Monday, 3 August 2009

Vive Le Duke!

News of a band in France dedicated to perpetuating Ellington’s rich legacy in performance: The Duke Orchestra directed by Laurent Mignard.

A CD compiled from several live performances last winter has just been issued on the Juste-une-Trace label and I have been enjoying its contents enormously this last couple of weekends past.

The album is called Duke Ellington Is Alive. Ellington’s music certainly ‘lives’ – and it should be brought ‘live’ to festivals and concerts for – hopefully – particularly young audiences to enjoy.

Mignard’s fidelity to Ellington’s oeuvre goes deep – not only in terms of the accuracy with which the arrangements are reproduced – but the extent of the repertoire – which on this disc includes such neglected gems as Half the Fun, The Eigth Veil and – best of all, one of my own favourite Ellington perennial’s Ad Lib On Nippon. This latter is a feature for the luminous talents of Aurelie Tropez on clarinet who appeared recently with Les Red Hot Reedwarmers at the Whitley Bay Jazz Festival. Wish I’d joined the dots sooner on this – it would have been well worth the trip to the coast.

At the moment, I think The Duke Orchestra’s itinerary has been confined solely to France. Their activities are part of a larger outreach – Le circle des amis de Duke - which includes education. I do hope they venture abroad soon. Friends of Duke Ellington everywhere should welcome this venture – buy the CD and also – literally – the T Shirt. A presence on My Space is another of the joys of performing this music in the modern age – and a potential resource for the future.

I bought my copy of the disc from Amazon France. Details here. There is further reading about The Duke Orchestra here. There is also an official website.

And should there still be any naysayer, just enjoy this gorgeous video of – appropriately enough – Kinda Dukish and Rockin’ in Rhythm will dispel any doubt. The video was recorded during the orchestra’s recent performance at the Jazz a Vienne Festival.

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