The Columbus Jazz Orchestra is set to kick off its 51st season this weekend with a spectacular tribute to jazz legends Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Miles Davis.
Duke Ellington (1899-1974), Count Basie (1904-1984), and Miles Davis (1926-1991) are three iconic figures in the world of jazz, instantly recognizable by their contributions to the genre.
From Thursday through the weekend, the Southern Theatre will resonate with the soulful melodies and vibrant rhythms of these jazz maestros, as the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, under the artistic direction of Byron Stripling, takes the stage. The program has been meticulously crafted to capture the essence of the creative renaissance that these luminaries experienced during the 1950s.
With the aim of evoking the excitement and dynamism of that era, the Columbus Jazz Orchestra welcomes guest trumpet player Tony Glausi. Together, they’ll transport audiences back to a time when these jazz legends redefined the genre and, in doing so, create new memories for jazz aficionados in central Ohio.
Recently, Byron Stripling, the Artistic Director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, shared insights about the upcoming concert, the significance of Tony Glausi’s contribution, and the unique legacy of Ellington, Basie, and Davis.
Q: Tell us about this program, “Ellington, Basie and Miles.”
Byron Stripling: When I curated this program, I was inspired by the remarkable period of the 1950s when Ellington, Basie, and Davis were all ascending in their creative journeys. For instance, Duke Ellington had experienced a brief artistic lull until he took the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival, where he unveiled a suite dedicated to the event. The climax of that suite featured an electrifying 25-chorus performance by his tenor saxophonist, Paul Gonsalves.
Count Basie also experienced a creative resurgence during the 1950s, with brilliant talents like Thad Jones, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, and Sonny Payne adding magic to his orchestra.
Miles Davis, though different in style, was another force of nature during this era. While Ellington and Basie embodied the old-school swing, Davis pioneered a fresh, more accessible sound. His album “Kind of Blue” stands as a testament to simplicity and universality, much like what we aim for in our concerts. As Toni Cade Bambara aptly put it, “The role of the artist is to make revolution irresistible.” By the 1960s, their music had evolved to reflect the pressing issues of their time, including civil rights and social justice.
Q: Will the concerts primarily feature their 1950s music, or will it spill into the 1960s?
Byron Stripling: The focus is largely on their 1950s work, but after our conversation, I’m inclined to incorporate some of that ’60s vibe as well! (Laughs.)
The Columbus Jazz Orchestra’s season opener promises to be a mesmerizing journey through a transformative period in jazz history, where the legacies of Ellington, Basie, and Davis remain as relevant and vibrant as ever.