Even if you loathe the romantic treacle churned out by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, you’ve got to admit that the cat could write memorable and affecting melodies. “The Nutcracker” suite is full of them, which is at least partly the reason it has become all but inescapable during the holiday season. This year, though, the music is getting a special twist or two, courtesy of The Nutcracker (Swing!) concert presented by Concordia Santa Fe, an ambitious wind ensemble comprising some of the region’s best brass, woodwind and percussion players.
First, Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” has been arranged by composer Charles Blanchard for a small chamber ensemble that includes wind instruments, bass, piano and percussion. Second, it will be performed in tandem with “The Nutcracker Suite, for Jazz Band,” Billy Strayhorn’s 1960 arrangement for Duke Ellington’s orchestra.
A 16-piece big band under the musical direction of trombonist John Leisenring will perform the Strayhorn portion of the program, alternating movements with the chamber ensemble. Trumpeter Bobby Shew will be featured on the jazz side, and the Tribute Trio—John Rangel (piano), Michael Glynn (bass) and Cal Haines (drums)—will man the big band’s rhythm section. Shew and the trio will open the evening with a short set.
The concert is a fundraiser for Concordia Santa Fe. Dedicated to introducing the wind ensemble genre to Northern New Mexico audiences, this nonprofit group has presented a series of free concerts annually since its inception in 2007. The fundraiser will help the group continue that mission in the face of rising costs, says Kurt Carr, board president. He’s hoping it will become a holiday tradition.
“Strayhorn was very sophisticated in his approach to arranging, and it’s reflected in this piece,” he says. “We’re really going to have a great time playing it.”