On Saturday, December 9th, the Rainbow City Jazz Band performed at the Seattle Center Armory amidst a bustling crowd enjoying food from local vendors. The performers were dressed in black concert attire, but also wore fun holiday accessories like purple and red Santa hats, jingle bell light up necklaces, the pianist in a purple sequin hat, and one performer even had red reindeer antlers! Once the band got started, the crowd grew quieter, and we relaxed to enjoy the music in our seats.
Many are familiar with the classic ballet, The Nutcracker, which was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93) in 1892 for a two-act ballet. At Winterfest, the Rainbow City Jazz Band performed Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's "Nutcracker Suite" that is a jazz arrangement. Did you know that in this version, the Sugar Plum Fairy becomes the sultry Sugar Rum Cherry, and the Dance of the Reed Pipes becomes Toot Toot Tootie Toot! You can read more about the history of this piece here.
Stephen Kennedy introduced the Rainbow City Jazz Band and explained to the audience the song choices. The connection between the song selection and this particular jazz band, was made clear when Stephen read the Rainbow City Performing Arts mission statement.
We are an organization of performance ensembles creating a diverse and inclusive environment for musical expression that promotes the equity and visibility of people in the LGBTQIA+ community.
The ensembles in Rainbow City Performing Arts select musical pieces intentionally to feature composers who are: (1) BIPOC; (2) LGBTQIA+; or (3) living. Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974) was an American Black jazz pianist and composer born and raised in Washington, D.C., in the Jim Crow Era. At the end of the 1930s, Ellington began a nearly thirty-year collaboration with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn, whom he called his writing and arranging companion. Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967) was an American jazz composer and pianist who was openly gay. Strayhorn's "contributions went largely uncredited, or at least downplayed. Ellington retained many of the copyrights for Strayhorn compositions, and even received their royalties." See Queer Portraits in History.
No jazz show would be complete without the moments for the many talented musicians in each section to perform solos, and a few photos capture the energy at Winterfest. The trumpets and drummer powerfully led the upbeat tempos! The trumpet solos were spectacular. The pianist and the trombones held down the rhythm and had plenty of fun solos.
The harmonization in the saxophone and clarinet sections was beautiful. The performer featured in this photo alternated between the bass clarinet and the baritone saxophone. The tenor saxophonist on the left also had multiple fantastic solos!
The band finished their show with a crowd favorite, Feliz Navidad. Their jazz rendition featuring many talented soloists made this performance really stand out!
Well done Rainbow City Jazz Band! This audience member is already looking forward to the next performance.