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All that jazz

By Rebecca Missel
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 23, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo courtesy of UA Presents Tonight, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra bring the "deep, intricate, and exciting" music of Duke Ellington to Centennial Hall.

After a brief stint in 17th century France with the recent Les Miserables shows, Centennial Hall will transform into a 1930s New York nightclub when the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra makes a stop on their America in Rhythm and Tune: The Ellington Centennial tour at 7:30 tonight. The Jazz at Lincoln Center's artistic director, Wynton Marsalis, leads the band as the concert marks what would be the 100th birthday of one of America's greatest musicians, Duke Ellington.

The name Duke Ellington is practically synonymous with jazz music. Throughout the 1920s, '30s, and '40s he arranged nearly 2,000 songs in a variety of forms, making him the most prolific and creative composer of the 20th century. His unique style combined minstrel song, ragtime and the blues in a consistent yet complex way. Ellington's songs and the legacy of his band continue to influence musicians today.

Where It's At

Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra pay tribute to the late Duke Ellington tonight at 7:30 in Centennial Hall. Call the Centennial Hall box office at 621-3341 for ticket prices.
Wayne Goodman, trombonist for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO), described Ellington's music as "deep, intricate, and exciting." Goodman notes that when he began to discover jazz he was a part of the Duke Ellington repertory band, in which the students learned to play the music exactly as it was when it was first recorded. With time and practice, each student musician developed his own style, but everyone had Ellington at his core.

The magnitude of Ellington's impact is evident in the Jazz at Lincoln Center program for 1999, in which all events will focus on the Ellington Centennial. The planned activities include a concert tour, the release of the Live in Swing City CD by the LCJO, a book on Ellington's life called Jump for Joy and a television special, "Swingin' with Duke," that airs on PBS May 12.

One of the specific aims of the Ellington Centennial is to educate young people about the history of jazz music. At several locations across the U.S., LCJO is hosting master classes for area music students. Through these efforts, Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center hope to bring Ellington's innovative genius to as wide an audience as possible.

Marsalis is himself an accomplished musician, having won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for his oratorio on slavery, Blood on the Fields. He was the first jazz composer ever to win a Pulitzer.

Today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the entire LCJO will be at Centennial Hall talking to local kids about the importance of jazz in order to make better music, and also to enable them to become better people. The Jazz at Lincoln Center organization hopes to develop educated audiences for the future of music.

Goodman, who has lent his talent to the workshops, said, "When you get off the bus in a new city and you see the faces of these kids who are so excited to see the band, it's wonderful. They (the kids) do not get this kind of education enough at school."