News > Review: CJO’s Such Sweet Strayhorn

Charleston Jazz Orchestra on stage at the Charleston Music Hall

Last night the Charleston Jazz Orchestra took the stage for the opening performance of their sixth season, in residence at their ‘House of Swing,’ the Charleston Music Hall. Jazz Artists of Charleston Executive Director Leah Suarez took a moment to recognize Charles Carmody for his monumental efforts in reinvigorating the space at 37 John Street. Their collaborative spirits make both organizations stronger. In our Winter 2014 issue, we featured all the goodness that’s been going down and coming up at the Charleston Music Hall.

Such Sweet Strayhorn featured the music of legendary composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn. Strayhorn may not be a household name, but his main collaborator, Duke Ellington, is. I first became familiar with Strayhorn’s work through the annual Holiday Swing, where the CJO plays the Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington Nutcracker Suite. After that, I began to realize just how many beloved jazz standards like “Take the A Train” were the work and genius of Strayhorn.

Bandleader & CJO Music Director Charlton Singleton took a moment to introduce each song, charming the audience with informative tidbits. More than fun facts, the audience left the Hall more knowledgeable about jazz as a whole, and particularly about the man behind the evening’s music.

Gerald Gregory on piano

Kevin Hackler on trumpet

The Music:
After All and Multi Colored Blue were introduced as the ‘romantic portion of the evening,’ ballads that the lovers in the room were encouraged to get up and dance to–which the young folks beside us did! During After All, Phil King’s solo proved that the trombone really can melt your heart, however unlikely that may seem (unless you’re me and adore the trombone). Jon Phillips’ alto sax solo during Multi Colored Blue was easily the crowd favorite of the evening. Singleton provided the vocals and Kevin Hackler soloed with skill on trumpet, but it was Phillips who really earned the audience’s boisterous applause.

I particularly loved Such Sweet Thunder, which featured two of my favorite musicians, Stephan Barry on trumpet and Gerald Gregory on piano. A Big Welcome to Jon Thornton on trumpet. Thornton is a recent transplant to Charleston and played his first gig with the CJO last night. He helped found the Charlotte Jazz Orchestra, and Singleton expressed his joy at having another trumpet player in town–not that he’s biased or anything. Given my affinity for the horn section, I’m pretty stoked too.

Singleton introduced Take the A Train as “arguably one of the greatest Jazz songs ever written.” It was the signature song of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and really embodies the staccato rhythm of Manhattan, the energy of a city that never sleeps, the beauty, and the cacophony as well. During Take the A Train, I was transported back to that magnificent city, and I still got to wake up in Charleston. Now that’s true magic.

Charlton Singleton directs; Robert Lewis on alto sax

The Musicians:
In addition to the folks I’ve already mentioned, a few more high fives must be doled out: bassist Jeremy Wolf pulling the bow during Lush Life; Robert Lewis in Johnny Come Lately; every time Ron Wiltrout (percussion) pulled out the whisks, and the cow bell during Johnny Come Lately; Mark Sterbank’s arrangement of Chelsea Bridge; Chuck Dalton on trumpet during Intimacy of the Blues. I could easily go on, but I’m already over my word count.

The JAC:
One of the things I love most about the CJO and the JAC is their commitment to educating their patrons. They’ll be announcing the special events for JAC Week (April 6 – 12) soon. In past years they hosted intimate concerts, lunch time lectures, and more. Definitely mark your calendars and keep an eye out for their announcements. With their new, much larger digs in Cannonborough, I wager that there will be some very worthy programs during JAC Week.

We are so privileged to have so many talented musicians in Charleston. They are full time musicians, teachers, band leaders, lawyers, principals, and more. They’re playing every day, all over town–just check the Jazz Around Town calendar to find them. Please support these artists, and all the talented musicians in our fair city. We are truly blessed.

words: Stacy Huggins
images: Mariana Veloso Slater

Posted on February 23, 2014 by admin.

Categories: Performing Arts, Review

Tags: Billy Strayhorn, Charleston Jazz Orchestra, Charleston Music Hall, Cjo, Jac, Jazz Artists Of Charleston, Live Music, Such Sweet Strayhorn

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