To capture the majesty and influence of Duke Ellington’s music requires a yearlong activity, each day representing a tenth of his compositions, many of them immortal standards.
Last Thursday, in preparation for the 24th International Duke Ellington Study Group Conference, an ensemble performed a few Ellington chestnuts beneath a statue of the famed composer at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue.
“Duke composed more than 3,000 songs,” Marion Cowings announced before he launched into the lyrics of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Between songs, including duets with Antoinette Montague, he offered snippets of the conference, which will be held May 19-22 and take place at locations across the city.
The small gathering of admirers included Mercedes Ellington, the Duke’s granddaughter and the founder and president of the Duke Ellington Conference Center for the Arts, and Professor Michael Dinwiddie, the organization’s board chair. Later they will hurry from site to site as the organization honors dance legend Carmen de Lavallade and introduces panels, screenings, tours and a host of other activities.
If Cowings’ and Montague’s version of “I Didn’t Know About You,” accompanied by Ilya Lushtak on guitar, Charles Goold on drums and Ari Roland on bass, is an example of the conference’s musical moments, then it’s a surefire event, and like Ellington’s music, “It’s beyond category.”
Space is not available here to list all of the events and venues that extend from St. Peter’s Church to Woodlawn Cemetery, but for more information, visit www.DECFA.org or contact Les Schecter at 917-854-3286.