492

Billy Strayhorn: The Peaceful Side of Billy Strayhorn

Joel Roberts By

Sign in to view read count


During his twenty-five year tenure with the Duke Ellington Orchestra as composer, lyricist, arranger, and Duke's closest musical confidante, Billy Strayhorn rarely performed in front of a live audience and even less frequently entered a recording studio. Although his piano playing can be heard on a handful of records with the Ellington Orchestra as well as on some of its members' side projects, most notably several dates with Johnny Hodges, Strayhorn made just one album as a featured solo artist. That album, the Peaceful Side of Billy Strayhorn recorded during two overnight sessions in Paris in January 1961, has recently been reissued in the original mono version on Capitol Jazz. It offers a unique opportunity to hear this brilliant composer's own takes on some of his best-known songs, including "Lush Life," "Take the A Train," and "Chelsea Bridge."

It was certainly not a lack of technique that kept Strayhorn from recording more often. A classically trained pianist, his playing here is exquisite, evoking the impressionism of Debussy almost as much as the driving jazz of Ellington. This is a quiet, spare recording featuring just Strayhorn's piano with occasional accompaniment by bass, string quartet, or vocal chorus. Strayhorn brings out all the passion and melancholy of his own compostions, which are performed in much more relaxed tempos than we are used to hearing. Even "'A' Train" is treated as a moody ballad. Other highlights include a gently swinging "Just A Sittin' and A Rockin'," and an exquisite version of the haunting "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing." It is a shame that Strayhorn did not record more, since he brought the same extraordinary musical intelligence and sophistication to his piano playing that he did to his composing.



| Record Label: Capitol Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Northern Adventures CD/LP/Track Review Northern Adventures
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Collider CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Eos CD/LP/Track Review Eos
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 28, 2017
Read More Than This CD/LP/Track Review More Than This
by Henning Bolte
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "Parallax" CD/LP/Track Review Parallax
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 21, 2016
Read "Six By Five" CD/LP/Track Review Six By Five
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 11, 2016
Read "The Caustic Ballads" CD/LP/Track Review The Caustic Ballads
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: August 24, 2016
Read "Joyride" CD/LP/Track Review Joyride
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 27, 2016
Read "Perceive React" CD/LP/Track Review Perceive React
by Budd Kopman
Published: October 31, 2016
Read "Untitled" CD/LP/Track Review Untitled
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 13, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!