(Taken from my grade 9 music report about the song)
This piece is classified as be-bop, and composed by John “Dizzy” Gillespie and Frank Paparelli. However, the main composer of the piece is Dizzy Gillespie, who is considered to be one of the greatest composers in jazz and be-bop history. The piece was composed in 1945, and the first record was released in 1946; it was published in the era of be-bop, and it became a hit among all musicians ever since. The piece is internationally recognized, and could be heard everywhere, from the concert hall in Canada to a crowded street in Paris. Musicians around the world “play around” with this piece, by changing the style, tempo and ensemble. It has many different interpretations, and therefore it sounds different when played by different musicians. It serves as a great base for improvisation, due to the distinct theme that is followed by a basic rhythm with ranging chords.
The ensemble in the most common recording is a septet including: Rhythm Guitar, bass, Piano, drums, Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone and a muted Trumpet. The sound of the muted brass, which plays the firs part of the theme, created a very African style, which projects the image of “A Night in Tunisia”. The sequence of instruments and melodies in the recording goes as follows:
Introduction I – guitar, bass, piano, drums (this is the “rhythm group, which plays without improvisationwith the exception of the guitar which gets an improvisation solo)- introduction II – all instruments -1stpart of theme (melody - twice) – muted trumpet – 2nd part of theme – Alto Sax – 1st part of theme – muted trumpet – riff (short passage) - all instruments – tenor sax improvisation – muted trumpet improvisation- tenor saxophone improvisation – guitar improvisation solo – muted trumpets 1st melody – conclusion - guitar, bass, piano, drums.
As I said before, this piece is played in many different levels, and it has many different interpretations. Two very famous vocal groups sang it: the “Manhattan Transfer” which is a quartet, and another group called “Singers one limited”. It was sung without lyrics, simply with articulation. The piece is played cut time signature, and the melody is divided into 8 bar phrases. This piece doesn’t follow the standard duple meter; it alternates from the weak beat to the strong beat: one-TWO-one-TWO. This creates a swingy effect upon the music. The melody appears this form: A-A-B-A. The music can be divided into very general halves: the first half, which includes a more “strict” melody, and the second half, which is abstract and filled with improvisation. The first part, by my opinion, is more conjunct than the second part; this occurs due to the improvisation, which is dissonant. The mood is swingy, and pleasant, and creates the image of a night in Africa. The piece begins approximately at a mezzo piano, and holds the dynamic until the tenor improvisation begins. Then the dynamic changes to a mezzo forte/forte. Once the guitar solo starts, a mezzo piano is held. The melody is homophonic, which means that the trumpet and alto saxophone have the melody, and the rest of the instruments accompanies them.
The theme is repeated several times throughout the piece, and you can hear the repetition of the theme in the improvisation. Another example of repetition is the consistent rhythm and pitch of the drums, guitar, bass and piano. The contrast can also be heard during the improvisation of the trumpet, tenor sax, and guitar. An example of imitation is shown when the improvisation imitates the theme by basing itself on it, yet not quite playing.