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Published: Thursday, 1/10/2013 - Updated: 3 years ago

An evening with the Duke

Toledo Jazz Orchestra pays tribute to Duke Ellington


For a jazz orchestra, tackling the music of Duke Ellington requires the same commitment to detail and passion as a symphony digging into the works of one of the classical masters.

Listeners are familiar with Ellington's songs, and expectations are clear, said Ron Kischuk, artistic director of the Toledo Jazz Orchestra, which he will lead through the master's works Saturday night at the Valentine Theatre.

"The standards are awfully high," he said. "To me it's the equivalent of symphony orchestras doing Beethoven."

The musicians have been poring over transcriptions of Ellington's works and among the songs the orchestra will perform are "Come Sunday," "Take The 'A' Train," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)," "Sophisticated Lady," and "Cottontail."

Kischuk said this is the 70th anniversary of "Come Sunday," which was a central piece in Ellington's jazz symphony "Black, Brown and Beige" written for Ellington's first concert at Carnegie Hall and premiering in 1943.

Ellington's career as a musician, band leader, and composer began in the early 1920s and spanned the next four decades. He is generally considered the greatest jazz composer of all time, but Kischuk takes his praise further.

"Duke Ellington is in my opinion the most proficient, heralded, highly regarded, American composer in any genre of music," he said.

"I think it's a combination of simple enough melodies, with complex harmonies in an interesting blend that works for everyone from the novice to the most advanced listener of jazz."

The concert begins at 8 p.m. and will include vocals by Nate Gurley. The concert will feature trumpeter Dwight Adams and former Ellington Band bass trombonist Edward Gooch, of Detroit. Kischuk said Gooch will address the audience at the concert and share a few stories about playing in the Ellington Band.

Arrangements written for the Ellington Band, the Count Basie Orchestra, Woody Herman's Thundering Herd, Buddy Rich's Band and others will be featured.

Before the concert, the new Toledo Junior Jazz Orchestra will play in the lobby of the 400 N. Superior St. theater from 7:15 to 7:50 p.m.

Tickets are $22 to $32 and are available at www.thetoledojazzorchestra.org, at the Valentine Theater's box office at 400 North Superior St. or by calling 419-242-2787. An Evening with Duke Ellington is the second of four concerts in the Toledo Jazz Orchestra's 2012-2013 season. The next concert, Night at the Oscars, is March 2.

Contact Rod Lockwood at: rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.

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