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The Duke Ellington Orchestra is on Blues Alley’s calendar for the weekend of April 18 – 20. The calendar entry lists them as a “Legendary Big Band,” and the band’s bio describes them as “a national treasure.”
The only problem is that Duke Ellington died in 1974. He passed the baton to his son, Mercer, who died in 1996. The current bandleader is Duke’s grandson, Paul Mercer Ellington, born four years after Duke’s death—and not even a full-time bandleader since he’s currently enrolled in the Vancouver Film School’s screenwriting program (he already has a degree in film production, suggesting that music is not his first choice for a career). Thus de facto leadership tends to fall on the shoulders of trumpeter Barrie Lee Hall, Jr. Hall was not a member of the band under Duke’s leadership, either. In fact, nobody currently in the Duke Ellington Orchestra was there when it was Duke Ellington’s orchestra. Very few are even alive, and Clark Terry is the only one left who could have been considered a star.
The band does play Duke’s repertoire, although jazz bands who play Ellington are certainly in no short supply.
Just something to take into account if you’re considering shelling out $37.75 per person, before Blues Alley’s hefty add-on fees, to see a “national treasure” you may not much recognize.