Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Billy Strayhorn, musical genius

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Tom Vitale has a good report at NPR, and at the link is a podcast. Story begins:

In 1964, near the end of his career, Billy Strayhorn accompanied himself on a live recording of one of his best-known songs. It starts:

I used to visit all the very gay places
Those come-what-may places
Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life
To get the feel of life
From jazz and cocktails …

When Strayhorn wrote “Lush Life” in 1936, he could only dream of the Paris nightlife described in the lyrics. He was a 20-year-old living in the poorest neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He had already written a musical revue called Fantastic Rhythm, but he wanted to play classical piano.

Strayhorn was working at a drugstore to pay for his lessons, and when he made deliveries, he played for the customers who had pianos. He had also written a number of original songs.

“They were unheard,” Strayhorn told interviewer Paul Worth in 1962. But “they were heard by the drugstore customers. And they got after me to have someone else hear them.”

Composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn would go on to create some of the most popular American music of the 20th century: songs like “Lush Life” or “Take The ‘A’ Train.” Born 100 years ago today, Nov. 29, 1915, Strayhorn did it his way — without ever hiding who he was.

His accomplishments are made all the more remarkable by the fact that he received little attention during his own lifetime. Strayhorn spent the bulk of his career in the shadow of his employer — bandleader Duke Ellington.

You Must Take The ‘A’ Train

In December 1938, a friend took Strayhorn backstage at the Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh to meet Duke Ellington. Strayhorn played some of his music for Ellington, who invited him to New York — scribbling down directions to his home in Harlem.

Strayhorn turned those notes into a song, and took it to Ellington a month later. Duke Ellington hired the young composer and made Strayhorn’s “Take The ‘A’ Train” his theme song. . .

Continue reading.

See also: Billy Strayhorn in Five Songs

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2015 at 9:25 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

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