MUSIC | A truly dreamy Duke Ellington tribute at the Ordway


There are songs, and there are moments I don’t know how to explain.
How the voice is an instrument that I cannot control.
It goes on through infinity, it becomes a song
and it is only one sentiment in the audience and in the voice.
And in the voice.

There are songs and there are moments when the voice comes from deep within.
And I don’t know if it’s from sadness
or when I’m full of joy.
I just know that there are moments that create a union with a song.
The making of this marriage is what I live for.

-Milton Nascimento, “Songs and Moments,” translation by Paul Ritchie

Mike Garson arranged a pool of talent including himself on piano, Nnenna Freelon and Harolyn Blackwell on vocals, Virginia Mayhew on sax and clarinet, and Akua Dixon on cello to create an ensemble that brought two hours of heavenly noise to the Ordway stage last Sunday in Dreaming the Duke, part of Target’s World Music series. If you missed it, see if you can fly somewhere—anywhere!—to hear it.

I’m at a loss to explain how amazing it was, so I thought I’d defer to the epic Brazilian maestro, Milton Nascimento, as quoted above. The last two lines illustrate perfectly how the union of Freelon’s soft as silk, light as an angel, deep as troubled waters, and gifted presentation along with Blackwell’s intense as hell’s fire, clear as blue skies, and elegant and sexy as Sophia Loren’s voice create a marriage that one would dare not divorce.

At first, the juxtaposition of scat jazz and opera seemed odd, a road less traveled. Onstage, Freelon noted that Garson took the performers outside of their comfort zones to interpret Ellington’s compositions. Thus, the audience is outside their comfort zone occasionally as well. But, if you could just sit back and enjoy the celebration, you were lucky! This show was indeed a Dream.