The Annual Holiday Party and Fundraiser took place at the Landmark on the Park (Central Park West/76 Street) in Manhattan on December 10th and the group accomplished its goal with “Ring Dem Bells!” and an all-star turnout and roster of entertainment in the Key of Ellington.
The funds raised at the event are used for the Scholarship Fund and Programs of which we were treated to this year’s first annual Bob Stewart Tuba Competition winner, “The Pitch Blak Bass Band,” taking home not only a plaque but a $2000 check.
The inimitable Frank Owens Quartet featuring Frank on piano, Hassan Shakur on bass, Dave Gibson on drums and Jimmy Cozier, sax accompanied the various performers while Mercedes Ellington (Founder, President & Artistic Director) hosted. On hand were M.C. Andrienne Haan (Come Fly With Me); T. Olvier Reid (Ring Dem Bells); Marion Cowlings and Antoinette Montague (It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing); C Jam Blues (dance duo); Antoinette Montague (Imagine My Frustration); Michael Choi and Anna Truhkan performing a float on air dance spectacular to Sheherazade/Caravan,” arranged by Frank Owens; Marion Cowlings (Cottontail) and Dennis Chicinno and friends (Down at Mama Jones, written by Board Member Larry Kerchner). Songwriter Ervin Drake, with his gorgeous wife Edith, was present and got up to sing “I Believe,” the hit song he wrote.
An Open Mic followed the sumptuous buffet, provided by Spoonbread Catering, featuring Shana Farr, Alex Cowings, Kent Drake and more.
A highlight Raffle Prize of a Caribbean vacation went to several lucky ticket holders with additional prizes won in a silent auction.
The mission of The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts is to further Duke Ellington’s creative legacy and his philosophy of human harmony “beyond category.” The Center mounts performances marrying Ellington’s music with other art forms, especially dance and theater; and also sponsors a variety of educational initiatives. www.thedukeellingtoncenter.org
*Photos Russ Weatherford