Duke Ellington Performance series continues at Birdland Jazz
The Duke Ellington Center Big Band, Tap City Youth Ensemble
Jazz great Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder, a twelve-part jazz suite based on the work of William Shakespeare, will be explored in the next edition of the Duke Ellington Performance Series on Sunday, April 19 at Birdland Jazz Club, 315 West 44th Street, 5:30-7pm.
This special performance event will feature The Duke Ellington Center Big Band conducted by Eugene Gwozdz, with appearances by Miles Purinton and jazz vocalists Marion Cowings, Sharon K. Janda, and Antoinette Montague. Tap dancers DeWitt Fleming Jr., AC Lincoln, Karen Callaway William and members of the Tap City Youth Ensemble, plus ballroom dancers Yurly Nartov and Enxhi Fundo and others, will also join the cast.
The Duke Ellington Performance Series is presented by Mercedes Ellington, Artistic Director/Founder of the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts, Inc., in association with Tony Waag, Artistic Director of The American Tap Dance Foundation (ATDF). “Tap and jazz are undeniably attached at the hip,” said Mr. Waag, who is curating the tap dance portion of the Ellington performance series. Duke Ellington was inducted into the ATDF International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2017.
ABOUT SUCH SWEET THUNDER
In August 1956, Duke Ellington and his orchestra were in Canada, performing in the same city as the ongoing Stratford Shakespearean Festival. Curious about the Festival, Ellington and his longtime composer/arranger Billy Strayhorn talked to Festival staffers, and soon Ellington announced his next album project would be a conceptual piece, paying tribute to Shakespeare's varied works with appropriate jazz compositions. Ellington and Strayhorn began building a home library of Shakespeare, seeking out Shakespeare experts and reading through the canon during orchestra down time. In addition to the "Such Sweet Thunder" album, Ellington promised the entire suite would be performed at the 1957 edition of the festival. The "Such Sweet Thunder" suite was written in just under three weeks and recorded in early 1957.
ABOUT DUKE ELLINGTON
Duke Ellington called his music "American Music" rather than jazz and liked to describe those who impressed him as "beyond category.” He remains one of the most influential figures in jazz, if not in all American music and is widely considered as one of the twentieth century's most prolific composer and best-known African American personalities.
As both a composer and bandleader, Ellington's reputation has increased since his death, with the continuous thematic repackaging of his signature music, often becoming best sellers. Posthumous recognition of his work includes a special award citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board.
Duke Ellington Milestones include:
- President Lyndon Johnson presented Duke Ellington with the President’s Gold Medal in 1966.
- President Richard M. Nixon presented Duke Ellington with the Medal of Freedom in 1969.
- Duke Ellington received 13 Grammy Awards.
- Duke Ellington received the Pulitzer Prize.
- He was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1973.
- The United States Post Office issued a Commemorative Stamp with his image on it in 1986.
Photo © DeWitt Fleming Jr. by Adrien Tillmann.
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