Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life

Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life

by Billy Strayhorn
     
 

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Billy Strayhorn's genius was hidden in plain sight. As Duke Ellington's trusted aide-de-camp, Strayhorn contributed compositions and arrangements -- both individually and in collaboration with the bandleader -- and occasionally played piano for the Ellington band from 1939 to 1967, when Strayhorn died. His behind-the-scenes career isSee more details below

Overview

Billy Strayhorn's genius was hidden in plain sight. As Duke Ellington's trusted aide-de-camp, Strayhorn contributed compositions and arrangements -- both individually and in collaboration with the bandleader -- and occasionally played piano for the Ellington band from 1939 to 1967, when Strayhorn died. His behind-the-scenes career is examined in a PBS documentary, Lush Life, to which this album provides part of the soundtrack. In order to demonstrate the durability of Strayhorn's work, contemporary jazz artists interpret some of his most famous songs, including "Johnny Come Lately," "Rain Check," "Chelsea Bridge," and "Lotus Blossom," as well as a few worthy obscurities. The inspired playing of such heavyweights as pianists Hank Jones and Bill Charlap, saxophonist Joe Lovano, drummer Paul Motian, guitarists Russell Malone and Rodney Jones, and others is obvious proof of their adoration for "Stray" 's genius. Dianne Reeves also adds her distinctive vocal artistry to the poignant title cut, while Elvis Costello sings his own lyrics to Strayhorn's affecting instrumental "Blood Count." The music of Lush Life may only scratch the surface of Strayhorn's vast legacy, but it still scores as a smart and swinging tribute that should bring more attention to this underappreciated giant.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Jeff Tamarkin
Despite his crucial role in 20th century jazz and popular music as a songwriter, musician and arranger, Billy Strayhorn is still too often seen as a postscript to the Duke Ellington story -- the two collaborated for nearly three decades. If Strayhorn had done nothing else but compose Ellington's theme "Take the 'A' Train" (oddly absent from this tribute session), his place in history would still be fortified, but indeed he gave so much more. This collection features contemporary jazz musicians and vocalists interpreting 15 of Strayhorn's compositions, some co-written with Ellington or others, some penned only by Strayhorn -- most of the tracks feature one or two quartets, or a piano soloist. Those solo pieces, performed by Bill Charlap ("Fantastic Rhythm," "Valse") or Hank Jones ("Satin Doll"), as well as the two musicians' frisky duet on "Tonk," necessarily hew closely to the Ellington template, while the groups are more willing to chance modernization. But not by much -- for the most part, the arrangements stay within formats that would have been recognizable to Strayhorn. Joe Lovano -- accompanied by Jones on piano, George Mraz on bass and Paul Motian on drums -- never strays too far afield in his sax solos, and Dianne Reeves, who provides the bulk of the vocals, similarly plays it straight, her husky tone lending warmth and richness to such Strayhorn compositions as "Day Dream," "My Little Brown Book" (her playful scatting lifts the already enjoyable set up another notch), "Something to Live For" and a stunning "Lush Life," on which she is supported solely by Russell Malone's guitar. Elvis Costello doesn't take a different approach to his guest vocal on the ballad "My Flame Burns Blue (Blood Count)" than he does on the many other jazz vocals he'd recorded by this time, but he's still always a pleasure to hear, his nuanced reading close to perfection and as heartfelt as everything else he does.
Los Angeles Daily News - Glenn Whipp
1/2 All in all, exquisite.

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Product Details

Release Date:
01/23/2007
Label:
Emi Mod Afw
UPC:
0724387355026
catalogNumber:
73550
Rank:
180264

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Fantastic Rhythm  - Bill Charlap
  2. Rain Check  - George Mraz
  3. Lush Life  - Dianne Reeves
  4. Satin Doll  - Hank Jones
  5. Something to Live For  - Peter Martin
  6. Johnny Come Lately  - George Mraz
  7. Day Dream  - Reuben Rogers
  8. Tonk  - Bill Charlap
  9. Chelsea Bridge  - George Mraz
  10. My Little Brown Book  - Peter Martin
  11. Valse  - Bill Charlap
  12. My Flame Burns Blue (Blood Count)  - Bill Charlap
  13. The Flowers Die of Love  - Peter Martin
  14. Lotus Blossom  - George Mraz
  15. So This Is Love  - Peter Martin

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Billy Strayhorn   Indexed Contributor
Elvis Costello   Vocals
Hank Jones   Piano
Rodney Jones   Guitar
Joe Lovano   Tenor Saxophone
Russell Malone   Guitar
Bill Charlap   Piano
Gregory Hutchinson   Drums
Paul Motian   Drums
George Mraz   Bass
Dianne Reeves   Vocals
Reuben Rogers   Bass
Joe Lavano   Tenor Saxophone
Peter Martin   Piano

Technical Credits

Elvis Costello   Composer
Dae Bennett   Engineer
Duke Ellington   Composer
Johnny Mercer   Composer
Billy Strayhorn   Composer
LaTouché   Composer
Burt Goldblatt   Cover Photo
Joshua Blum   Producer
Roberto Levi   Producer,Liner Notes
Burton Yount   Art Direction
George Seminara   Producer

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