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Jazz Ensemble performs Duke Ellington note-for-note

The Augustana Jazz Ensemble feature the music of Duke Ellington in the concert "Beyond Category" at 8 p.m. Feb. 6 in Centennial Hall. This concert is free and open to the public.

"Beyond category" is a phrase Ellington used to describe his music, preferring the general category of American music to the specific genre of jazz.

The featured piece is Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's interpretation of the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg.

"To my knowledge, this suite has yet to be performed in its entirety," said ensemble director Joseph Ott. "It presents a unique challenge to obtain the correct musical mood for this work."

This concert also will be different from other Jazz Ensemble concerts in that soloists will reproduce the solos exactly as Duke Ellington's orchestra originally recorded them.

"This accuracy allows the students to experience what the Ellington musicians did so many years ago," Ott noted.

Playing in the ensemble presents a unique challenge to musicians used to playing in larger ensembles. "The jazz ensemble requires a certain level of responsibility that other ensembles don't have in the same way." said trumpet player Dena Baity '16, a music education major from New Lenox, Ill.

"Everyone is a soloist, and we only play one on each part. You have to know your music and you have to bring your A-game to every rehearsal," she added. "We really work as a team and it makes the music that much more fun to play."

Saxophonist Elijah Olson '16, a music education major from Elgin, Ill., said it is some of the most challenging music he has ever played "because it is pushing me to play more independently in an ensemble setting."

Duke Ellington's music is even more challenging because of the nature of his compositions. Becca Strandberg '16, an elementary education and music performance major from Crystal Lake, Ill., plays piano in the ensemble. She pointed out that Ellington was one of the first great orchestrators.

"One of the biggest things he did was make each individual in the band a soloist," said Strandberg. "He composed his music for specific players in the big band, not just each instrument. That is definitely something that sets his music apart from others."

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