An overflowing Cramton Auditorium became both Symphony Hall and the Apollo Theatre last night as the Howard University Jazz Repertory Orchestra paid resplendent tribute to the 1940s Billy Eckstine band and, in emcee Ron Sutton's words, to "the hip era of the only music that originated in this country."

For this, its premiere public performance at Howard University, the 17-piece orchestra had in its ranks two former members of the Eckstine band, pianist John Malachi and tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. Others of fame taking part were tenorist Buck Hill, trombonist Curtis Fuller, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Grady Tate.

With Reppard Stone conducting with loving care and heroic zeal, the riches of the evening were too numerous to enumerate, much less adequately describe here. Suffice it to say that if the youngsters who made up the rest of the orchestra are any indication of what the future holds, the music is unquestionably in good hands. Especially outstanding in solo were trumpeter Thomas Williams Jr. and altoists Roger Woods and Charlie Young. A senior member, trombonist Calvin Jones of the UDC faculty, and the others handed in individual statements of the highest order. The section work, ensemble cooperation, rhythmic sense and arrangement research of early bop classics all came together to make this a jewel of a band and the free concert the musical event of the season.