Count Basie’s “Cherokee” and “April in Paris” and Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” show two distinct styles of jazz from the 1930’s. Both styles possess a “swing” feel, but the form, tempos, and use of instrumentation are vastly different, creating a different experience for the listener. Basie’s selections are “Big Band” pieces that have bright tempos and a definite formula that is used in both songs. There is much more emphasis on the band as a whole most of the time, with solos coming more as a natural progression of the pieces. The different sections of the band, like the saxes at the beginning of “Cherokee”, play solis for most of the piece and then a repeated background at the extended solo section at the end of the piece. This is followed with a piano solo, a common feature to give the final solo to a member of the rhythm section, and then a finale. This is a typical arrangement for many Big Band pieces, with certain instruments getting solos at the beginning, in this case the trombones, and the rest of the band having an opportunity during the solo section. The solos at the end are very interchangeable and probably switched at most performances.
Ellington shows a completely different form of jazz from the period, that was less predictable in its arrangement and showcased individual talent. The beat is much slower and changes throughout the piece, unlike the Basie pieces that have that constant pulse in the background. The rhythm section serves a different purpose, sitting on the back of the beat and grooving instead of being relied on by the band to push the tempo and keep a heavy swing. Ellington’s pieces show a different level of soloing, as in “Caravan” with the tenor sax having an extended feature. You will not hear the entire band rest for this long in the Big Band pieces that Basie wrote. The horn sections also use more dynamic contrast and have difficult licks to define their solis, as compared with Basie’s horn sections, which sing beautiful melodies as part of the band. Not only do these pieces sound different, but I would assume that a live performance would look different too, because of the dress and demeanors of the group.