Nutcracker Suites: Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn, Piotr Tchaikovsky

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington devoted major efforts over the last three decades of his life to pieces that were, if not entirely "classical" in inspiration, at least composed upon the canvas of Western concert music. The setting of the "Nutcracker Suite" that he composed with Billy Strayhorn has been among the most popular of these efforts, but it, like the Duke's other concert works, remains somewhat underappreciated. It is a bit startling that, as conductor Steven Richman observes in his booklet notes, that the Ellington/Strayhorn "Nutcracker" has apparently never until now been paired with the Tchaikovsky version on a single album. Doing so pays a lot of dividends, ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington devoted major efforts over the last three decades of his life to pieces that were, if not entirely "classical" in inspiration, at least composed upon the canvas of Western concert music. The setting of the "Nutcracker Suite" that he composed with Billy Strayhorn has been among the most popular of these efforts, but it, like the Duke's other concert works, remains somewhat underappreciated. It is a bit startling that, as conductor Steven Richman observes in his booklet notes, that the Ellington/Strayhorn "Nutcracker" has apparently never until now been paired with the Tchaikovsky version on a single album. Doing so pays a lot of dividends, even if the Tchaikovsky suite, played by New York's Harmonie Ensemble, is extremely unorthodox. The group is small and plays the work in a boxlike small hall; they get the notes, but the century's worth of familiar phrasing that has accumulated over a century and a quarter of glittering symphony orchestra versions is largely absent. But it is fascinating hearing these two works side by side, and the juxtaposition brings out how entirely original the Ellington/Strayhorn arrangement is. Even the packaging proclaims that Richman and the Harmonie Ensemble are reviving the art of "swinging the classics" here, but that's not quite what Ellington and Strayhorn were up to. Tchaikovsky's addictive tunes do not appear in the jazz version in the way that Bach's do in, for example, the Modern Jazz Quartet's Bach recordings. Instead, Ellington and Strayhorn dissect Tchaikovsky's orchestration and refract it through jazz layers. (Compare the "Peanut Brittle Brigade" march with its Tchaikovskian original for a taste, and a fresh appreciation that Richman makes possible here.) Ellington and Strayhorn provide less a jazz version of Tchaikovsky than a jazz-cubist version, and this release provides an invaluable handbook to its understanding.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/8/2013
  • Label: Harmonia Mundi Fr.
  • UPC: 093046749323
  • Catalog Number: 907493
  • Sales rank: 5,861

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Steven Richman Primary Artist, Conductor
George Cables Piano
Bill Easley Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
Lew Soloff Trumpet
Lew Tabackin Tenor Saxophone
Victor Lewis Drums
Scott Robinson Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Bamboo Flute
Art Baron Trombone
Curtis Fowlkes Trombone
Mark Gross Alto Saxophone
Ron Jannelli Bass Clarinet, Baritone Saxophone
Bob Millikan Trumpet
Wayne Goodman Trombone
Bobby Lavell Tenor Saxophone
Hassan Shakur Bass
Harmonie Ensemble New York Ensemble
Steve Bernstein Trumpet
Technical Credits
Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky Composer, Original Material
Duke Ellington Composer
Will Friedwald Liner Notes
Billy Strayhorn Additional Music
Robina G. Young Executive Producer
Geneviève Begou Liner Note Translation
Karin Elsener Graphic Design, Cover Illustration
Heidi Fritz Liner Note Translation
Steven Richman Producer, Liner Notes, Concept
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