Press release: Announcing Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite

Hop-a-tooty and slim-slam-a-booty.

The hippest cats of jazz-a-tooty were Duke Ellington and his friend Billy Strayhorn. Together they composed some of the swingingest sounds in jazz and big band music, and people loved to dance to the music of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. When a music producer offered Duke a recording contract and said he could do anything he wanted, Billy, a classically trained musician, suggested Duke tackle Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, but with a twist. The Sugar Plum Fairy became the sultry Sugar Rum Cherry, the Dance of the Reed Pipes became Toot Toot Tootie Toot, like a calliope at Coney Island, and the Waltz of the Flowers became the Dance of the Floreadores—like the flashy big spenders in Vegas. The rest of Tchaikovsy’s masterpiece was introduced to the musical influences of the great American cities of 1960: Las Vegas, Harlem, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and more.

Don Tate’s vibrant, exciting illustrations swirl across the page like the sounds of Duke and Billy’s modern Nutcracker dreams. A CD recording of the Ellington/Strayhorn composition is also included.

Anna Harwell Celenza is a musicologist and author. Her children’s books include The Farewell Symphony, Pictures at an Exhibition, The Heroic Symphony, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. A professor of music at Georgetown University, Anna divides her time between Washington, DC, and Rome, Italy.

Don Tate is the award-winning illustrator/author of more than 25 books for children. He illustrated She Loved Baseball, Ron’s Big Mission, and Summer Sun Risin’. Don lives in Austin, Texas.

To receive a review copy or to arrange an interview with Anna or Don, please contact

Donna Spurlock at (617) 926-0329, ext. 122, or via email