WVIA Special Presentations


The Swingin' Jazz Nutcracker Suite

Never done before in NEPA, this unique special concert will highlight 17 incredible musicians and narrator/ vocalist The musicians are regular members of the Scranton Jazz Festival Big Band with the addition of some special guests. Playing the historically familiar melodies from the Nutcracker Ballet, this jazz big band takes a more modern approach to the familiar.

AIRED: December 23, 2021 | 0:48:54

- [Announcer] "The Swingin' Jazz Nutcracker Suite"

is made possible in part by Fidelity Bank,

Lackawanna County,

the Pennsylvania Jazz Alliance Incorporated,

Blu Elefante Events,

Scranton Tomorrow,

Center City Print,

Richard's Review,

and the Scranton Jazz Festival.

(upbeat jazz music)

The Scranton Jazz Festival, WVIA Public Media

and Chiaroscuro Records proudly present

the "Swingin' Jazz Nutcracker Suite".

("The Nutty March")

Each year, the Scranton Jazz Festival

brings regional, national and international jazz artists

to Downtown Scranton.

And one of the traditional festival highlights

is the All Star Big Band, comprising top players,

Some of whom are leaders in their own right.

For the holiday season, artistic director, Marko Marcinko

assembled the Big Band to perform Tchaikovsky's classic

"Nutcracker Suite", re-imagined for jazz.

In 1960 in Los Angeles, in an interesting coincidence,

both duke Ellington and composer-arranger Shorty Rogers

created jazz versions of "The Nutcracker"

and both were recorded for different labels.

It's not known whether they were aware

of each other's project,

but we're about to hear the Scranton Jazz Festival

Big Band's performance of the lesser known,

but artistically imaginative version by Shorty Rogers,

incorporating the familiar Tchaikovsky themes

in a swinging setting.

The first piece we heard based on perhaps

the most familiar theme from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker",

"March of the Toy Soldiers",

was retitled in this jazz version as "The Nutty March".

Next, we have a reinvention of Tchaikovsky's

"Waltz of the Snowflakes" transformed

into a jazzy 4/4 time and retitled as "Snowball".


Arranger Shorty Rogers does another jazzy transformation

of Tchaikovsky with "The Arabian Dance"

becoming "Dance Expresso".

It gives the spotlight to the upright bass

and the saxophone section.

("Dance Expresso")

The next selection is the famous "Tea Dance".

However, this tea dance takes on a whole new brew

and Shorty calls it "China Where?".

The melody is hidden deep within the re-harmonization

of the original chord structure,

the tempo feels like a 1960s Las Vegas show

and the whole Big Band just roars.

("China Where?")

"Trepak", or "Russian Dance",

what was a Kuzatzky in the Tchaikovsky original

is transformed here into a fast-paced piece in 8/8,

dividing up as 3, 3, 2 in each bar at the outset,

then 6/4 for the principal melody.

After the trumpet quotes the melody,

a Latin-inspired groove pushes the band along,

featuring the trumpet, trombone and drums.

Shortly Rogers calls this "Six Pack".

("Six Pack")

Next is "Dance of the Reed Flutes"

or "Dance of the Mirlitons".

Arranger Shorty Rogers calls this "Blue Reeds"

and gives it a great swinging blues feel.

Check out the saxophones and the displaced rhythms

with the brass section playing a double-time figure

behind each soloist.

("Blue Reeds")

"Waltz of the Flowers" is a standard 3/4 waltz,

as written by Tchaikovsky.

However, "Flowers for the Cat"

takes on a toe-tapping 4/4 feel

and the title alone makes you think

you're in a cool jazz club atmosphere.

The trombone section gets the spotlight.

("Flowers for the Cat")

Next up is Tchaikovsky's "Pas de Deux".

While perhaps not as popular a theme as others we have heard

arranger Shorty Rogers ramps the tempo way up

to produce a high-pressure swinger.

Probably in respect to Ellington, he affectionately calls it

"Pass the Duke".

("Pass the Duke")

Now we have the classic "Sugar Plum Fairy"

which is now called the "Swingin' Plum Fairy".

A straight-ahead medium swing that features the saxes

and muted trumpet.

The melody appears in the upright bass,

evoking the West Coast jazz sound

that shorty Rogers helped to create.

("Swingin' Plum Fairy")

"Overture in Miniature" or "Overture for Shorty"

is a sax quintet feature with trumpet and rhythm section

quoting the melody that gives the listener a feeling

that it is merely a standard jazz tune.

("Overture For Shorty")

As an encore, the Big Band will play a selection

not associated with "The Nutcracker"

but it is a holiday classic you will certainly recognize.

Arranged by Marko Marcinko

and played by the Scranton Jazz Festival Big Band,

here is "Noel's Jingle".

("Noel's Jingle")

"The Swingin' Jazz Nutcracker Suite",

arrangement by Shorty Rogers,

and performed by the Scranton Jazz Festival Big Band,

featuring the band's director Marko Marcinko on drums.

On the saxophones, Tom Hamilton on tenor sax,

Kate Anderson playing alto and tenor,

Nelson Hill on alto, tenor and clarinet,

Gunner Mossblad on tenor and clarinet,

James Buckley on baritone sax,

and Mike Pryor on bass sax.

On the trombones, Bill Smith, Doug Beavers,

Jeff Stockham on valve trombone, trumpet and French horn,

and Mark Lusk on bass trombone.

In the trumpet section, Chris Rogers, Eddie Severn,

Bill Perbetsky,

and Patrick Dorian.

On the piano, Steve Rudolph, and on bass, Paul Rostock.

(upbeat jazz music)

"The Swingin' Jazz Nutcracker Suite"

was made possible in part by Fidelity Bank,

Lackawanna County,

the Pennsylvania Jazz Alliance Incorporated,

Blu Elefante Events,

Scranton Tomorrow,

Center City Print,

Richard's Review,

and the Scranton Jazz Festival.