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Billy Strayhorn

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If you are familiar with the jazz composition, "Take the A Train," then you know something about not only Duke Ellington, but also Billy "Sweet Pea" Strayhorn, its composer. Strayhorn joined Ellington's band in 1939, at the age of twenty-two. Ellington liked what he saw in Billy and took this shy, talented pianist under his wings. Neither one was sure what Strayhorn's function in the band would be, but their musical talents had attracted each other. By the end of the year Strayhorn had become essential to the Duke Ellington Band; arranging, composing, sitting-in at the piano. Billy made a rapid and almost complete assimilation of Ellington's style and technique

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Article: Building a Jazz Library

Charles Mingus: An Essential Top Ten Albums

Read "Charles Mingus: An Essential Top Ten Albums" reviewed by Chris May


Charles Mingus was rarely a happy man and yet his music possessed a power to uplift listeners unlike that of most other composer / bandleaders before or after him. It still has that power in 2021, four decades after his passing and on the eve of his hundredth anniversary in 2022. In his personal life, too, ...

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Article: Album Review

Mark Masters: Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster

Read "Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster" reviewed by Jack Bowers


It is an absolute pleasure to hear several of Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn's classic charts for Ellington's celebrated 1940-42 Blanton-Webster orchestra (named for a pair of its stars, bassist Jimmy Blanton and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster) adeptly rescored for a twenty-first century ensemble by the superlative arranger Mark Masters. And to ice the cake, the ...

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Article: Album Review

Miho Sasaki Trio: From My Heart

Read "From My Heart" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan


Japanese-born pianist Miho Sasaki put down some productive roots in the United States, studying piano with Donald Vega at SUNY Purchase College, where she earned a James Moody Scholarship. The challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic sent her back home to Tokyo, where she live streams her music and teaches online. But the challenges of Covid did ...

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Article: Album Review

Anaïs Reno: Lovesome Thing: Anaïs Reno sings Ellington & Strayhorn featuring Emmet Cohen

Read "Lovesome Thing: Anaïs Reno sings Ellington & Strayhorn featuring Emmet Cohen" reviewed by Richard J Salvucci


The first time someone told me that Billy Strayhorn was a teenager when he wrote “Lush Life," I didn't believe it. Not so much because of the harmonic gymnastics, which were daunting enough, but because of the lyrics. “Romance is mush stifling those who strive, I'll live out a lush life in some small dive." No, ...

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Article: Album Review

Anaïs Reno: Lovesome Thing: Anaïs Reno sings Ellington & Strayhorn featuring Emmet Cohen

Read "Lovesome Thing: Anaïs Reno sings Ellington & Strayhorn featuring Emmet Cohen" reviewed by Pierre Giroux


Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn were collaborators for several decades beginning in the late 1930s. They became so closely intertwined musically that it was frequently impossible to distinguish their work. Anaïs Reno a young and promising singer has chosen to use their compositions as the basis for her debut release Lovesome Thing: Anaïs Reno Sings Ellington ...

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Article: Album Review

Joshua Abrams’ Cloud Script: Cloud Script

Read "Cloud Script" reviewed by Mark Corroto


You can take bassist Joshua Abrams out of his Natural Information Society, but you can't take the Natural Information Society out of Abrams. His long- lived ensemble, which traffics in long-form psychedelic environmental music, has made a permanent imprint on just about everything Abrams does. In bands led by Nicole Mitchell, Hamid Drake, Dave Rempis, and ...

Article: Album Review

WHO Trio: Strell - The Music of Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington

Read "Strell - The Music of Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington" reviewed by Alberto Bazzurro


Nel 2018 il Who Trio ha festeggiato vent'anni di attività, varando per l'occasione il progetto Strell, dedicato alla rilettura del repertorio di Billy Strayhorn e Duke Ellington, operazione certo non nuova--tutt'altro--e per la quale la prospettiva di rilettura, l'angolo visuale, diventa di conseguenza basilare. In questo album, inciso quasi per intero in studio a ...

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Article: Bailey's Bundles

Harry Allen: Tenor Saxophone In The Time of COVID

Read "Harry Allen: Tenor Saxophone In The Time of COVID" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey


The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to any number of keen improvisations, each manifesting from the necessity of having to “quarantine in place." Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, the “Frank Sinatra" of his instrument, thinks way outside the box--recording within the friendly confines of his own living room, while under health crisis house arrest. Good for you, ...

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Article: Year in Review

Ian Patterson's Best Releases Of 2020

Read "Ian Patterson's Best Releases Of 2020" reviewed by Ian Patterson


A year like no other produced a terrific amount of great music, much of inspired by--or in spite of—the surreal circumstances. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite releases of the year. A huge thank you to all the musicians, record labels, studios, agents, promotors and virtual technicians who helped keep us relatively ...


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