Goodnight everyone, and hoping you don’t have rocks in your bed this weekend!

Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.

On this the final weekend of Black History Month a tribute to Duke Ellington. He was simply the best jazz composer and band leader of his time. The Duke led his band for more than half a century. Along the way he composed thousands, that’s right, thousands of scores.

Let’s get started. I love this program in NY. Young high school students. Keeping Ellington’s music alive. From the program’s official website:

Duke Ellington’s music is at the very heart of America’s 20th-century musical heritage and the core of the rich canon of jazz music. Jazz at Lincoln Center, committed to instilling a broader understanding of this music, created the Essentially Ellington program (EE) during the 1995–96 school year to make Ellington’s music accessible to as many high school musicians as possible and to support the development of their schools’ music programs.

EE is unique among educational resources for high school jazz bands. Each year Jazz at Lincoln Center transcribes, publishes, and distributes Duke Ellington Orchestra charts, along with recordings and additional educational materials, to high school bands in the U.S., Canada, and American schools abroad. These charts are original transcriptions of recordings by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, not simplified arrangements.

The annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival is one of the most innovative jazz education events in the world. Each year, high school musicians from across North America travel to New York City to spend three days immersed in workshops, jam sessions, rehearsals and performances at the “House of Swing,” Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Let’s begin with a WI high school band performing one of Duke’s most famous compositions.

Soloists in order of performance:
Piano: Jennifer Lamprech
Trumpet: Joseph Rockman
Vocal: Jaelyn Potvin
Trombone: Andy Paulson
Tenor Sax: Dillon Crawford
Baritone Sax: Kayla Nelson
Soprano Sax: Kyra Devlin
Vibraphone: Robert Rockman

This year’s event will be held May 5-7. One of the 15 finalists is Beloit Memorial High School (Beloit, WI), directed by Chris Behrens.

In 1940 Ellington wrote the music for a tune about a jilted lover who prefers to stay home rather than be haunted by memories of happier times spent at dances and nightspots. 

Bob Russell wrote the lyrics, sung here by Tony Bennett and a special guest.

That of course was Michael Buble singing with Tony. The collaboration is from the 2011 album “Duets II,” released in conjunction with Bennett’s 85th birthday.

The rock band Chicago released an album in 1995 dedicated to classic big band and swing music. One of the tracks is a cover version of one of Ellington’s most popular and lucrative recordings.

And just who is the “Sophisticated Lady?” From

A good guess would be his mom, Daisy Kennedy Ellington. History tells us that she was a beautiful, intelligent, educated woman who doted on her son, (1899-1974). Duke worshiped Daisy, but his 1932 masterpiece was not written about her or any one woman in particular. Rather, the tune was actually a composite musical sketch of three women—three of young Ellington’s grade school teachers in the U Street neighborhood of Washington D.C. “They taught all winter and toured Europe in the summer. To me that spelled sophistication,” Duke said.

Chicago’s album reached #90 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The group performs at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee on April 13, then in Appleton on April 15.

Gosh I sure hope you’re enjoying…

Um, Kev…


Say, you are gonna, you know…

Do what?

Get to that song. The big song. The one with the Milwaukee angle.

Hey! That is a great idea!

How about right now?

But first, this Channel 12 news report from last year.

Cigarette holder which wigs me
Over her shoulder, she digs me.
Out cattin’ that satin doll.

Baby, shall we go out skippin?
Careful, amigo, you’re flippin’,
Speaks Latin that satin doll.

Duke Ellington (center) makes the jazz scene in Milwaukee which includes (directly below him) entertainer/club owner Minette “Satin Doll” Wilson. Photo: Wisconsin Black Historical Society

That’s it for this week.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

We close with a 1975 medley by Anita Pointer, Ruth Pointer, Bonnie Pointer, and June Pointer…The Pointer Sisters.

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