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Worcester Musicians Pay Tribute to Duke Ellington at Nick’s

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

 

Dan Burke will be leading the cast of Duke Ellington show at Nick's Worcester. (Photo: Steven King)

Central Mass jazz fans are in for a treat as "The Unknown Ellington" is coming to Nick's Bar and Restaurant in Worcester for four performances next month. Shows will be held on Friday, March 22 at 9 p.m., Saturday, March 23 at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., and Sunday, March, 24 at 6 p.m. The performances will take place in the cabaret room.

This is a unique chance for true fans of the acclaimed early to mid 20th century bandleader, composer and arranger Edward "Duke" Ellington to hear some of the more obscure entries in his impressive catalogue of over 1,000 compositions.

Almost everyone has heard Duke Ellington's most famous jazz hits, many of which have become staples in the American musical canon. But the express purpose of this program to introduce people to songs that they may have not had as much exposure to, from rarely performed compositions to even unreleased and unrecorded material.

With its concentration on obscure material, Nick’s owner Nicole Watson jokes “This is probably the only Ellington tribute show ever at which the audience will not hear 'Take the A Train'!”

The program of The Unknown Ellington will include numbers ranging from the haunting instrumental "Black Beauty," Ellington’s 1928 portrait of Florence Mills, to his "Salute to Morgan State," a sprightly, ragtime influenced 1967 piano piece that remains unrecorded. Vocal selections will include works from his musicals "Jump for Joy" and "Beggar’s Holiday," as well as songs created for his work at Harlem’s Cotton Club.

"The Unknown Ellington" is the fifth major cabaret event Watson has produced. Previous shows featured the music of Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, and Chet Baker.

Watson explains “Nick’s audiences have demonstrated a musical curiosity and connoisseurship that has encouraged us to assemble this entire program of unfamiliar Ellington compositions."

She goes further, "Although our clientele would probably all know about a dozen of his most famous works, I am confident they will be receptive and appreciative when they hear our program of rare material: songs that may have charted only very briefly, or were created for an unsuccessful Broadway show, and in some cases, never recorded at all.”

Frank Racette will return to Nick's for his fifth show as well. As musical director, he has produced new arrangements for two dozen songs and an overture for the performance. Racette is the ideal pick for this particular show as he has toured with the Ellington Orchestra in the past. He will also be providing a commentary interspersed throughout the show with personal anecdotes and reflections about Ellington, drawing from his vast knowledge on Ellington's illustrious life and career.

"I am excited to be able to offer these four shows, with talented vocalists and musicians treating our audiences to a high level of Ellington compositions.  For a jazz lover, this should be the equivalent of a classical music fan having the opportunity to hear an evening of unknown Chopin Nocturnes!" says Racette.

The cast of "The Unknown Ellington" will be led by two premier local vocalists. Worcester’s "leading lady of Jazz", Linda Dagnello is known across the area for her many breathtaking interpretations of jazz songs and standards. Her style is perfectly suited for Ellington.

"Linda Dagnello will be performing about seven songs that she has been studying for several months. One of these, 'It Shouldn’t Happen To a Dream,' was recorded by Sarah Vaughan in the 1950s, but was never published and required a painstaking transcription from the original LP," says Frank Racette.

Daniel Burke is a Berklee College of Music graduate and is currently part of the internationally popular and unique "electro-soul" group Gamble & Burke. He promises to bring an energetic and original take on the vocals.

"Dan will be singing seven Ellington songs, each of which he has learned specially for this show. One of these, 'Starting With You,' I am only aware of from an instrumental LP version; it is possible that the lyrics have never been performed publicly," Racette says.

Other musicians to be featured include Tom Spears on percussion, Geoff Ooehling on bass and Brian Koning on trumpet.

For reservations please call (508) 753-4030. Nick's is located at 124 Millbury Street. For more information, visit their website

 

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