Having already displayed her vocal chops with soul, funk, ballads and disco, Chaka Khan experiments with jazz on “And the Melody Still Lingers On,” her interpretation of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia.” Featuring Herbie Hancock and Gillespie himself, as well as a Charlie Parker sample, Chaka and producer Arif Mardin add lyrics that pay tribute to the classic original composition. When it arrived in 1942 “it was new and very strange” but subsequently “paved the way for generations from Coltrane to Stevie.” “The past you can’t ignore, the torch is lit, we’ll keep the flame,” vows Chaka, at once saluting the past while being very much in the present. The performance also foretold her future – one of Khan’s 22 Grammy nominations would be for Best Jazz Vocal Performance in 1983. Seventy-two years after the debut of “Night in Tunisia” and thirty-three years after Chaka’s version, its melody still lingers on.
Tunes du Jour listens to Chaka’s jazzier sides today, her 61st birthday.