Larry Strayhorn, nephew of the great composer and arranger, will emcee the evening of music, featuring a 20-piece big band of UIndy students, faculty, alumni and local jazz professionals conducted by Freddie Mendoza, the university’s director of jazz studies.
The Ellington-Strayhorn “Nutcracker” was a hit recording upon its release in 1960, but until recently it was seldom performed live because the written score had not been officially published and was available only in underground transcriptions, Mendoza said.
Strayhorn, visiting from his home in Mississippi, will open the program with some historical context and memories of his uncle, who was a classically trained pianist and the composer of “Take the ‘A’ Train” and other standards.
Billy Strayhorn spent long hours in his New York apartment adapting nine segments of the classic ballet score for jazz performance. “He brought a wealth of knowledge about the classical composers,” Larry Strayhorn said. “They wanted to do something that would not make Mr. Tchaikovsky turn over in his grave.”
The 7:30 p.m. concert at Ransburg Auditorium, 1400 E. Hanna Ave., will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Billy Strayhorn’s birth. Tickets, $5 for senior citizens and college students with identification, $15 for adults, are available at (317) 788-3251 or www.uindy.edu/etc. Those ages 18 and under will be admitted free.
Strayhorn also will screen “Lush Life,” an Emmy-winning documentary about his uncle, who died of cancer in 1967, at 6:15 p.m. Dec. 4 at UIndy’s Schwitzer Student Center. Admission is free.