Compact Discoveries
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2004 by Compact Discoveries, Inc.

Program 63
"Classic Ellington"

MUSIC: Duke Ellington's rendition of Tchaikovsky's: "Overture" from The Nutcracker Suite [Columbia CK 46825, track 1] [under the following]

Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide Fred Flaxman. This is the third and final hour that I'm devoting to Big Band leaders who jazzed up tunes by classical composers for pleasure and profit. And this hour will be devoted entirely to Duke Ellington. We'll hear excerpts from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite side by side with Ellington's unique interpretations of the same music.


MUSIC: above piece fades out

By the time he died, Duke Ellington was considered amongst the world's greatest musicians. The French government honored him with their highest award, the Legion of Honor, while the government of the United States gave him its highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. By the end of his half-century career, he had played over 20,000 performances worldwide.

MUSIC: very short clip from Duke Ellington's rendition of Tchaikovsky's: "Chinese Dance" from The Nutcracker Suite [Columbia CK 46825, track 7]

Duke Ellington was born Edward Kennedy Ellington on April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C. He had his first piano lessons around the age of seven or eight but they didn't have an immediate effect on him at all. He was more interested in baseball, and he got his first job selling peanuts at Washington Senator's baseball games.

MUSIC: very short clip from Duke Ellington's rendition of Tchaikovsky's: "Dance of the Floreadores" from The Nutcracker Suite [Columbia CK 46825, track 8]

Ellington became more interested in the fine arts, and he attended the Armstrong Manual Training School to study commercial art instead of going to an academics-oriented school. But he began to seek out and listen to ragtime pianists in Washington and, during the summer months, in Philadelphia or Atlantic City, where he and his mother vacationed .

MUSIC: short clip from Duke Ellington's rendition of Grieg's: "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 [Columbia CK 46825, track 11]

Duke took piano lessons again and found piano playing jobs at clubs and cafes throughout the Washington area. Three months before graduation, he dropped out of school and began his professional music career.

In late 1917, Ellington formed his first group: The Duke's Serenaders. In 1923 he moved to New York where, through the new medium of radio, he became quite well known. It was also in 1923 that Duke made his first recording. His renamed band, The Washingtonians, established themselves during the prohibition era by playing at places like the Exclusive Club, Connie's Inn, the Hollywood Club, and most importantly the Cotton Club. Thanks to the rise in radio receivers and the industry itself, Duke's band was broadcast across the nation live on "From the Cotton Club."


MUSIC: excerpt from Duke Ellington's rendition of Grieg's: "Anitra's Dance" from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 [Columbia CK 46825, track 14]

In 1928, Ellington and Irving Mills signed an agreement in which Mills produced and published Ellington's music. Record companies came calling. Duke's band became one of the most sought-after in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Before passing away in 1974, Duke Ellington wrote and recorded hundreds of musical compositions. Some of Ellington's greatest works include "Rockin' in Rhythm," "Satin Doll," "New Orleans," "Take the 'A' Train," and "Crescendo in Blue."

Less known are his very original jazz interpretations of the classics, which we are going to hear for the rest of this hour. We'll begin with Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, alternating between the original music as performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti and Duke Ellington and his band in an arrangement by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

Incidentally, Ellington altered the titles of the pieces as well as the music, calling the "Dance of the Reed Pipes," for example, "Toot Toot Tootie Toot," and the "Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy" became "Sugar Rum Cherry." He called "The Waltz of the Flowers" the "Dance of the Floreadores."

MUSIC: Tchaikovsky: excerpts from The Nutcracker Suite, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti [from London 417 400-2] alternate with excerpts from Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite with Duke Ellington and his band [Columbia CK 46825]

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. You heard excerpts from the original suite as Tchaikovsky wrote it performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti alternating with excerpts from an arrangement by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn performed by Duke Ellington and his band. The first was from a London compact disc. The Ellington version was from a Columbia CD.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman, and this hour is called "Classic Ellington."

[optional break not included in the 58:00 total timing]

For the rest of this hour we are going to hear excerpts from Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Opus 46 alternating with Duke Ellington's arrangement of the same music. The original Grieg will be performed by the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra of Cracow conducted by Tadeusz Wojciechowski.

MUSIC: Grieg: excerpts from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46, with the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Cracow, conducted by Tadeusz Wojciechowski [Conifer Classics 75605 51750 2, CD 2] alternating with excerpts from Duke Ellington's Peer Gynt Suites with Duke Ellington and his band [Columbia CK 46825]

Excerpts from Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Opus 46 alternated with Duke Ellington's arrangement of the same music. The original Grieg was performed by the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra of Cracow conducted by Tadeusz Wojciechowski. The Ellington version was performed by Duke Ellington.


You have been listening to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman. And this hour was devoted to "Classic Ellington." I hope you enjoyed it!

MUSIC: excerpt from Duke Ellington's rendition of Grieg's: "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 [Columbia CK 46825, track 11] [under the following]

I'd like to thank Michael Rose of the Michael Rose Orchestra for the theme for this hour's program, and for supplying the CD of "Duke Ellington's Three Suites." We heard excerpts from Ellington's versions of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Grieg's Peer Gynt Suites. The third piece on the CD is called Suite Thursday and it's by Ellington and Strayhorn.

If you have an idea for a theme for a future Compact Discoveries program, I'd love to hear from you. You can get in touch with me through the Compact Discoveries website: www.compactdiscoveries.com. Or write me in care of this station. You'll find the script with music information for each Compact Discoveries radio program as well as a list of radio stations carrying the series at the Compact Discoveries website. I hope you'll visit us soon.

Compact Discoveries is a production of Compact Discoveries, Inc., and a presentation of WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

MUSIC: and program ends at 58:00 [total timing without optional breaks]

 
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