Lander University associate professor of music Dr. Robert Gardiner, who leads the Lander University Jazz Ensemble, makes no secret of his admiration for jazz great Duke Ellington, and Ellington's signature tune, "Take the 'A' Train," will be among the highlights of the jazz ensemble's spring show.
"I refer to him as one of the greatest composers of all time," Gardiner said of Ellington, adding, "I don't even qualify it any more by calling him a 'jazz composer.'"
Gardiner has high regard, likewise, for jazz great Charles Mingus, and the jazz ensemble concert, set to begin at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 5, in the Josephine B. Abney Cultural Center Auditorium, will also feature Mingus' "Better Get Hit in Your Soul."
Other standards, such as "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Begin the Beguine" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street," are also in the program, but so is "Hop, Skip and Jump," by Bob Mintzer and "Sanctified Blues," by Wynton Marsalis. Gardiner called Mintzer and Marsalis "two of the most recognized jazz musicians on the scene today."
Other more recent music will be featured as well, including ex-Stray Cat Brian Setzer's "Jumpin' East of Java," which will be sung by new featured vocalist Markela Dandy, and "Getaway," popularized by Earth, Wind and Fire.
Dandy, of Graniteville, will also sing "On the Sunny Side of the Street."
Of late, Gardiner said, he has been mixing in songs he describes as "much more challenging." He has been able to do so, he said, because of his current lineup of musicians, whom he called "the most talented group I've had in my 10 years here."
The Jazz Ensemble's spring concert is free and open to the public.