Leo Cavanagh and the Ellington Project play original arrangements of Duke Ellington's music in the context of an acoustic jazz trio. Besides Cavanagh on acoustic guitar, the group consists of Katrina Wreede on viola and Carla Kaufman on cello. The goal is to produce exciting music with a beautiful sound, and to keep the spirit of Duke Ellington alive.
This is not a typical jazz combo, but Ellington was famous for using a variety of instruments in unusual ways. The trio is primarily acoustic, and the intimacy of the sound gives another perspective on Ellington’s music. You can hear every single thing going on.
The Ellington Project plays not only some of Duke's more famous songs, but many of the early compositions that first brought him fame. Beginning around 1927, compositions such as East St. Louis Toodle-Oo and Ko-Ko gained the spotlight for their exotic "jungle" sounds. Some of these selections are rarely played now, but they deserve greater exposure.
Guitarist and arranger Leo Cavanagh found that he already played at least 20 Ellington songs as part of his regular repertoire. As he started arranging some of the early pieces that first gained national attention for Ellington in the 1920’s and 30’s, his appreciation of his music has only increased.
The arrangements attempt to capture the excitement of his compositions while taking advantage of the instruments in the trio. In place of the 18-piece band and all the instrumental colors that provided, the trio is challenged to creatively combine their own instruments in ways to maintain interest and excitement. All three musicians share the tasks of playing melodies, soloing, accompanying, or blending in tight harmonies.
Most people have heard his name, but aren’t really aware of Ellington’s contribution to American music. He is considered by many to be America’s greatest composer. His early recordings excited people with the new sounds of his "jungle music." Many of his recordings were considered ìthree-minute masterpieces—designed to fit on one side of a 78-rpm record. And he continued to experiment and grow throughout his career. Musicians still love to play his music. This is our way of spreading the word about Duke Ellington.