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RPO Transforms Eastman Theatre into Harlem Nightclub of the '20s and '30s

May 08, 2009

In its heyday during the 1920s and 1930s, the popular Cotton Club in New York City’s Harlem featured such prominent African-American entertainers as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and more.  At 8:00 pm on Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30 at the Eastman Theatre, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik, recall the glory days of this iconic nightclub with the help of trumpeter Byron Stripling; vocalist Carmen Bradford; tap dancer Ted Louis Levy; and drummer Robert Breithaupt closing this season’s final Wegmans Pops series prior to the Eastman Theatre renovation.

Tyzik has chosen to feature such memorable pieces as It Don’t Mean a Thing, Stormy Weather, Harlem Congo, Mood Indigo, Symphony in Riffs, and Rockin’ in Rhythm by composers like Chick Webb, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and George Gershwin.

Trumpet virtuoso and artistic director of the Columbus (OH) Jazz Orchestra, Byron Stripling is a favorite among Rochester audiences.  Getting his start as lead trumpeter and soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra, Stripling has gone on to perform with orchestras and at jazz festivals throughout the world.  This Eastman School of Music alumnus also has played and recorded with the bands of Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, and Clark Terry, among others, in addition to The Lincoln Center Classical Jazz Orchestra and The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band.

Vocalist Carmen Bradford was discovered by the legendary Count Basie, and was the featured vocalist in the Count Basie Orchestra for nine years.  Her critically acclaimed debut solo album, Finally Yours, followed by With Respect, established the singer as one of jazz music’s most diverse and exciting vocal stylists.  She has sung with numerous stars of the America pop and jazz scenes, including Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, Herbie Hancock, Lou Rawls, Wynton Marsalis, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Willie Nelson, James Brown, and many more.

Emmy Award winner, Tony Award® and Drama Desk Award nominee, and Outer Critics Circle Award winner Ted Louis Levy began his professional dance training with master tap dancer Finis Henderson II.  Levy’s first appearance on Broadway was in Black & Blue.  He collaborated with George C. Wolfe and Gregory Hines on the choreography of Jelly’s Last Jam.  His own production of Ted Levy and Friends was directed by Hines, and confirmed Levy’s position as one of America’s premier tap-dance artists.  Mentored by Mr. Hines, he made his directorial debut with Savion Glover’s Dancing Under the Stars in New York, and also assisted in the choreography of Broadway’s award-winning hit, Bring in ‘Da Noise! Bring in ‘Da Funk!  His first film appearance was in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X; his latest venture is an original production, The Rhythm of Life.

Robert Breithaupt enjoys one of America’s most diverse musical careers.  In more than 30 years of concerts and tours, Breithaupt has performed with a virtual “Who’s Who” of great jazz talents, including Terry Gibbs, John Pizzarelli, Kirk Whalum, and dozens of others.  He regularly appears with the county’s great orchestras performing with trumpeter Stripling and Broadway star Sandy Duncan.  Also considered among the nation’s foremost percussion educators, Breithaupt is on the faculty at Capital University in Columbus, OH, and has served as executive director of the Jazz Arts Group, a leading national non-profit jazz organization.

Tickets for these performances are $20-$58, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100) in person from the RPO Box Office (108 East Avenue), and at area Wegmans.  A convenience fee may apply.  RPO Box Office hours are 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Saturday (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm).  The Pops Series is sponsored by Wegmans; this concert is sponsored by Boylan Brown and Corning Inc.  Jeff Tyzik’s appearance is made possible by Friends of Jeff. 

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