Spotlight on Strayhorn and new CD at Oct. 19 concert
"Watch What Happens," the Purdue Jazz Band's new CD, is set for release at the band's Friday, Oct. 19, concert. There will be sweet treats and live music under the mural in the Stewart Center lobby from 7:15 to 7:45 p.m. to kick off CD sales.
The free 8 p.m. concert that follows in Loeb Playhouse will pay tribute to "Billy Strayhorn: The Duke's Right-Hand Man." One of Strayhorn's tunes, "Raincheck," is on the CD and the concert.
When the already famous Duke Ellington discovered shy pianist Billy Strayhorn, a chemistry was ignited that left the jazz world with such memorable classics as "Take the 'A' Train" and "Lush Life," which are both on the concert.
"Duke met Strayhorn in 1939 through a mutual friend. He was so impressed with his talent that he pretty much offered him a job on the spot even though Duke didn't know what Strayhorn's function in his band would be," says M.T. "Mo" Trout, director of the Purdue Jazz Band.
A classically trained pianist and musical prodigy, Billy "Sweet Pea" Strayhorn gave Duke Ellington's orchestra "a sense of elegance through his writing," Trout says.
The two men wrote tunes together and individually. After Ellington's death it became clear that some of the tunes attributed to the Duke were really written by Strayhorn. Among those tunes are "Day Dream" and "Satin Doll" which the Purdue Jazz Band performs. Together, Ellington and Strayhorn wrote or arranged several suites based on classical music, and the band will perform "Anitra's Dance" From Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite and "Isfahan" from Impressions of the Far East Suite.
"'Isfahan' is one of the most beautiful pieces Strayhorn ever wrote," says Trout. It features a saxophone solo by Paul Krogmeire, a graduate of Harrison High School in West Lafayette.
The concert ends with "Take the 'A' Train." "It will be a tenor sax battle between Jake Noparstak and Evan Drybread. This is a rip-roaring arrangement, a real flag-waver, a barn-burner," Trout says.
Each year the Purdue Jazz Band reinvents itself as some members graduate and new musicians come into the band. Trout says the band's new CD, "Watch What Happens" "is an invitation to watch - with your ears - what happens each and every semester with a progression of outstanding young musicians."
Performances by the Purdue Jazz Band from two different years make up the CD. "My thought process for this project was to represent a progression of the Purdue Jazz Band from one spring semester to the next. Many names on the roster change and many stay the same, but the quality remains undeniable. Every year seniors graduate that I think I will never be able to replace, but somehow someone new always shows up with a new set of skills that just give the band another dimension."
Some of the selections were recorded in a studio and others are from live concerts. "Kilgore's Kin," a Brent Wallarab piece commissioned to celebrate Purdue Bands' 125th anniversary is on the CD. Among other selections are "That Old Black Magic," "Petaluma Lu," "Love for Sale" and "How Insensitive."
The CD costs $15 and will be available at concerts and through the Purdue Bands' office in Elliott Hall of Music.