“The Maids of Cadiz” (1947) Benny Goodman Sextet with Jimmy Rowles and Red Norvo/ (2011) Gil Evans Project/Ryan Truesdell

“The Maids of Cadiz”

“Les Filles de Cadix”

Composed by Leo Delibes; head arrangement.

Recorded by the Benny Goodman Sextet for Capitol on June 6, 1947 in Hollywood.

Benny Goodman, clarinet, directing: Jimmy Rowles, piano; Red Norvo, vibraphone (*); Al Hendrickson, guitar; Harry Babasin, bass; Don Lamond, drums. (*) On the label of the Capitol 78 recording on which “The Maids of Cadiz” was initially issued it states that Red Norvo played a xylophone. That is inaccurate – he played a vibraphone on this recording.

The story:

The lovely piece Les Filles de Cadix was written by the French composer Leo Delibes in 1874. It is best known in the world of concert music as a piece for solo voice with piano accompaniment. How it entered the world of swing is rather mysterious. It was first recorded by Mary Martin for Decca Records on January 24, 1939, backed, incongruously, by Woody Herman and his band. That recording was one of many artist pairings the producers at Decca loved to present in the 1930s. It has little to do with swing, even though Ms. Martin’s performance on this recording is half “straight,” and half with a quasi-swing background provided by the Herman band. (A link to that recording can be found at endnote (1) below.)

At the time the Martin-Herman recording was made, Ms. Martin was just beginning her long career as a Broadway star. She was was cast in Cole Porter’s Leave It to Me!, making her Broadway debut in November 1938 in that production. She became popular on Broadway and received attention in the national media for singing the spoof striptease song “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” in that show. With that one song in the second act, she became a star “overnight.” Leave It to Me! opened at the Imperial Theater on November 9, 1938 and closed on July 15, 1939 after 291 performances. It reopened on September 4, 1939 and closed September 16, 1939 for another 16 performances.(2)

Benny Goodman is often criticized for being a musician who, after his glory years in the 1930s and 1940s as “The King of Swing,” became something of a hidebound musical conservative who endlessly recycled material from early in his career. Although there is some truth in this, it is largely because Benny’s audiences demanded that he play the music he first came to fame with that he so often polished up chestnuts from those years. Most people are unaware or only dimly aware that Benny engaged in a number of musical experiments with the avant-garde arranger Eddie Sauter in the early 1940s with the music for his big band.(See endnote 2A for a link to one of the great Sauter-Goodman collaborations.) They are even less aware of his many commissions for clarinet and chamber ensembles or orchestra that have become standard pieces of “classical” repertoire. These include: Contrasts, by Bela Bartok (1938); Clarinet Concerto, by Aaron Copland (1948); Derivations for Clarinet and Band, by Morton Gould (1955); Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, by Francis Poulenc (1962); Clarinet Concerto No. 2, Opus 115, by Malcolm Arnold (1974). As a performer, Goodman premiered Leonard Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs, and made an excellent recording of Igor Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto, with Maestro Stravinsky conducting.(3) Therefore, it is apparent that Benny Goodman was definitely alert and receptive when it came to music that was both new and outside of the swing idiom. Unfortunately, BG’s audiences, attuned to his playing as The King of Swing, were largely unmoved by his various explorations of music outside of the swing idiom.

But that didn’t deter Benny from his ongoing study and performance of long-form concert music. Indeed, on the day he died, June 13, 1986, he was practicing a piece by Brahms just before he passed.(4) So it is likely that he came across “The Maids of Cadiz” at some point in his musical explorations.

The music:

Benny Goodman’s recording performance of “The Maids of Cadiz” is basically a showcase for him playing melodies extracted from that piece. He was quite proficient at taking fragments of music into a small group recording session, and then in collaboration with the other musicians on the session, putting together a cohesive performance. His collaborators here were veteran musicians, especially Red Norvo, whom he had worked with many times previously. Pianist Jimmy Rowles and guitarist Al Hendrickson were by the time this recording was made, well established as free-lance Hollywood studio musicians who could fit into just about any musical situation, play almost any music at sight, and contribute musical ideas and cogent jazz solos as needed.

The brief introduction, based on the harmonies in “The Maids of Cadiz,” is an example of this process. My informed speculation is that Norvo, Rowles and Hendrickson looked at those harmonies and within a minute or two created the introduction. The first melody exposition features Benny’s clarinet, accompanied by piano, guitar, bass and drums, once again being guided by the chord changes that support the melody. The next tract of melody, which is different, follows the same format. The third melodic sequence, actually several sequences, which resemble the “bridge” in a 32 bar AABA song, at first includes Norvo’s vibraphone in unison with the piano, and Hendrickson’s guitar in unison with and then harmonized with Benny’s clarinet.

Pianist Jimmy Rowles then plays some tasty jazz, sounding remarkably like Teddy Wilson. He may have been channeling Wilson, knowing that Benny was very fond of Teddy’s playing. Red Norvo follows with a brief improvisation. (Above left: Jimmy Rowles and Red Norvo.)

When Benny returns, he is embellishing the melody a bit. Soon however, he and his associates reprise the “bridge” described above for a few bars, and then bring the performance to a quiet conclusion.


Here is a big band version of “The Maids of Cadiz,” arranged by the brilliant Gil Evans and performed by The Gil Evans Project under the direction of Ryan Truesdell.

“The Maids of Cadiz”

Composed by Leo Delibes; arranged by Gil Evans.

Recorded by Ryan Truesdell and The Gil Evans Project on August 24-26, 2011 in New York.(5)

Ryan Truesdell, directing: Augie Haas, Greg Gisbert and Laurie Frink, trumpets; Ryan Keberle and Marshall Gilkes, tenor trombones; George Flynn, bass trombone; Steve Wilson, alto saxophone, and clarinet; Dave Pietro, alto saxophone and clarinet; Donny McCaslin, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet; Brian Landrus, baritone saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet; Frank Kimbrough, piano; James Chirillo, guitar; Jay Anderson, bass; Lewis Nash, drums. Soloists: Dave Pietro, alto saxophone; Frank Kimbrough, piano; Greg Gisbert, trumpet.

The story:

This Gil Evans arrangement of “Maids of Cadiz” was written in 1950 for Claude Thornhill’s orchestra. Unfortunately, after he submitted it to Thornhill, several musicians from his orchestra were dropped for purposes of economy. Consequently, it was never recorded and probably never played by Thornhill. Nevertheless, this is one of Gil Evans’s most imaginative charts. I am reasonably sure that Evans was pleased with it of it and brought it to the attention of Miles Davis when they began to collaborate on various projects for Columbia Records in the middle 1950s. Miles undoubtedly was taken by the arrangement, and urged Evans to revise it so it could be included on the his Miles Ahead album in 1957. (See endnote 6 below for a link to the Miles Davis recording of “The Maids of Cadiz.”)

Claude Thornhill and Gil Evans in the late 1940s: They shared an approach to creating music for a big band that was sophisticated and exciting. Their musical collaboration led to rewarding musical experiments by others.

From a historical perspective however, this original Gil Evans arrangement of “The Maids of Cadiz” is yet another piece of evidence that the Thornhill-Evans collaboration, which had begun in earnest in the early 1940s, and came into full flower in the mid and late 1940s after both men had served in the military in World War II, was in many ways the musical antecedent for the various “Birth of the Cool” recordings Miles Davis and others made in the early 1950s, and later in the 1950s, when Davis was collaborating with Gil Evans.

The music:

This superb performance of Gil Evans’s 1950 arrangement of “The Maids of Cadiz” is example of great music inhabiting its own present tense. Not a note, sound or inflection is dated. From the fanfare-like introduction, through several choruses, during which the various melodic components of Delibes’s piece are elevated and celebrated, this is a masterful arrangement. Along the way there are solos by Dave Pietro on alto saxophone, Frank Kimbrough on piano, and Greg Gisbert on cup-muted trumpet that are swathed in the musical raiment Gil Evans specialized in creating.

Bravo! Claude Thornhill for being a strong and understanding patron of Gil Evans. Bravo! Gil Evans for being the unique and inspiring musician you were. Bravo! Ryan Truesdell and the Gil Evans Project for bringing this great music to life with skill, integrity and passion.

The recordings presented with this post were digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

Notes and links:

(1) here is a link to Mary Martin singing “The Maids of Cadiz” with Woody Herman’s band in 1939: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=GbGmM8qx4Dc

(2) Information regarding Mary Martin comes from the Wikipedia post on her.

(2A) Here is a link to the great Benny Goodman-Eddie Sauter collaboration on “Benny Rides Again”: https://swingandbeyond.com/2019/10/05/benny-rides-again-1940-benny-goodman-and-eddie-sauter/

(3) Information on classical pieces commissioned by Benny Goodman comes from the Wikipedia post on him.

(4) The piece on the music stand in Benny Goodman’s study when he died was the Brahms Clarinet Sonata in E-flat major, opus 120. Benny Goodman and the Swing Era, by James Lincoln Collier (1989), 359.

(5) The Gil Evans Project/Ryan Truesdell recording of “The Maids of Cadiz” was issued on a compact disc collection of Gil Evans’s works entitled Centennial …Newly Discovered works of Gil Evans. Mr. Truesdell produced the CD and guided its production on Artist Share, a fan funded project.

Here are links to other music that came into existence as a result of the collaboration between Claude Thornhill and Gil Evans:



(6) Here is a link to the Miles Davis/Gil Evans recording of “The Maids of Cadiz”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GLP1Af2b4M

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