New York’s avant-garde metal experimentalists Imperial Triumphant are on a tear with covers recently. Their newest effort is a nod to New York, on a song made famous by a musical style, Bebop, which partially evolved in the Big Apple: “A Night In Tunisia.”
Pioneering trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie wrote the song in the early ’40s for his Big Band. It was notable for one of the first uses of a syncopated bassline on an LP side. Soon it was adopted by fellow jazz artists at the cutting edge, including Charlie Parker. Jazz purists of a particular bent suggest that Bird’s version was so groundbreaking that Miles Davis could not keep up. In its evolution as a jazz standard, a strong relationship with New York emerged, with several of the most celebrated versions recorded in the city, or close by.
Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers recorded one of those New York-adjacent versions, and Imperial Triumphant acknowledge this as their starting point. This is clear from the bombast of the opening drums with Kenny Grohowski taking the Blakey role on the skins. The Jazz Messengers were a hothouse for talent for 35 years. Their 1960 recording had trumpeter Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter on trumpet and tenor sax respectively, with astonishing solos by each. Triumphant rely on lead guitarist Zachary Ilya Ezrin to carry the refrain and do the improvisations, which are as impressive as some of the previous recordings. Steve Blanco further evolves bass syncopations, since their nascent times on the tune in the war years.