The Holiday Jazz Orchestra is at the Jazz Station in Eugene
Last December, The Holiday Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Steve Owen, presented Duke Ellington’s interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece – the Nutcracker Suite. It was an instant Jazz Station success with a sold-out house for every show. Our audiences were so enthusiastic, we decided to make Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite & Holiday Treats an annual tradition.
Featuring the Holiday Jazz Orchestra:
- Jonathon Corona alto saxophone
- Burnette Dillon trumpet
- Dave Glenn trombone
- Alex Hunter trombone
- Matt Ingman trombone
- Paul Krueger trumpet
- Joe Manis tenor saxophone
- Torrey Newhart piano
- Steve Owen director/alto saxophone/clarinet
- Devin Perez trumpet
- Sean Peterson bass
- Idit Shner tenor saxophone/clarinet
- Alex Shuffield trumpet
- Jay Veach drums
- Devin Wright baritone saxophone/bass clarinet
About Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite
In 1960, some 68 years after Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky penned his famous “The Nutcracker” ballet, Duke Ellington and his band were in residency in Las Vegas at the Riviera Hotel. While there, Ellington and his longtime collaborator, composer, and arranger, Billy Strayhorn received a call from Columbia Records producer, Irving Townsend. Townsend offers Ellington complete freedom to write and record anything he wants if he signs with the Columbia label. Duke suggests a concept to “create music that can’t be categorized.” Since Ellington likes to perform dance music and Tchaikovsky’s work is a ballet, Strayhorn suggests they reinvent the holiday classic, “The Nutcracker Suite.”
The Christmas Eve setting of “The Nutcracker Suite” and its message of, “Dreams can come true if you believe,” made the Romantic-era Russian ballet a favorite holiday tradition then as it remains today. There were similarities in challenges for both Tchaikovsky and Ellington. Audiences craved variety, shifts in mood and style, and yet a sense of continuity which all provided the undergirding elements of the project. By May 1960, the work was completed. It would be the first time Billy Strayhorn’s name would share equal billing with Duke Ellington.
The Christmas Season concerts and accompanying album were a commercial success. Critics and audiences delighted in Ellington and Strayhorn’s jazzy recasting of the familiar classical themes. They marveled at how well the duo recreated the work - turning it into a jazz masterpiece of equal parts Tchaikovsky and Ellington. Despite being conceived in 1960 and debuted in Christmas of that year, the musical scores themselves weren’t published until 2010.
Special thanks go out to the Lane County Cultural Commission, whose generous grant enables us to offer tickets at an accessible price.