Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn

The sounds of Duke Ellington and his longtime associate Billy Strayhorn once blended as smoothly as scotch and soda. But, like alcohol and water, the partners’ individual styles were bound to separate with time. As jazz musicians and scholars delve deeper and deeper into Ellingtonia, Strayhorn’s contributions have been emerging as a resonant and startlingly distinctive body of work. In fact, there’s been a real boom in recording Stayhorn songs recently, with retrospectives released by Art Farmer, Marian McPartland, Michael Hashim, and now tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, whose new Lush Life matches Strayhorn’s music in originality and sheer strangeness. The idea here is to draw out the personality of some of the best-known Strayhorn big-band pieces through dramatic changes in personnel from song to song: ”Johnny Come Lately” is a quintet number with Wynton Marsalis on trumpet; ”Take the ‘A’ Train” is a duet with Henderson and drummer Gregory Hutchinson; ”Lush Life” is a solo by Henderson, etc. It works without getting gimmicky. Henderson, an adventurous and commanding bop player, brings a fierce muscularity to this music that counterbalance’s Strayhorn’s angst — as exquisitely, in a new way, as Duke Ellington and his orchestra used to. A

Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn
  • Music