Augustana Jazz Ensemble to perform Duke Ellington

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

The Augustana Jazz Ensemble will present its winter concert on Friday, February 6, at 8 p.m. in Centennial Hall (3703 7th Ave.). This concert is free and open to the public.

Led by director Joseph Ott, the program will feature the music of Duke Ellington, considered by many to be one of the greatest American composers. The concert’s title, “Beyond Category,” is a phrase Ellington used to describe his music, preferring the general category of “American music” to the specific genre of “jazz.”

The featured piece is Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s interpretation of the Peer Gynt Suite composed by Edvard Grieg. “To my knowledge, this suite has yet to be performed in its entirety,” Ott said. “It presents a unique challenge to obtain the correct musical mood for this work.”

This particular concert also will be different from other Augustana Jazz Ensemble concerts in that soloists will reproduce the solos exactly as Duke Ellington’s orchestra originally recorded them.

“This accuracy allows the students to experience what the Ellington musicians did so many years ago,” Ott noted.

Playing in the jazz ensemble presents a unique challenge to musicians used to playing in larger ensembles. “The jazz ensemble requires a certain level of responsibility that other ensembles don’t have in the same way.” said trumpet player Dena Baity ’16, a music education major from New Lenox.

“Everyone is a soloist, and we only play one on each part. You have to know your music and you have to bring your A-game to every rehearsal,” she added. “We really work as a team and it makes the music that much more fun to play.”

Saxophonist Elijah Olson ’16, a music education major from Elgin, said, “This is some of the most challenging music I have ever played because it is pushing me to play more independently in an ensemble setting.”

Duke Ellington’s music is even more challenging because of the nature of his compositions. Becca Strandberg ’16, an elementary education and music performance major from Crystal Lake, plays piano in the jazz ensemble. She pointed out that Ellington was one of the first great orchestrators.

“One of the biggest things he did was make each individual in the band a soloist,” said Strandberg. “He composed his music for specific players in the big band, not just each instrument. That is definitely something that sets his music apart from others.”