Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life & The Stanley Dance Sessions

Andrew Velez By

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Various Artists
Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life
Blue Note

Billy Strayhorn/Johnny Hodges
The Stanley Dance Sessions

The happy sounds of Bill Charlap's sparkling rendition of Billy Strayhorn's 1935 "Fantastic Rhythm raises the curtain on the soundtrack of Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life. A companion to the PBS documentary airing on Feb. 6th, it features new performances of Strayhorn compositions by Elvis Costello, Hank Jones, Joe Lovano and Dianne Reeves among others. Strayhorn's contribution during 29 years of close partnership with Duke Ellington has never received its proper due. Hopefully the film and recording will begin to redress that injustice.

Jones and Charlap have a particularly happy time in a spirited four-hands rendition of "Tonk , a tune originally performed by Strayhorn with Ellington. Jones knocks out a crispy solo of 'Satin Doll and later joins in an allstar quartet with Joe Lovano, George Mraz and Paul Motian for breezy takes on "Rain Check and "Johnny Come Lately . The group's readings of the Debussy-esque "Chelsea Bridge and especially their lyrical beauty of "Lotus Blossom are inspired. Reeves has stellar moments with the rarely heard "So This Is Love and a crisp, dry-eyed rendition of the bittersweet masterpiece "Lush Life . Capping it all is Elvis Costello, who's written lyrics for Strayhorn's final composition, now called "My Flame Burns Blue . Lovano and Charlap lend support as Costello gives it his weary barstool baritone best.

For yet more Strayhorn pleasures and with himself on piano, there are the eight 1959 sides of The Stanley Dance Sessions (originally released on Felsted, London and Verve). Johnny Hodges' growling alto sax on the opener "Cue's Blue Now is the something for which the repeat button must have been invented. On "Rose Room clarinetist Russell Procope juicily works the melody while Hodges & Co. get behind him and even offer some impromptu vocal appreciation. A second session from 1961 includes much of the then-Ellington band with Strayhorn arranging and conducting. Hodges shines again on Ellington's jaunty "Gal From Joe's and for a sampling of big band blazing brass ensemble in peak form there's "Tailor Made . Totally in the groove and devilishly insouciant, this is all perfect, just perfect.

Tracks and Personnel

Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life

Tracks: Fantastic Rhythm; Rain Check; Lush Life; Satin Doll; Something To Live For; Johnny Come Lately; Day Dream; Tonk; Chelsea Bridge; My Little Brown Book; Valse; My Flame Burns Blue (Blood Count); The Flowers Die Of Love; Lotus Blossom; So This Is Love.

Personnel: Hank Jones, Bill Charlap, Peter Martin: piano; Dianne Reeves, Elvis Costello: vocal; Russell Malone: guitar; Joe Lovano: tenor sax; George Mraz, Reuben Rogers: bass; Paul Motian, Greg Hutchinson: drums.

The Stanley Dance Sessions

Tracks: Cue's Blue Now; Gone With The Wind; Cherry; Watch Your Cue; You Brought A New Kind Of Love To Me; When I Dream Of You; Rose Room; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good; Gal From Joe's; Your Love Has Faded; I'm Just A Lucky So And So; Jeep's Blues; Day Dreams; Juice A-Plenty; Azure; Tailor Made; Star Dust.

Personnel: 1-7 Harold "Shorty" Baker: trumpet; Quentin Jackson: trombone; Johnny Hodges: alto saxophone; Russell Procope: clarinet; Billy Strayhorn: piano; Al Hall: bass; Oliver Jackson: drums 8-18 Cat Anderson, Harold "Shorty" Baker, Bill Berry, Howard McGhee, Ed Mullens: trumpet; Lawrence Brown, Quentin Jackson: trombone; Chuck Connors: bass, trombone; Johnny Hodges: alto saxophone; Russell Procope: clarinet, alto saxophone; Jimmy Hamilton: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Paul Gonsalves: tenor saxophone; Harry Carney: baritone, bass clarinet; Jimmy Jones: piano; Aaron Bell: bass; Sam Woodward: drums.


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