‘The Nutcracker’ gets a new groove, thanks to Joe McCarthy and the Afro-Bop Alliance

Jackson Sinnenberg, Capital Bop

Under the direction of drummer Joe McCarthy, the Afro-Bop Alliance has morphed and grown over the past decade-and-a-half, and has racked up a total of four Wammie Awards from the Washington Area Music Association. Today McCarthy has altered and expanded the ensemble’s lineup, and operates it under a new name: the New York Afro-Bop Alliance Big Band. The group’s latest album is The Pan American Nutcracker Suite, an ambitious reworking of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, which fuses the original ballet music with elements of jazz, classical, Afro-Latin and other dance music. As he explains in the conversation below, McCarthy avoided consulting the most obvious jazz-related source material: Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s 1960 album The Nutcracker Suite.