The 102nd anniversary of Duke Ellington’s birth was celebrated at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on April 29 during the regular jazz vespers service, and at an evening concert sponsored by the Music Performance Trust Fund featuring the Cab Calloway Orchestra under the baton of Chris “Calloway” Brooks, Cab Calloway’s grandson.
Brooks chose arrangements from his grandfather’s library that featured Ellington’s music or related to Ellington in other ways. Calloway and Ellington, two of the major bands of the swing era, considered themselves brother orchestras, so it was appropriate that the current Calloway group should present this birthday salute to Ellington.
Brooks told Allegro that he founded the orchestra about four years ago, “to honor my grandfather’s memory and legacy. I’ve done a lot of study of his music, and I’ve been able to locate some of his compositions – wonderful compositions – that were never recorded. A few of them were performed at the Ellington concert, including one dedicated to the late Milt Hinton, entitled ‘Dissonance With Hinton.'”
Despite some administrative difficulties, the band had a wonderful time participating and looks forward to doing so again in the future, Brooks said. “We were able to expose ourselves to new audiences and we made a number of new contacts.”