A jazz duo honors two greats

Doring and Mattson.JPG

Singer Dorothy Doring and pianist Phil Mattson. Photo courtesy of Media Savant Communications

Anyone who considers the greatest composers in jazz would certainly include Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, two friends who collaborated on hundreds of jazz tunes during the music’s heyday.

Tonight, their music comes to the stage at St. Paul’s Artists Quarter, where singer Dorothy Doring and pianist Phil Mattson will debut a new recording. With “Compositions by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn,” an album of duets, they celebrate the remarkable contributions of the two men who made up one of the most famous parings in jazz.

Doring and Mattson studied 30 or more songs by the composers to select the recording’s 11 tunes, which include “Day Dream,” “Love You Madly,” “In a Mellow Tone” and “Lush Life. ” All are nicely delivered, in a relaxed and subtle style.

Here they are on Ellington’s “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good”

Doring was inspired to record the project after attending a National Endowment for the Humanities workshop at Fairfield University in Connecticut in the summer of 2011. Given the enormity and emotional depth of the two composers’ enduring work, she thought their compositions offered plenty of room for new interpretations.

“I was looking for some inspiration,” said Doring, a vocal music specialist at Bruce F. Vento Elementary School. “They have haunting melodies.”

She picked an excellent partner in Mattson, an arranger and retired college music professor who has written many arrangements for vocal jazz ensemble and choir. Indeed, their collaboration subtly mirrors the partnership between the two composers.

“It’s sort of a serendipity thing,” Doring said. “I’m thankful that it worked out so beautifully with his enthusiasm and, of course, his great skill and knowledge.”

Joining them on stage tonight will be Billy Peterson on bass and Dale Mendenhall on saxophone.