They say blood is thicker than water, and when it comes to The Duke Ellington Orchestra, the family lines are still flowing strong after more than 75 years. The pedigree is impressive. Edward "Duke" Kennedy Ellington led his illustrious orchestra to prominence in the 1920s through a series of radio broadcasts from New York City's legendary Cotton Club. Over the next fifty years, Ellington would lead his extraordinary jazz ensemble, hailed as the greatest of jazz bands, in such classics as It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing), Take the ';A' Train and Cotton Club Stomp. Duke's son, Mercer Ellington, took over the conductor's spot in the 1970s, continuing the family's legacy by performing his father's famed compositions as well as adding some of his original works to the playlist. Mercer's son, Paul Mercer Ellington, was born four years after the Duke's death, but by the age of fourteen, he knew what he was destined to do. Paul took the helm of the orchestra after his father's death, in 1996. "I was barely eighteen years old and had no clue," Paul says. "Apart from my grandfather, I think I was probably the youngest conductor of a jazz ensemble -- at least at the time."
Now, at the ripe old age of 25, Paul Ellington has shaken off the jump-jivin' jitters as he continues the successful family saga by adding his own compositions to the legendary collection. "There are over 5,000 songs now," he says. "I try to keep the integrity of the music there. ... We might open a solo up so a member can play a little more; it all depends on what mood we are in. But when you ask somebody, 'Who is the Duke Ellington Orchestra?' they definitely don't have a blank stare."
Dive into the ensemble's doo-wahs tonight at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 East Iliff Avenue. A pre-concert lecture on the Jazz Age will warm the room at 6:30 p.m. and is included in the $30-$75 ticket price; the orchestra strikes up at 7:30. Tickets are available at the Newman Center box office, 2240 East Buchtel Boulevard, or at Ticketmaster outlets. Log on to www.du.edu/newmancenter or call 303-871-7720 for more information. -- Kity Ironton
Flamenco Vivo brings tradition to life
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, a New York-based dance company, will help thaw out Colorado this week with two sizzling performances of the traditional Spanish dance. "I think flamenco has a very exotic allure to it," says company founder Carlota Santana. "Flamenco is based on feeling and expression; it's an art form that brings people together."
The show can be seen at 8 p.m. tonight at the Pikes Peak Center, 190 South Cascade Avenue in Colorado Springs, and as part of the CU Artist Series, at 7:30 p.m. January 20 at the University of Colorado's Macky Auditorium in Boulder.
The Flamenco Vivo performance will include two works, "Bailaor/Bailaora," which details the evolution of flamenco dance and music from the early 1900s through today, and "En el Café de Chinitas," which celebrates the flamenco culture. "The second piece has a Spanish-nightclub setting," says Santana. "It's much more of a traditional piece."
Ticket prices for tonight's Colorado Springs performance of Flamenco Vivo range from $21.50 to $40.50 and can be purchased by calling 1-719-520-7455 or visiting www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets for Tuesday's Boulder performance range from $10 to $40 and are available by calling 303-492-8008 or online at www.cuconcerts.org.
"We felt that this was a really valuable cultural experience, given the strong Hispanic culture that we have in metro Denver," explains CU spokeswoman Laima Gaigalas. "Ticket sales have been very strong." -- Julie Dunn
Eric Gangloff's got the beat. Performing under the name Pleistocene, Gangloff fuses computerized compositions with live acoustic guitar to create dynamic digital ditties. In one arrangement, Gangloff assigns a music note to each letter in the alphabet, then creates a surreal cyber-score by translating a disintegrated poem from Dada artist Neil Mills. "The melodies come from each word and transform into something that is very repetitive and familiar," Gangloff says. "There's a fun element of excitement and involvement in this type of piece." Tonight Pleistocene will gather with other sound composers at Breakdown Book Collective & Community Space, 1409 Ogden Street, to participate in the latest installment of an ongoing series in experimental music. Local laptoppers George and Caplin, The pHarmanaut, E23, Marcellus Lewis and cuechamp will turn out technological tempos to accompany video expressions from devslashnull. The free sound waves roll at 9 p.m.; donations are encouraged to help keep Breakdown's collective doors open. "There are not a lot of venues for this kind of performance," says Gangloff. "This is not something you would see in the bar and club scene. We want to give people a chance to see something new and different while expanding the idea of what a musician is." Call 303-832-7952 or visit www.breakdowncollective.org for more information. -- Kity Ironton
Ho on the Range
Patsy DeCline rides again
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"She's a tramp," says singer Lannie Garrett of her country-Western alter ego, Patsy DeCline. "She's a little round-heels gal." Convenient, then, that Patsy's taking up residence at a hotel, the Westin in Westminster, where Westward 'Ho, the 2004 incarnation of the country-music-queen spoof, opens tonight and runs through March. "She evolves every year, even if she doesn't want to," Garrett says of Patsy. "There's so much audience interaction. She's got the basic monologue, but there's a lot of ad-lib." In addition to delivering plenty of snappy patter, Patsy will belt out her own ribald versions of country-Western classics, backed by the Rockers.
Patsy took last year off after a decade-long run (she lost her longtime home in the Denver Buffalo Company), but Garrett promises that she's ready to kick up those heels in her new venue, a nightclub-like spot next door to the hotel. And in fact, Patsy didn't disappear entirely last year -- Garrett found that the bawdy bad girl kept popping up in other performances.
"I think there's always been a little Patsy DeCline in me," she confesses.
For tickets, call 303-410-5000. -- Patricia Calhoun