Friday, November 22, 2013

SMU Jazz Ensemble to perform jazzy twist on ‘The Nutcracker Suite’

WINONA, Minn. — The jazz musicians of Saint Mary’s University will bring a modern classic to town as they perform the amazing Duke Ellington / Billy Strayhorn arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, in SMU’s Page Theatre.

Recorded in 1960 by Duke Ellington and his orchestra, this interpretation takes the classic ballet settings and turns them inside out. Noted jazz educator and historian Gunther Schuller wrote, “There are leaps of high imagination on every page. In Ellington’s ‘Nutcracker,’ they seem to come in just about every measure. I consider this one of the great American scores, and you'll probably never hear it at your local symphony!”

The modern arrangement of Duke Ellington’s original scores includes transcriptions of many of the original solos – most notably those of legendary clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton. Regional woodwind virtuoso David Townsend will be featured as guest clarinetist for this performance.

In addition to the Ellington masterpiece, Jazz Combo 1 will perform two arrangements by SMU jazz director A. Eric Heukeshoven that also take familiar holiday themes and infuse them with a healthy dose of jazz.

Rounding out the evening will be vocal performances of seasonal favorites by SMU students Keotta House and Gabriel Verges.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors and are available by calling the SMU Box Office, (507) 457-1715, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, or online at

For more information please contact A. Eric Heukeshoven at (507) 457-7292 or