We suppose the swing revival is still going strong in Dallas. So many local clubs are cashing in on the craze that you could probably take free swing-dance lessons just about every night of the week. That's fine. But if you're interested in more than just dressing in your grandparents' old clothes so you can cut a rug to a CD of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies (please say you are), you might want to check out "We Love You Madly!," a celebration of Duke Ellington's 100th birthday hosted by the South Dallas Cultural Center.
The concert will take place at the Majestic Theatre, where Ellington performed almost 67 years ago. Barrie Lee Hall, a trumpeter hand-picked by Duke himself in 1973, is now the conductor of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and he'll be at the Majestic with a 16-piece band and Dallas chanteuse Sandra Kaye. We don't know what songs Hall has put on the set list--it must be hard to pare down 60 years of accomplished and prodigious composing into a tribute lasting just a couple of hours--but you can expect just about anything. Ellington cut his teeth on ragtime, found success playing the "Hot Jazz" of the 1920s, was an innovator of swing in the '30s and '40s, and continued to write pop standards into the '50s. While he's most widely known for the last period--which saw him produce such gems as "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Mood Indigo," and, yes, "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" --Ellington had his hands all over other kinds of projects up until his death in 1974.
From composing complex suites based on literary works ("Suite Thursday") to tackling the civil rights issue musically ("My People") to putting his personal stamp on classical music (Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite") to scoring films (Anatomy of a Murder), Ellington just about did it all. And that's only a short list. He also composed sacred music, recorded with and influenced some of the best jazz artists of the era (actually, several eras), recorded cross-cultural pieces, appeared in movies, and even painted. To top it off, he was one suave guy.
So if you go to the Majestic, you may not know what compositions you're going to hear, but you know they'll be good. And you'll know they're just a taste of what Ellington contributed to our culture.
--Larra Ann Robertson
"We Love You Madly!" takes place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Majestic Theatre. Proceeds will benefit the South Dallas Cultural Center's youth programs. Call (214) 939-ARTS for ticket information.