NJ Jazz Society to celebrate Billy Strayhorn centennial on June 14
The New Jersey Jazz Society will celebrate the Billy Strayhorn Centennial on Sunday, June 14, at Mayo Performing Arts Center, 100 South Street, Morristown.
Billy Strayhorn wrote “Lush Life” when he was just 19 years old. His “Take the A Train” is one of the most recognized tunes of the big band era. Duke Ellington called him “the other half of my heartbeat.”
This November 29 would have been Strayhorn’s 100th birthday, and the New Jersey Jazz Society will celebrate the Billy Strayhorn Centennial with a special concert featuring Michael Hashim’s 15-piece Billy Strayhorn Orchestra at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 14, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown.
Alto saxophonist Hashim plays regularly in a trio led by stride pianist Judy Carmichael, but he has frequently performed and recorded music associated with Duke Ellington and, particularly, Billy Strayhorn.
Hashim won a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1989 in support of "Lotus Blossom," a CD devoted to Strayhorn’s music, and he was nominated for British Jazz Album of the Year for a second Strayhorn album, "Multicolored Blue," in 1999.
In the 1980s, Hashim led the Widespread Depression Jazz Orchestra, a traditional band that was very popular in New York. The Village Voice has called him “a saxophonist with a melodic flair and a respect for past conventions.”
The Billy Strayhorn Orchestra’s repertoire contains works Strayhorn wrote for the Ellington Orchestra, including famous pieces such as “Chelsea Bridge” and “Raincheck”; rare, newer versions of hits such as “Take the A Train”; and rarely heard works which Ellington never recorded such as “Swing Dance” and “Cashmere Cutie”.
Among the members of the Strayhorn Orchestra are trombonist Art Baron, saxophonist Bill Easley and baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian. Both Baron and Easley played in the Duke Ellington Orchestra led by Mercer Ellington in the 1970s. Sevian currently tours with the Count Basie Orchestra and was a member of the Mingus Big Band that won a Grammy for "Live at the Jazz Standard" in 2011.
The June 14 concert at Mayo will include an opening act featuring members of the Newark Academy jazz band playing music by Duke Ellington. The Newark Academy jazz band was a finalist in this year's Essentially Ellington competition sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Tickets for the concert are $20 and $25. To order, visit www.mayoarts.orgor call (973) 539-8008.
For more information about the New Jersey Jazz Society, visit www.njjs.org.