Jazz Legend Delfeayo Marsalis Speaks on Ellington and Shakespeare
Marsalis will discuss how Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn translated Shakespearean characters and works into their 1957 jazz suite Such Sweet Thunder, his archival research into their compositional processes and his own musical reinterpretation of the suite, released in 2011 as Sweet Thunder: Duke and Shak.
Rather than merely recreating the classic work, which is comprised of musical depictions of characters from William Shakespeare’s plays, Marsalis took the work as a point of departure for his octet, creating fresh and new music inspired by the original suite.
“In some ways Sweet Thunder started for me in the seventh grade when I wrote a paper on my great uncle Wellman Braud, who played with Duke Ellington in the 1920s,” he said. “While attending the University of Louisville, I wrote a thesis paper on Ellington and Shakespeare. For the project, I went to the Smithsonian and studied the original copies of the music for Such Sweet Thunder.
“I didn’t want to just play what Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn wrote in 1957, but to imagine what they might have written if they were here today, more than 50 years later. To me this is jazz opera without the vocals, telling a story with the dramatic music.”
Marsalis is one of the top trombonists, composers and producers in jazz today. In January 2011, Delfeayo and the Marsalis family (Father Ellis and brothers Branford, Wynton and Jason) earned the nation’s highest jazz honor—a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award.
As a bandleader, he has earned wide acclaim for his first three albums as a leader: Pontius Pilate’s Decision (1992), Musashi (1997) and Minions Dominion (2006).
In 2004 he earned a Master of Arts in jazz performance at the University of Louisville and received a doctorate from New England College in 2009. He has composed more than 80 songs that help introduce kids to jazz and has led numerous workshops and masterclasses across the country for music students of all ages.
Marsalis will also be working with jazz students in the Glenn Korff School of Music during his visit to UNL.
Marsalis’s lecture is sponsored by the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, the Glenn Korff School of Music, the Department of English, and the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. The Flatwater Shakespeare Company is proud to be affiliated with this special event.
Love Library is located at 13th and R Streets on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln city campus.