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Jazz clubs in 1940s New York, photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Night at the Cotton Club: a show with jazz pedigree (+ ticket giveaway)

By Jennifer Cavanagh on April 22, 2016

Apartment 613 spoke with conductor and Night at the Cotton Club co-creator Jeff Tyzik at his home in New York.

Jeff Tyzik, photo from his website.

Jeff Tyzik, photo from his website.

With Night at the Cotton Club, Jeff Tyzik promises to take Ottawa back in time to a Harlem sparkling with the top entertainers of the 1920s and 30s. The gifted guest conductor will take the reins from NAC conductor Alexander Shelley for three nights, transforming the NAC orchestra in a “truly unique experience”.

“We set up the entire evening and transform the stage in to the historic Cotton Club by arranging the orchestra in a horseshoe configuration, adding in a saxophone section and leaving ample space centre stage for world-class soloists.”

And these soloists promise to dazzle. It was with renowned trumpeter and vocalists Byron Stripling, who has toured with Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman and more, that Tyzik was compelled to create the show.

“When Byron and I created this show, it wasn’t just that it was a good idea. It was love of the era and of the Cotton Club, it was the knowledge that with our own connections to the jazz masters of the past, we could bring history back. The creation of Night at the Cotton Club took on an importance capturing our imaginations and it is why we do the show the way we do it: partial tribute and partial living historical document to the times and the music. “

“All the music is from the prohibition years, from 1926-1932, spanning the era of the Cotton Club’s in-house Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway orchestras. The show is incredibly fast paced.” In keeping with the original club’s fast and furious floorshows, where Lena Horne and Josephine Baker brought sizzle and style, Tyzik promises “action every few minutes. The rules aren’t the same as in a classical concert. We embrace spontaneous feedback and reactions – it’s a different vibe.“

One performer who promises to ignite the room is tap great Ted Louis Levy; protégé of Gregory Hines, Emmy award winner, Tony award nominee and world-famous dancer, choreographer and vocalist. Like Tyzik and Stripling, Levy provides a direct connection with jazz history having trained and danced with masters such as Jimmy Slyde.

Tyzik tells us, “The performers are a direct link to the greatest masters that came before them. They are not just trained; these people are the real deal. When audiences hear them perform, they are but one step away from the jazz greats.”

Carmen Bradford is a star with remarkable jazz lineage. The vocalist sang with the Count Basie Orchestra and a breathtaking array of famous names including James Brown, Lou Rawls, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Herbie Hancock, and Frank Sinatra. A story Tyzik shared, that trivia buffs will love, is that “it was Bradford’s disc found in Ella Fitzgerald’s CD player when the legendary singer passed away.”

Tyzik touched on the innovation of the era reflected in the music and the culture of the time. “Through our respect for the integrity of the music we are bringing back that originality and excitement.” said Tyzik. The music remains relevant today, and through their connection to the time and respect for the music’s integrity, they are sharing a cultural and musical legacy.

“It doesn’t get any closer than this.”

Night at the Cotton Club runs April 28th-30th at the National Arts Centre. Tickets start at $25 and are available online.

Contest: Apt613 has two tickets to give away to this event. To enter, send an email to apartment613@gmail.com with the subject header “Cotton Club”. A winner will be selected by random draw at noon on Tuesday, April 26th.

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