• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Theatre’s tribute to Duke Ellington set for Saturday

MERCEDES ELLINGTON preserves and extends the musical legacy of her grandfather, Duke Ellington, as a Broadway and television dancer, choreographer, director and producer. She will attend the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra’s concert, featuring the music of Duke Ellington, on Saturday, April 22, at the Woodford Theatre. (Photo submitted)

The Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra will celebrate the legacy of Duke Ellington and his music at the Woodford Theatre on Saturdaynight, April 22, beginning at 8 p.m. The upcoming Something Extra fundraiser concert comes only weeks before “A Tribute to Duke Ellington” opens on Woodford Theatre’s stage beginning Friday, May 19. Soloists Alicia McCorvey and Angie Ortega will bring some of the Cotton Club songs from that upcoming stage production to Saturday’sconcert, but Duke Ellington’s “big band” sound – as performed by well-known Kentucky musicians Miles Osland, Vince DeMartino and Dick Domek – will allow audiences to experience why Ellington’s a musical icon. “Just being able to hear music played live is what I call high-definition sound,” said Domek. “…People forget what all these colors (of music) would sound like played the way Ellington wanted them to be played, which is in-person, in-the-same-room as the performers.” In preparation for their upcoming Woodford Theatre concert, Domek and other musicians in the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra could revisit about 90 Duke Ellington tunes before choosing the songs they’d perform on Saturday night. “It just goes to show that the Duke really, really had a talent for a variety of styles of music,” said Trish Clark, Woodford Theatre’s artistic director. “His music laid the groundwork for the swing era, but it was different even from the beginning,” explained Domek. He pointed out that Duke Ellington also delved into African-American life in the United States during the 1920s and ’30s, which “comes through in his music.” Founded in 1999 on the 100th anniversary of Ellington’s birth, the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra performed a series of Duke Ellington tribute concerts in the spring of that year to celebrate his musical legacy before producing a CD at the conclusion of its concert series. During Saturday’s performance, Clark said Domek will tell the audience about Ellington and his musical legacy in a celebration of jazz month. “It’s a nice opportunity to learn more about Ellington, his contributions to American music and what the music sounds like,” said Domek. The retired University of Kentucky music theory professor said Ellington disagreed with anyone who called his music “jazz” because he felt the breadth of his songs could not be categorized. Ellington’s granddaughter, Mercedes Ellington, has agreed to attend the upcoming concert during America’s month-long celebration of jazz. “We’re just very excited to have Mercedes,” said Clark. So are the musicians who will play some of her grandfather’s music. “I’m really excited to meet her and especially for her to hear our band play the music. It’s one of those things you may dream about occasionally, but don’t expect to ever happen,” said Domek, a pianist. “It’s going to be really wonderful to have her there in the audience.” Clark anticipates Mercedes Ellington, who has written a book about her grandfather, will also come onstage to talk about his musical legacy during this tribute concert at Woodford Theatre. While an intimate space for the audience, the Woodford Theatre stage will provide plenty of room for a 17-member Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra and two soloists, Domek said. “I think it’ll be a real appealing (concert) to watch visually as well as to listen to,” he said. He said performing in a more intimate performance space will not require much amplification of the music, which will create “a more natural, acoustic sound” for the audience. For reserved tickets to the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra’s tribute concert, call the Woodford Theatre box office at 873-0648 or visit woodfordtheatre.com.

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