New Duke Jazz with Black History Month Concert Feb. 19
New Duke, a jazz ensemble directed by bassist/composer Brian Torff, will celebrate Black History Month in a concert at 7:30 p.m.,Thursday, February 19, at Gonzaga Auditorium. The opening band will be The Lionfish, a Fairfield University rock band. Admission is free and open to the general public.
New Duke is an exciting eight-piece jazz ensemble that brings the past music of Duke Ellington alive in a new way. New Duke is the power of Ellington’s music combined with the grooves of hip-hop, rock and reggae. The contemporary arrangements by bassist and musical director Torff, director of jazz and popular music at Fairfield, are designed for a stellar band consisting of horns, rhythm and vocalist Darryl Tookes.
This concert will premiere a new Torff composition dedicated to the life of Nelson Mandela, “The Mandela Freedom Suite.” The three-part suite is comprised of Mandela quotes set to melodies. “American music is black music and we celebrate it every time we perform,” said Torff. “For example, we play Duke Ellington’s music but fearlessly perform mashups with Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Cream, Pharrell Williams, ska, reggae, and whatever else I can throw in the gumbo!” The group often performs with hip-hop style rhythm tracks that create a new creative energy in jazz. “As Flying Lotus said recently, we have to change it up,” Torff said.
New Duke has performed at summer jazz festivals and in concerts and has appeared twice for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant at the University. Tracks from New Duke’s recording can be heard on their website www.newdukemusic.com.
New Duke consists of Darryl Tookes, vocals; Brian Torff, bass, arranger and composer, harmonica, and vocals ; Jamie Finnegan, trumpet; Rick Sadlon, saxophone and flute ; Steve Moran, tenor and baritone sax; John Fumasoli, trombone ; Dave Childs, keyboards; and Don Mulvaney, drums. Support for this project comes from Fairfield University’s Black Studies program and the Fairfield University Music Program. Several members teach in the music program.
“We need to combine artistry with an engaging performance that invites the audience to come along with the musicians,” Torff said. “It is basic human communication, call and response. When I arrange and compose music for New Duke, I have both a musical and an entertainment effect that I hope to achieve. I expect the band’s wonderful musicians to deliver not just the notes but the feeling behind the music, and we should have a great time doing it. Every performance must be a celebration.”
Check out “Amad,” the band’s first video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTEbJFyLwlI&feature=youtu.be