Chineke! Orchestra, the ground-breaking ensemble renowned for pushing the boundaries in classical music, have announced the release of a rhythmically compelling rendition of Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker Suite’, out on October 27th, 2023 via Chineke! Records/Decca. The recording is a lively reinterpretation that takes the beloved themes from Tchaikovsky‘s 1892 festive ballet and infuses them with a vibrant jazz twist, uniquely arranged by legends Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn during the 1960s. 

After their critically acclaimed performance at the BBC Proms 2023 rated 4 stars by The Telegraph and a recent album celebrating the music of pioneering African American composer Florence Price, the ensemble is proud to present a live recording of the orchestra performing the reimagined jazz work back in April 2022 at the Royal Festival Hall, conducted by Andrew Grams, and featuring jazz musicians Alec Dankworth (Jazz double bass), Andy Panayi (Saxophone), Noel Langley (Jazz trumpet) and Sacha Johnson (Drum kit). 

With only a handful existing recordings of Ellington and Strayhorn’s adaptation, this album marks the first ever recording of Jeff Tzyik‘s orchestration. In 1960, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn teamed up to give Tchaikovsky‘s ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ a creative twist, marking their first equal billing since their 1938 collaboration. The arrangement, described as “melting pot of musical styles past and present” by The New York Times, exemplified Ellington and Strayhorn boundary-pushing spirit and their strong partnership. The entire suite carried a mischievous spirit, with Ellington creatively altering the music and titles. ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ becomes the sultry ‘Sugar Rum Cherry’ with robust saxophones, while the ‘Dance of the Reed Pipes’ transforms into ‘Toot Toot Tootie Toot’. This innovative release also includes thrilling tracks such as ‘Peanut Brittle Brigade’ (March) and ‘Dance of the Floreadores’

Chi-chi Nwanoku CBE, Founder and Artistic Director of the Chineke! Foundation explains “Chineke! exists to redress the balance of who plays and does not play classical music.” and this album promises to reignite the spirit of Ellington and Strayhorn‘s jazz-infusedinterpretation of the ‘The Nutcracker Suite’, offering an exclusive perspective on a timeless classic.  

For all upcoming Chineke! Orchestra concerts, please visit: 


I. Overture 

II. Toot Toot Tootie Toot (Dance of the Reed-Pipes)     

III. Dance of the Floreadores (Waltz of the Flowers) 

IV. Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy) 

V. Peanut Brittle Brigade (March) 

About Chineke! 

The Chineke! Orchestra is a groundbreaking ensemble founded in 2015 by Chi-chi Nwanoku CBE, dedicated to promoting diversity in classical music. They provide exceptional performance opportunities for Black and ethnically diverse classical musicians in the UK and Europe, championing change and celebrating diversity in the industry. The Chineke! Orchestra works closely with its sister ensemble, the Chineke! Junior Orchestra, which aims to increase representation of Black and ethnically diverse musicians in higher education. The orchestra has garnered critical acclaim for their innovative programming and electrifying performances internationally, through which they have brought to light a wealth of powerful and moving works, breathing new life into these neglected pieces. The last few years have also seen collaborations with major artists such as Stormzy and Max Richter, as well as a landmark project reimagining the work of Bob Marley. Undertaken with the full support of the musician’s estate, the album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and released on the legendary Island Records in 2022. Most recently the orchestra released a critically acclaimed album celebrating the music of pioneering African American composer Florence Price. 

About Chi-chi Nwanoku CBE 

Chi-chi is a British-born double bassist, professor, and broadcaster of Nigerian and Irish descent. She trained as a sprinter and played the piano since the age of 7, but after an injury, turned her focus to music. She became an internationally recognised double bassist following studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London and with Italian Double bass soloist, Franco Petracchi in Rome. Chi-chi is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Chineke! Foundation, which supports and inspires Black and ethnically diverse classical musicians. Chi-chi’s contributions to music education are widely recognised, with keynote speeches on the importance of diversity across the globe. As a broadcaster, she has presented programmes and documentaries for BBC Radio 3 and 4, Classic FM, a documentary on the life and music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor for Sky-Arts and contributed to the BBC documentary BEING BEETHOVEN.

In addition to her teaching post at the Royal Academy of Music, Chi-chi is a Visiting Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge. Her numerous honours include the CBE in 2022 and previously the OBE and MBE. Honorary titles include Honorary Fellow of Trinity Laban Conservatoire for Music & Dance, Honorary Doctor of Music from Chichester University, Open University, Kent University, and Cambridge University, and Honorary Bencher at Middle Temple.