Have You Heard About... Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite

… what happens when you mix a classical favorite with great jazz? Anna Harwell Celenza and Don Tate bring the story to life in Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite. In 1960, Duke Ellington and his best friend Billy Strayhorn were hot. A record producer offered them the opportunity to do whatever they wanted – any music at all – if Duke signed a contract with him. He wanted to push himself and try music that was completely new, so he decided to take Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and add his own special twist to it. Duke and Billy created something that was both Tchaikovsky’s and theirs, and is unmistakably jazz.

This book is based on historical events, confirmed through letters, memoirs, photographs, and other records, and embellished by the author’s imagination. Both the text and the art cleverly show the hard work that went into making this beautiful music. The Sugar Plum Fairies become a West Indian beauty named Sugar Rum Cherry, and the “Waltz of the Flowers” turned into “Danse of the Floreadores” (flashy big spenders). To help readers get in the mood, the book is accompanied by a CD with a recording of the jazzy Nutcracker Suite.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)