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Billings Symphony jazz group to play at Babcock

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Posted at 11:06 AM, May 15, 2021

The Rocky Mountain Jazz Collective will perform its first concert in connection with the Billings Symphony on Saturday.

The 17-piece big band will play Duke Ellingtons "Far East Suite" at the Babcock Theater, which will be the first event at that venue for the symphony.

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KTVQ photo

"It's one of the last pieces that Duke Ellington did with his partner in crime Billy Strayhorn," said Scott Jeppesen, the group's music director. "They did it based off of a tour that they took in 1963. Even though his music is always distinctly Ellington, this piece is neat because, it happening in the '60s, you can hear a lot of influences from modern jazz musicians of the time."

Jeppesen is also MSU Billings professor.

He and several of the other musicians, also perform in the Billings Symphony Orchestra.

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"Tempos dynamics any kind of thing like that, that's kind of the interpretation that makes it unique for a symphony," Jeppesen said. "When you're dealing with jazz, you really literally have people that are composing new music on the spot within the context of this frame that Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn created which is the Far East Suite."

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"I think that even Duke himself would want it to reflect the personal experiences and style and taste of the players that are currently in that band, so we will be playing the music that Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn actually wrote on paper. When it comes to the improvised sections, I want to capture the great musicians that we have in this ensemble. So in the end I just really hope everyone that comes down just has a really great time, and leaves with a smile."

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The Rocky Mountain Jazz Collective performs Saturday starting at 7 p.m. at the Babcock Theater.