Mar 26, 2020
The works of William Shakespeare and the jazz world have had a limited connection. Sure, Duke Ellington released Such Sweet Thunder, a twelve-part suite based on Shakespeare’s work in 1957, and Dame Cleo Laine recorded the moving Shakespeare and All that Jazz with her husband Sir John Dankworth in 1964. There is a somewhat obscure but very interesting album from singer Maxine Sullivan entitled Sullivan, Shakespeare, Hyman in 1971. But other than the occasional track here and there, and some tours (most notably saxophonist Andy Sheppard’s collaboration with French pianist Guillaume de Chassy and drummer Christophe Marguet called “Shakespeare Songs”), there has not been much of the Bard in the jazz beat lately.
Pianist-Composer Daniel Kelly and singer Frederick Johnson lead a group that seeks to correct that. Shakespeare in Jazz: All the World’s a Song is an engaging, participatory celebration of Shakespeare's work, where a swinging band takes on some of his greatest works. Throughout the concert, audience members join the jazz group, and sing along to catchy, original songs based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Hamlet and many more. Be sure to check YouTube or Daniel’s webpage to check it out yourself.
Daniel Kelly has explored the meeting place of music with literature, visual art and journalism. Besides releasing five CDs of original compositions, he has performed with Grammy-award winning jazz legends Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano, hip-hop star Lauryn Hill, and a long list of jazz musicians from Dave Liebman and Sheila Jordan to Don Byron and Donny McCaslin. He has created three concert performances that transcend mere jazz – “Shakespeare in Jazz;” “Rakonto,” an oral history of locals across America that is unique to each city or town where he appears; and “Blind Visionaries,” a collaborative work with sight-impaired photographers.
Frederick Johnson has spent the past 35 years presenting concerts and giving seminars on the power of creative expression as a tool for personal wellbeing and healing. He has shared the stage with legends like Chick Corea, Roy Haynes, Kenny Garrett, John Scofield, and Christian McBride.
Podcast 736 is my conversation with both Daniel and Frederick, as we talk about how “Shakespeare in Jazz” works onstage, as well as how Daniel’s other projects are performed. Two recent performances from the show, “I Do Wonder Everywhere,” and “Double Double Toil Trouble,” both recorded at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center last week are featured.
Since the two musical performances have not been published in this format before, I want to ensure that all listeners know that all copyrights in the underlying material and the performances belong to Mr. Kelly.
This Podcast is dedicated to my Shakespeare professor, Virginia Mason Vaughan, Professor Emerita at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, for inspiring in me a passion for Shakespeare and his work.