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Take the ‘A’ Train

RNCM Big Band

RNCM Theatre, 31 October 2015

Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington

A fantastic concert focusing on the music of Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington’s right-hand man.

He was a versatile talent, this guy by name of Billy Strayhorn; a composer and musician (he played the piano), an arranger and lyricist. The exhilarating melody of Take the ‘A’ Train shows one side of his art; jazz-flavoured arrangements of the Nutcracker Suite (Tchaikovsky) and Peer Gynt (Grieg) another; and during this concert we also heard one of his most tender lyrics, A Flower is a Lovesome Thing, beautifully sung by Isabelle Peters.

There was an explosive exuberance to the Big Band’s playing, with the musicians clearly relishing the opportunity to bring Strayhorn’s wonderful jazz alive. And Mike Hall, as well as astutely selecting the music that made up the well nigh comprehensive programme, directed with panache, keeping the tempo dynamic and upbeat throughout.

Atop his cloudy perch in heaven, Billy Strayhorn is surely smiling, his toes a-tapping.

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