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Perdido (1942)

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Origin and Chart Information
“‘Perdido’ is the perfect vehicle for him. [Peterson] hits each note perfectly whether with ferocity or tenderness.”

- Ben Maycock

Rank 58
Music Juan Tizol
Lyrics Ervin Drake
Hans Jan Lengsfelder

On December 3, 1941, Duke Ellington and His Orchestra recorded “Perdido” for Standard Radio Transcription Services, a company that provided leased programming to radio stations. It is their January 21, 1942, recording of the song on the Victor label, however, that is regarded as their original recording. A modest hit, “Perdido” entered the pop charts on May 22, 1943, rising to number twenty-one.


More on Duke Ellington at JazzBiographies.com

Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

In 1944 Ervin Drake and Hans Lengsfelder were enlisted to fit lyrics to the tune, though the song was not generally sung with the Ellington band, the exception being Ella Fitzgerald on her 1957 recording of Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook.


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In Stuart Nicholson’s Reminiscing in Tempo: A Portrait of Duke Ellington, Juan Tizol says he wrote “Perdido” on a train while sitting next to Herb Jeffries. The trombonist then handed it to Ellington who made an arrangement right then and there, and that very night they played it at a dance. A poster for Ellington’s Tempo Music, included in Nicholson’s book, bills “Perdido” as “It’s Latin America in Jitterbug Time.”


More on Juan Tizol at JazzBiographies.com

“Perdido” is a driving composition in the popular A-A-B-A form. Its simplicity, short phrases, and irresistible swing feeling have made it one of the top vehicles for jazz jam sessions. As a result, recordings of “Perdido” are frequently ten minutes or more in length, allowing for multiple instrumental solos and variations on the basic theme. One such legendary session finds Illinois Jacquet and Flip Phillips partaking in a tenor sax battle at a 1947 Carnegie Hall set (The Complete Jazz at the Philharmonic on Verve: 1944-1949.)

More information on this tune...

James Lincoln Collier
Duke Ellington
Oxford University Press, USA
Hardcover: 352 pages

(Ellington’s biographer analyzes the song’s musical content.)
See the Reading and Research panel below for more references.

- Jeremy Wilson

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