Express (Victor 24501, 1933)
- Happy as the Day is Long (Brunswick 6571, 1933)
- I’ve Got the World on a String – vocal: Ivie Anderson (mx. W265051, 1933, recorded for London company)
- Braggin’ in Brass (Brunswick 8099, 1938)
- I Can’t Give You Anything But Love – vocal: Ethel Waters (Brunswick 6517, 1932)
- Diga Diga Doo – vocal: The Mills Brothers (Brunswick 6519, 1932)
- East St. Louis Toodle-Oo (Columbia 953-D, 1927 or Victor 21703, 1927)
- Stormy Weather – vocal: Ivie Anderson (Columbia 35556-A, 1940)
- Raisin’ the Rent (Brunswick 6571, 1933)
- Creole Love Call (Brunswick 20105, 1932)
- The Mooche (Diva 6046-G, 1930)
- Black and Tan Fantasy (OKeh 40955, 1927)
- It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) – vocal: Ivie Anderson (Brunswick 6265, 1932)
- Cotton Club Stomp (1989 Remaster) (Victor 38079, 1929)
- Rockin’ in Rhythm (OKeh 8869, 1931)