Jazz History Comes Alive at HSU with Billy Strayhorn Tribute - Humboldt State Now

Jazz History Comes Alive at HSU with Billy Strayhorn Tribute

HSU Jazz Orchestra honors Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington Orchestra arranger and composer, celebrating the centennial of his birth with an all-Strayhorn program, including a never before-performed arrangement, on Saturday, December 12 at Fulkerson Recital Hall.

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The HSU Jazz Orchestra performs Saturday, December 12 at Fulkerson Recital Hall.

Strayhorn was a classically trained musician from Pittsburgh who composed, co-composed or arranged much of Ellington’s music for nearly 30 years. His best-known tune is “Take the ‘A’ Train,” Ellington’s theme song.

Strayhorn didn’t receive nearly the acclaim and fame that Ellington did,” Jazz Orchestra director Dan Aldag said. “Strayhorn was a shy, quiet man who was happy to remain in the shadows, in part because staying out of the public eye allowed him to live openly as a gay man at a time when most gay men were deeply closeted.”

“We’re playing everything exactly as Strayhorn wrote it,” Aldag notes. “Parts were either copied from the original Ellington band parts or painstakingly transcribed from Ellington recordings.”

So in addition to “Take the ‘A’ Train” and other famous pieces, the Jazz Orchestra plays Strayhorn tunes that the Ellington band never recorded. Even the familiar “Lush Life” is performed in an early and unrecorded arrangement. “I believe our performance will be the first done with a vocalist—Olivia Bright—singing Strayhorn’s remarkable lyrics,” Aldag said.

The concert includes the last two pieces that Strayhorn wrote for Ellington, before his death in 1967. In addition to vocalist Olivia Bright, performers featured on various tunes include pianist Max Marlowe, guitarist and vocalist Kenneth Bozanich, alto saxophonist Kyle McInnis, trombonist Craig Hull and trumpeter Andrew Henderson.

Strayhorn is also represented earlier in the week as the AM Jazz Band performs his “Johnny Come Lately” in their concert of jazz standards on Thursday, December 10 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

The HSU Jazz Orchestra performs on Saturday, December 12 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. More information: http://HSUMusic.blogspot.com. Produced by HSU Music department.