Rock music has its fair share of musical collaborations, among others, the partnership between John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles. Jazz, however, also has its own canon of collaborators and at the top of the list is the duo of Duke Ellington
and Billy Strayhorn
No one disputes the groundbreaking role of Duke Ellington in jazz history, but, sometimes, the influence of his partner Strayhorn is not emphasized enough. He was an original composer and pianist with an exceptional understanding of harmony, melody and rhythm and without him, the artistic quality of Ellington's output would not have been as high as it was. The two musicians inspired greatness in each other and when Strayhorn died, Ellington responded musically with an homage to his music, the album ...And His Mother Called Him Bill
Fortunately, the awareness of Strayhorn's musical legacy has not diminished since then. In 2014, the Danish record label Storyville released an entire box set dedicated to Strayhorn: Out of the Shadows
and, perhaps, there is something about the Danes and Strayhorn because now another Strayhorn-related release has found its way into the market. Remembering Billy Strayhorn
is Danish drummer Jacob Roved's tribute to Strayhorn and it is an album that is filled with sophisticated and swinging music.
Roved is in good company. Trumpeter Thomas Fryland is among the finest trumpeters on the Danish scene and bassist Jesper Bodilsen
and pianist Rasmus Ehlers
have more than solid credentials as well. The former as a vital part of Italian pianist Stefano Bollani
's trio and the latter as the longstanding leader of saxophonist George Garzone
's Danish group. Speaking of horn-players, John Ruocco
is the icing on the cake in Roved's group and adds a swinging feeling that is both emotional and intellectual. Together they form a tightknit group and the exchange of Bodilsen with Jakob Roland on a few tracks does not spoil anything. He fits perfectly in the constellation.
The program includes some of Strayhorn's finest compositions, including his signature tune, "Take the A train," played in medium tempo, but of course there are vital compositions missing. Strayhorn's legacy cannot be covered with ten compositions, but an album like this can whet the appetite for his music and this is exactly what it does.
Take The A Train; Passion Flower; Johnny Come Lately; Chelsea Bridge; Lotus Blossom; Isfahan; Upper Manhattan Medical Group; A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing; Something To Live For; Day Dream.
Jacob Roved: drums; John Ruocco: clarinet; Thomas Fryland: trumpet; Rasmus Ehlers: piano; Jesper Bodilsen: bass; Jakob Roland: bass (#8-10).