Legendary valve trombonist Juan Tizol joined Duke Ellington’s new orchestra in 1929 and remained with the band for 15 years, later returning for a short stint in the ’50s as well. He was not a prolific composer, writing only a small handful of tunes, but two of his original songs rank among the most recorded jazz compositions of all time–“Caravan” and “Perdido.”

A Spanish word meaning “lost,” “Perdido” was originally recorded in December 1941, just four days before the Pearl Harbor bombing, and would remain in the band’s repertoire for the rest of Duke’s life.


More than 20 years out, here’s a 1964 performance spotlighting Paul Gonsalves, for whom the number became a showpiece over the years.


And here’s a great and interesting eight-minute performance by the full band in Copenhagen circa January 1965. Note that the cameras shoot as much as possible around Gonsalves (seated at bottom left) because he is literally passed out for the entire performance, to the extent that Jimmy Hamilton has to take his solo (and a Jimmy Hamilton tenor solo was a rare thing). A notorious alcohol and drug abuser (who indeed died of an overdose nine years later), he was known to get a little wasted before performances and occasionally fall asleep. There’s a famous story about him being walked to the microphone once during this song to play his solo, and when he heard the applause for the end of Ray Nance’s solo (the one before his), he snapped to, thought he’d just finished playing himself, and walked back to his seat. This performance is also notable for Sam Woodyard’s spectacular drum solo.


Lyrics were eventually written for the song (but were only sung with the Ellington band once, on ‘Ella Fitzgerald sings the Duke Ellington Songbook) and it has become a popular standard with jazz singers. It was, particularly, a signature tune for Sarah Vaughan, seen here performing it on television in the ’50s.

But probably the most exciting version of this tune ever recorded is this nine-minute take from an incredible Jazz at the Philharmonic set in fall 1949 featuring Roy Eldridge on trumpet; Hank Jones on piano; Ray Brown on bass; Buddy Rich(!) on drums; a shouting turn by Flip Philips on tenor (Lester Young is back there too); a hellacious solo by underrated great Tommy Turk on trombone; and a scorching turn by Charlie Parker on alto! And that’s not all–Ella Fitzgerald appears halfway in with a bright and bubbly cameo, improvising completely new lyrics on the spot and powering through a scat chorus that rivals any of the fellas around her. Unreleased for nearly 50 years, this recording lay in the Verve vaults until 1998, when it was finally, mercifully, made available to the public. This historic recording deserves to be heard.