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Soraya Stories

Director Selects | April 10, 2020

By Thor Steingraber

Yesterday would have been one of our most memorable nights of jazz this season, one that I was particularly proud to present — The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra with Carmen Bradford and Lizz Wright performing songs made famous by Ella Fitzgerald. Ella had a long relationship with the Count Basie Orchestra, so this concert was going to be a slice of history, even including some of the original arrangements pulled from the band’s library. Over the past six years, with the help of Programming Manager Justin Souza, we have built a reputation as a venue that covers a broad range of jazz — big bands as well as the Latin and Cuban greats on the Main Stage; and in our intimate Jazz Club, we have built a following for the smaller ensembles as well as the fresh faces of jazz. From your front row seat on your sofa, I hope you will spend a little time this weekend enjoying jazz.



Piano Duets with Ella Fitzgerald

In keeping with our Ella Fitzgerald theme, don’t miss the new double CD set called The Complete Piano Duets.  Covering 21 years of Ella’s recordings, from 1954 to 1975, these 43 tracks are sequenced in chronological order. I was struck by the evolution of her voice and artistry over those years. The set includes iconic tracks, such as her “Miss Otis Regrets” and “Black Coffee.” Some other tracks were new to me, but taken as a whole, it’s a master class in the American Songbook, replete with Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, and George Gershwin. When you think of Ella, you may think of her vocal pyrotechnics, swinging with a big band. This compilation, just Ella with her favorite pianists, shows her to be a sensitive artist with a knack for interpreting lyrics with clarity and poignancy. You can listen to The Complete Piano Duets on Spotify, but if you are able to purchase the album (hard copy or digital), you’ll be supporting the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation.


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A Tribute to Ellis Marsalis

The “First Family” of jazz is no doubt the Marsalis family. The Soraya is proud to have presented the brothers Wynton and Branford. The family lost their north star last week when father Ellis Marsalis was struck by COVID-19. Wynton Marsalis’ tribute to his father is linked below. Read it to be reminded about our shared values during this difficult time. The Soraya sends its condolences to the entire Marsalis family. Branford Marsalis appears on next season’s calendar at The Soraya, so please join me in extending a warm welcome to him in the fall.


In his role as Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Wynton Marsalis has overseen a massive deployment of digital content on their website, including complete digital concerts. Peruse and enjoy. If there’s one you particularly love, send a note. Maybe we’ll include it in a future Director Selects.


View Jazz at Lincoln Center



Remembering Bucky Pizzarelli

John And Bucky Pizzarelli | Photo credit: John Pizzuti

The world lost another Jazz Great this week, also to COVID-19. Guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli died at 94. Having toured with Benny Goodman, and landed a spot in the “Tonight Show” band, Bucky Pizzarelli may be best known to The Soraya audience for giving us a son who has carried on his father’s mantle, appearing at The Soraya three times, including the memorable 100th Birthday Party for Frank Sinatra in December 2015. John Pizzarelli is on our calendar for next season with his recent album New Standards. Show your support for John by purchasing a copy, or experience the father-son duo — Bucky and John made several albums together.


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Berklee College Celebrates Love

I leave you with an uplifting video from the students at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Having become one of the most respected music schools in the world, especially for jazz musicians, The Soraya has hosted countless of their alums, most recently vocalist Luciana Souza. The current batch of Berklee students created this online performance of “What the World Needs Now” in response to the COVID crisis. They got it just right!

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