The columns in Woolsey Hall swung to the melodious sounds of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band Friday as the group performed to a sold-out crowd of both New Haven residents and Yalies.
The concert was held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Duke Ellington Fellowship at Yale. Founded by Willie Ruff, a professor at the Yale School of Music, the fellowship was designed both to preserve American jazz culture and to let professional artists share their knowledge with New Haven school children.
The Yale Office of New Haven and State Affairs, along with the School of Music, sponsored the event.
“This is going to be a magical evening,” said Michael Morand, associate vice president for New Haven and state affairs.
“Nothing compares to what we all are part of tonight,” Morand said in his welcoming remarks.
Morand and Ruff spoke to the audience about the successes of the program and its importance to Yale and New Haven.
“Yale is honored for the opportunity to shower glory on such a legacy that has signified that which is most enduring about the human enterprise,” Ruff said.
Morand estimated that 180,000 New Haven school students have had the opportunity to listen to and learn from the Duke Ellington Fellows during the last 30 years.
The Duke Ellington Fellows have included jazz legends such as the Duke himself, Marion Anderson, Eubie Blake, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Max Roach and Slam Stewart.
Four more jazz legends — Slide Hampton, Jerry Dodgion, Frank Wess and Jon Faddis –joined the prestigious group of artists Friday night.
Hampton, Dodgion and Wess are all alumni of the Duke Ellington Band. Faddis, the music director of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, played at the Duke Ellington Fellowship inaugural concert 30 years ago.
The concert also featured Sean McClowery MUS ’02, last year’s winner of the Slam Stewart scholarship, performing his own composition, titled “Parting the Waters: for solo bass.” The piece chronicles the story of the civil rights movement and was performed on Stewart’s double bass. Stewart has willed his entire estate — including his double bass — to the School of Music upon his death.
In addition to the concert, there has also been an exhibit on the history of the Duke Ellington Fellowship at the main branch of the New Haven Public Library. The exhibit, which runs until the end of October, includes photographs of the fellows at work in the New Haven schools and at Yale performances.