His mother called him Bill...the arranger
Dayton, Ohio-native William Thomas Strayhorn tooled around forever in the shadow of Duke Ellington. But is that so bad? Truly one of the greatest collaborations in jazz, the Strayhorn/Ellington alliance produced a mountain of standards for the jazz repertoire. Strayhorn alone was credited with composing Ellington's theme ("Take the A Train") and several other Ellington-book war-horses ("Lush Life", "Passion Flower," "UMMG," "Blood Count," and the list goes on).
A bigger part of Strayhorn's job in the Ellington orchestra was arranging compositions by other artists for the orchestra. Some six hundred-odd arrangements from Strayhorn's pen exist. On the current recording, fourteen of these arrangements are deftly presented by the Dutch Jazz Orchestra under the baton of Jerry Van Rooijen. None of the present arrangements were ever recorded commercially, except "Where or When." Several were captured on impossible-to-find radio broadcasts. Eight of the arrangements make their commercial debut here. . You Go To My Head— Billy Strayhorn and Standards is part of the Dutch Jazz Orchestra's series of recordings devoted to the music of Billy Strayhorn on Challenge Records.
One great value of this recording, at least for the uninitiated, is that it demonstrates in detail the stylistic differences between the Ellington "sound" and the Strayhorn "sound." Where Ellington often favored the hotter brass of trumpets, Strayhorn favors the flugelhorn and trombone. Strayhorn's saxophone vision almost approaches Glenn Miller, while remaining superior to that bandleader. You Go To My Head is a brilliant recording of big band ballads. This is very much dancing music that is opulent and beautifully realized. Strayhorn infuses these standards with his pristine vision of harmony, one that is at once complex and immediately attainable.
In concept, this recording was well assembled and constructed. This is not mere recapitulation of Strayhorn compositions, affording just one more example of bland hero-worship. This recording may be considered an important addition to the audio media as it contains previously unrecorded music. Strayhorn liked to opine that arranging and composing took the same amount of care, perhaps more being required for arranging. Strayhorn showed himself to be a superb craftsman, probably superior to Ellington on his best days. This disc offers ample evidence of this and would be a great addition to contemporary Strayhorn—Ellington lore.
Personnel: Jerry Van Rooijen, Conductor; The Dutch Jazz Orchestra.