The Duke’s Men: Detroit Jazz Artists Explore the Music of Duke Ellington’s Band

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This Sunday at Scarab Clubjazz ensemble the Detroit Jazz Septet will perform the work of legendary conductor and composer Duke Ellington. Co-directed by the drummer RJ Spangler and bassist John Barron, the DJ7 also includes Michael Zaporski, James O’Donnell, Tbone Paxton, Goode Wyche IIIand Jim Holden. Listen to CultureShift’s Amanda LeClaire talk with Spangler about how Ellington balanced touring, songwriting and recording with her amazing band.

“The frontman of the large group, Duke Ellington, took care of recording smaller groups selected from the ranks of his group, sometimes called ‘The Duke’s Men’. Ellington has often featured mainstays such as alto saxophone master Johnny Hodges, tenor saxophone titan Paul Gonsalves, and trumpet virtuoso Clark Terry, while Duke’s great collaborator Billy Strayhorn contributed compositions, arrangements and even played piano on some of the recordings. Duke used these groups to support guest stars like Coleman Hawkins, which resulted in a classic album released in 1963 on Impulse! label. He has also recorded for the Columbia, Legacy, Variety, Vocalion and Okeh labels with these smaller units.

One of Detroit’s best contemporary bassists, John barron is an active composer and educator. He created several original compositions for compliment the works of Duke Ellington that Spangler has collected over the years.

Ada J. Kenney