BRUNSWICK — The “UUCB Concerts for a Cause” series celebrates MLK Day with a concert by the Novel Jazz Septet. The concert will be held on January 13th a the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick and will feature the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn – civil rights activists, friends and favorite musicians of Martin Luther King, Jr – along with interesting stories about their relationship with Dr. King, their experiences with racism and homophobia, and how this affected their music and forged their promotion of civil rights.
The musicians of “Novel Jazz,” who hail from all over Maine, have been performing straight-ahead jazz around Maine and New England for over three decades. They draw from the Great American Songbook and specialize in the works of Edward Kennedy (“Duke”) Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.
A decade ago, they embarked on a project to go through the massive archive of compositions by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn– who wrote about 2,500 pieces between them– transcribe some lesser known gems for the band and reinterpret them with a 21st century sound. Resulting in 3 CDs and a special PBS interview about the project. In addition, several two-hour programs dedicated to Novel Jazz have been broadcast on Maine Public Radio’s jazz show, “Jazz Tonight” over the years.
Novel Jazz Septet will play some of the rare numbers from the Ellington Band between the 1920’s to the 1960’s, along with the classic jazz standards jazz written by these iconic composers. Many of the tunes were written to feature the many instruments of the Ellington orchestra. The instrumental configuration of the Novel Jazz septet (three horns with a four-piece rhythm section) was Ellington’s favorite small band combination for those times when he wasn’t composing for the 18-piece orchestra.
Terry Teachout remarked in his brilliant biography of Duke, “Unlike many artists who won fame during their lifetimes, Ellington underwent no posthumous decline in his reputation. He is universally acknowledged as the greatest composer in the history of jazz and, increasingly, as one of the greatest of any kind in the history of American music, as well as a peerlessly creative big-band orchestrator, a pianist of formidable originality, and an enduring exemplar of black accomplishment and pride.”
Strayhorn’s talents were equally laudable. As the author David Hajdu put it in his book, Lush Life, “Billy Strayhorn was one of the greatest composers in the history of American music, the creator of a body of work that includes such standards as “Take the ‘A’ Train”. Yet, all his life, Strayhorn was overshadowed by his friend and collaborator Duke Ellington, with whom he worked for three decades as the Ellington Orchestra’s ace songwriter.”
The MLK Celebration will highlight the works of both Ellington and Strayhorn, together and separately.
Barney Balch-Tenor, Alto and Soprano Trombone; Mike Mitchell-Trumpet, Cornet, Flugelhorn; Bryan Jones-Alto Saxophone; Bill Manning – Drums; Herb Maine-Bass; David Clarke- Guitar; Mickey Felder-Piano
$15 in advance, $18 at the door, $8 Students/Children
Available at the church office (729-8515), Gulf of Maine Books, or online at http://noveljazz.brownpapertickets.com/
Proceeds from the Concerts for a Cause series raises money for church programming and local charities.
In the past two years, the concerts series has raised over $18,000 for local charities.