In this edition of Liner Notes, Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe, talks about the life and legacy of jazz legend Billy Strayhorn.
Billy Strayhorn, a long time muse and collaborator for the great bandleader Duke Ellington, brought depth and a languid power to the already sophisticated sound of Ellington’s orchestra. Aching for love and significance, Strayhorn was openly gay in a time of repression and bias, composing ballads filled with longing and disarming vulnerability, which demanded the full attention of both the listener and the performer.
How do we strive when circumstances are stacked against us? How do we make the best of our situation as we continue to dream? How do we continue to hold out hope for consequential love, as we smolder? Sometimes what we need most, is hidden, right in front of us, in plain sight.
During this evening, we engaged in both a spirited discussion about Strayhorn and his relationships to Ellington — discussing his music, and his legacy — and we enjoyed superlative live music with Ephraim Owens (trumpet), Brannen Temple (drums), Red Young (piano), Chris Maresh (bass), Andre Hayward (trombone) and Sam Lipman (Saxaphone).
The collaboration of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn led to a collection of music that has spanned generations. Their music and compositions are seemingly effortlessly entwined.