Media Centre

Press release

Concerts and workshops presented by ADMAF contribute to enhance cultural bridging

26th May 2010

DUKE ELLINGTON BIG BAND PERFORMANCES LEAVE AUDIENCES SPELLBOUND FOR THEIR FIRST PERFORMANCE IN THE ARAB WORLD

The Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) presented two inspiring performances by the Duke Ellington Big Band, one of America’s most celebrated jazz bands, in Al Ain and in Abu Dhabi on May 23 and May 25 respectively. The band’s first ever appearances in the Arab World featured jazz improvisations that revived the legacy of one of the most prominent jazz musicians worldwide, enchanting audiences in both cities. The performances were preceded by workshops for students at the UAE University in Al Ain and the American Community School in Abu Dhabi, in line with the Foundation’s commitment to advance art education in the UAE.

The Duke Ellington Big Band’s tour of Al Ain and Abu Dhabi falls within ADMAF’s efforts to contribute to the UAE’s role in promoting cultural dialogue through art. The band’s twin concerts featured a rich programme of jazz improvisations including some Duke Ellington classics such as “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, “I Ain’t Got Nothing but the Blues”, “East St. Louis Toodle-oo”, “In my Solitude” and others. The harmonious performances of the musicians, the singers and the dancers resulted in a brilliant show that took audiences on a journey of cultural discoveries.

The workshops, presented at the UAE University in Al Ain on May 23rd and the American Community School on May 25th, provided an opportunity for students and up and coming artists to get more closely acquainted with this style of music, stimulating cultural interchange.

Her Excellency Hoda Al-Khamis Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, said:

“It has been a great pleasure to host the Duke Ellington Big Band, formed after one of the greatest jazz legends of all time, in Abu Dhabi. A central part of the band’s activities in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi has been the educational workshops they conducted for students from the UAE University and the American Community School and this represents the core spirit of ADMAF. While inviting musicians to perform in the UAE is important for advancing cultural dialogue, making sure these talented artists interact with our young generation, inspire them, educate them about their style of music and learn from them in return about our wonderful heritage is crucial for creating lasting cultural ties. The Duke Ellington Big Band’s tour is part of ADMAF’s extensive efforts to establish such ties. ”

The Duke Ellington Big Band is a jazz collective which aims to keep alive the legacy he left behind and the music that has spoken to so many people. The Band is led by Mercedes Ellington, a choreographer, producer and theatrical composer, who is also the founder and president of the Duke Ellington centre for Arts and the torchbearer of the Ellington sound. She ensures the authenticity of the performance of the 15-piece band, which features some of the respected Duke Ellington band alumni. Commenting on the Band’s first ever performances in the Arab World, Mercedes Ellington said:

“Performing concerts and presenting workshops in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi have been enriching experiences for the band members. The excitement with which we have been met has been overwhelming and the band members have been able to truly engage with the students through the workshops they presented, paving the way for a constructive cultural exchange. We look forward to similar opportunities to bring our music to this wonderful part of the world.”

The late Duke Ellington has been credited with taking big band jazz music from the dance halls and elevating it to an art form. His career, which spanned more than 50 years, won him a posthumous honour from the Pulitzer Prize board in 1999, which shows how his music continues to resonate with people decades after his death.