- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 21, 2005

Music lovers from across the District came to the Duke Ellington Theatre in Northwest yesterday for a matinee concert celebrating one of America’s most prolific 20th-century composers.

The “Ellington Lives” concert, celebrating the life of Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, was performed by the Duke Ellington School of the Arts’ new Washingtonians Jazz Orchestra and directed by Davey S. Yarborough, saxophonist and chairman of Ellington’s instrumental department.

Guests clapped throughout the hourlong program, which also paid tribute to such jazz greats as Freddie Hubbard, Tadd Dameron and Richard Henderson.

The audience heard the depth of Ellington’s musical genius when Mr. Yarborough replaced such standards as “Satin Doll” and “Take the ‘A’ Train” with “Oclupaca” and “Old King Dooji.”

“I always like to give the students music that was played by the Ellington Orchestra,” he said. “Wynton Marsailles sent scores that had been transcribed from records by [arranger] Dave Berger to the students. [To make the point] that this is what they would receive if they were working on a professional level. I wanted to give them a new repertoire — a challenging one that is not watered down and what Ellington’s band played.”

Mr. Yarborough, dapper in a black tuxedo, served as master of ceremonies. Saying Ellington believed in paying tribute to the human voice, he introduced vocalist Integriti Reeves, who wowed the audience with Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.”

“We’re witnessing history,” Mr. Yarborough said. “We are building our first jazz vocal ensemble.”

Leselle Hatcher, a flutist and member of the jazz orchestra who lives in Northwest, described Ellington’s music as innovative and eclectic.

“Ellington’s music has a different vibe,” said Leselle, 17. “It’s the way you can identify Mozart from Beethoven. Ellington has his own style.”

In honor of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts’ 30th anniversary and Ellington’s birthday, grandson Edward Ellington II and his eight-piece ensemble, the Duke Ellington Legacy, traveled from New York for a performance last night. Other Ellington family members planned to attend the event.

“Like its namesake, the school has enjoyed a career of accomplishments, innovation and creativity,” said Mitzi Yates, Ellington school principal.

“Ellington is a wonderful place for young people to learn — to learn exceptional academic skills, to learn to be professionals in [a] chosen art forms and most importantly for them to learn to make significant contributions to their professions, families and the global community. We will accept nothing less from them.”

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