December 8, 2010
Jeffrey Lindberg, professor of music and director of the Wooster Symphony Orchestra and The College of Wooster Jazz Ensemble, recently completed the first-ever authentic transcription of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's highly acclaimed jazz arrangement of Tchaikovsky's “The Nutcracker Suite.”
WOOSTER, Ohio — Fifty years after Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn recorded their highly acclaimed jazz arrangement of Tchaikovsky's “The Nutcracker Suite,” the project is finally complete. Jeffrey Lindberg, professor of music at The College of Wooster, recently put the finishing touches on the first-ever authentic transcription of the legendary duo’s collaboration.
Assembled from the original manuscripts held in the Strayhorn Repository and the Ellington Collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, Lindberg carefully crosschecked the music with recordings by the original Duke Ellington Orchestra and filled in the gaps.
“Portions of the music were never written down,” said Lindberg, who serves as director of the Wooster Symphony Orchestra and The College of Wooster Jazz Ensemble. “There were also certain sections where the musicians just improvised.”
Lindberg was commissioned by Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc., which owns the manuscripts. There are nine movements in the “Nutcracker Suite,” seven of which were arranged by Strayhorn and two by Ellington.
The transcription process, which took about six months to complete, required Lindberg to pore over the existing manuscripts and write out a full score. Then he would listen carefully to the Ellington recording for the different timbres and textures, so that he could make revisions based on what he heard and notate it in the music. He also transcribed the improvised solos from the original recording.
Lindberg was chosen for the project because he is one of the few musicians capable of doing this type of transcription. “I started getting into it when I was in college,” said Lindberg, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. “I learned that many arrangements by the great big bands were never published, so I listened to the original recordings and created transcriptions for our jazz band.”
Another reason original big band arrangements were not published was because popular band leaders, like Duke Ellington and Count Basie, didn’t want other bands playing their music using arrangements that were “customized” for their respective ensembles, according to Lindberg.
The project was completed in May, and the music was made available this fall by Alfred’s Music Publishing, the world’s largest educational music publisher. Alyce Claerbaut, president of Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc., praised Lindberg’s work and noted the importance of the project, saying “How great it is to finally get the original score.”
The full set and parts are available though Alfred Retailers worldwide.
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