Jazz fans, rejoice: the first live jazz concert to take place at Vashon Center for the Arts in more than a year will happen this weekend.
Better still, it will celebrate one of the most exciting collaborations to have ever bloomed in the genre — that of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.
The event, “Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn: Partnership in Jazz,” — doing double duty as a fitting celebration of Pride Month — will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 13, at Vashon Center for the Arts, with an affordable ticket price of only $10 per person.
The event will include both a performance of Ellington and Strayhorn’s music as well a music lesson from local lecturer Michael Tracy, who has presented a number of similarly structured events on Vashon.
Tracy is responsible for bringing many rising talents in the music world to VCA’s Kay White Hall, including acclaimed classical pianists Slava Gryaznov and Albert Cano Smit.
At Sunday’s event, Tracy will share his expertise on Ellington and Strayhorn, and introduce the accomplished young jazz trio he has invited to play: pianist Dylan Hayes, Stanley Ruvinov, and drummer Xavier Lecouturier.
Tracy said he is thrilled to be able to offer the concert — which was planned more than six months ago, at the height of the pandemic, to be a live-streamed event. Now, he said, he is ecstatic that it will be possible to welcome an in-person audience to the show.
According to Tracy, both he and VCA both took on additional expense to bring the entire Dylan Hayes trio to Vashon, when it became possible to present the concert in the Kay White Hall.
“We are all desperately in need of in-person concerts, and I hope this pent-up demand will be soon a boon for musicians who have so disproportionately suffered this past year,” he said.
He also defined the concert as a chance for islanders to learn more about the brilliant and uncompromising life of Strayhorn, who was not only one of the great musical geniuses of the 20th century but also an openly out gay American musician/composer in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
“These decades were rife with homophobia in politics and business and [being gay] was basically outlawed in most states,” Tracy said. “Interestingly, no mention of Strayhorn’s sexuality was published until the 1980s.”
Tracy also said an important aspect of Strayhorn’s life as an artist was the acceptance and support offered to him by Ellington and other Black musicians of the day. Lena Horne, he said, was probably Strayhorn’s closest friend.
On Sunday, Tracy will discuss how the lives of Ellington and Strayhorn converged to create what are now indelible standards of jazz music.
Ellington’s career began in the 1920s, in a segregated Washington, D.C., where the self-taught Black American pianist, composer and bandleader embarked on a career that would last into the 1970s.
By the late 1920s, Duke Ellington was performing in Manhattan’s Cotton Club, by the 1930s playing to sold-out crowds in Paris, London, and cities throughout the United States.
In 1938, Ellington met Strayhorn, who was at that time a 23-year-old Black music prodigy. For the next 30 years, Ellington and Strayhorn created a body of work that includes “Take the A Train”, “Lush Life” and many other unforgettable hits.
To play some of those timeless songs at Sunday’s show, Tracy has invited a highly accomplished trio.
Dylan Hayes is a top jazz musician based in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the leader of the Jim Knapp Orchestra, DX-Tet, and Dylan Hayes Electric Band. Hayes’ debut record, “Songs For Rooms And People,” was released on Blujazz Productions in March 2020, and was named one of the top ten jazz albums of 2020 by The Seattle Times.
Stanley Ruvinov is a bassist and musician from Bellevue, Washington. He was born into a life of music, beginning his studies on the cello at age 7. In his teenage years, he found a love of the bass, and began his contrabass studies, shortly discovering the art of jazz. Ruvinov has played professionally around the Greater Seattle area since age 15 in such recognized venues as Tula’s and the Royal Room. He is currently working towards his Master’s in Music at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Xavier Lecouturier is an American drummer and composer with French and Mexican heritage and is a recent graduate of the Cornish College of the Arts Music Department. As a composer, Xavier encompasses various influences and styles: classical music, Latin jazz, Mexican pop-rock, and American pop – combining all these influences to bring something new to the tradition of jazz and modern music.
“Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn: Partnership in Jazz” will have in-person seating for a limited capacity in the Kay White Hall. It will also be live-streamed on the VCA website and YouTube page.
Tickets must be purchased 24 hours prior to the show to allow for seat mapping. To reserve seats with a Resilience Pass, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-259-3007. Strict adherence to the VCA Patron Protocol is required for in-person attendance to events and performances held in the Kay White Hall auditorium. For more information, visit vashoncenterforthearts.org.