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New York City Center & Jazz at Lincoln Center Present Duke Ellington’s "Cotton Club Parade", Featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
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New York City Center & Jazz at Lincoln Center Present Duke Ellington’s "Cotton Club Parade", Featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

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New York City Center &
Jazz at Lincoln Center
Duke Ellington’s
Cotton Club Parade

Featuring Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
With Wynton Marsalis

Music Director: Wynton Marsalis
Directed and Choreographed by Warren Carlyle
Conceived by Jack Viertel
Selected Text by Langston Hughes
Scenic Consultant: John Lee Beatty
Costume Consultant: Toni-Leslie James
Lighting Designer: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Designer: Scott Lehrer
Casting: Laura Stanczyk, CSA
Company Manager: Michael Zande
Production Stage Manager: Peter Lawrence
Assoc. Music Director: Daryl Waters
Music Supervisor: Kay Niewood
Press: Helene Davis PR

At City Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 19, 2011

In the celebratory month of City Center’s grand refurbishment and redecoration, Wynton Marsalis arrived this week with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He brought sixteen musicians with him, and this Orchestra, which has been reviewed many times in this magazine, was onstage and on fire. The new lighting system and background special effects were on full display, making every song and dance routine ever so enchanting. There were no fewer than 24 numbers, some including Savoy swing, Charleston, Broadway jazz, hip hop, or tap dance, some including sparkling, sultry vocals, and many including Ellington compositions, like “Daybreak Express”, “Creole Love Call”, “The Mooche” (Ellington and Irving Mills), and East St. Louis Toddle-oo (Ellington and Bubber Miley). Celebrities were all about the audience, including Reverend Sharpton, and the ninety minute show was performed without intermission. So, the intensity and excitement built throughout the evening.

Brandon Victor Dixon, who starred Off-Broadway in The Scottsboro Boys, was Host for the evening, as Wynton was rear stage in his Orchestra with his trumpet ensemble. Mr. Dixon looked right out of a swell Harlem nightclub, formal wide suit and full step strut. Some of tonight’s highlights included the jazz singer, Carla Cook, crooning “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” (McHugh and Fields, arr. by David Berger) and “The Gal from Joe’s” (Ellington and Mills). The audience swooned. The comedic, campy, and oh-so-true show put on by vocalist, Adrienne Lenox, was an instant hit, as she belted out “Women Be Wise” (Wallace, transc. by Lopeman) and “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night” (Easton and Waters, arr. by Dick Hyman). She had that uptown, been-there-done-that attitude with a voice that could slice pie.

There were few sets or props, not to distract from the rear stage Orchestra, that occasionally played behind the shadows of a scrim, but we did see red balloons for a full dance ensemble, transportable stage stairs that dancers tapped up and down, and great sky screens, thanks to the lighting design. It was during “I’ve Got the World On a String” (Arlen and Koehler, arr. by Ellington, transc. by Lopeman, add. orchest. By Berger) that the red balloons enhanced swinging choreography. At one point, five male dancers, lined up by height, danced in synchronized tap like a moving human caravan. They were sensational.

When the Orchestra was the star, it played “Braggin’ in Brass” (Ellington, Nemo, and Mills, transc. by Berger) with lots of solo riffs for Mr. Marsalis himself. Other brass players were Trumpets – Ryan Kisor, Kenny Rampton, Marcus Printup, Trombones – Vincent Gardner, Chris Crenshaw, Wayne Goodman, and Sousaphone – V. Gardner. The brass contingent was prominent throughout the evening. The Orchestra was again showcased in “The Mooche” (Ellington and Mills, transc. by Berger). Brassy Saxophones and smooth Clarinets were in the Reeds contingent, with – Sherman Irby, Ted Nash, Walter Blanding, Victor Goines, and Joe Temperley. On Guitar and Banjo was James Chirillo, plus Dan Nimmer on Piano, Carlos Henriquez on Bass, and Ali Jackson on Drums. Each of these musicians could star in a concert of his own.

Jared Grimes brought out vocal accolades in frenzied fervor with “Goin’ Nuts” (choreog. by Grimes, comp. by Hodges, arr. by Ellington, transc. by Lopeman), as he tap danced up a storm, with the help of an ebullient Orchestra. My personal favorites, other than Ms. Lenox’ two numbers, were Mr. Dixon and Ms. Cook’s duo, “Ill Wind/Stormy Weather” (Arlen and Koehler, arr. by Berger) and “Raisin’ the Rent/Get Yourself a New Broom” (Arlen and Koehler, arr. by Ellington, transc. by Lopeman and Crenshaw, add. orchest. by Berger), featuring Alexandria “Brinae Ali” Bradley, Kendrick Jones, and DeWitt Fleming, Jr. Plus, “Cotton Club Stomp” (Ellington, Carney, and Hodges, arr. by Wilber), with the entire Orchestra and Company. It’s tough to choose favorites, as tonight was non-stop jazz paradise, with explosive, yet elegant, music and motion. Kudos to all.

Cast of "Cotton Club Parade"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Jared Grimes in
"Cotton Club Parade"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Cast of "Cotton Club Parade"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at