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Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

Portrait of Billy Strayhorn

This week on Afterglow we focus on Billy Strayhorn, the co-writer who played a very important part in The Duke Ellington Orchestra's sound.

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Billy Strayhorn's song “Lush Life" is a classic tune about world-weary bar life that he wrote when barely out of his teens.

This week on Afterglow it’s “A Portrait of Billy Strayhorn.” For 27 years Billy Strayhorn was the crucial co-writer in one of the greatest big bands the world has ever heard—the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Although Ellington made a point of singling Strayhorn out for praise, Strayhorn spent most of his career in the shadow of his illustrious colleague.

In recent years two books—David Hadju’s biography Lush Life and Walter van de Leur’s musical study Something to Live For —have shed much light on the life, times, and art of the man who played such an important part in Duke Ellington’s sound from 1939 on.

On this edition of Afterglow we’ll hear interpretations of Strayhorn’s music by the Ellington orchestra, Bill Henderson, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Henderson, Joya Sherrill, Ben Webster, the Dutch Jazz Orchestra, and many others, as well as Strayhorn himself singing and playing “Lush Life,” the classic tune about world-weary bar life that he wrote when barely out of his teens.

We’ll also hear some music from a new Blue Note compilation, including Dianne Reeves’ take on “Something to Live For,” and Elvis Costello singing new words set to Strayhorn’s penultimate composition “Blood Count.”

For more information about Billy Strayhorn and this Independent Lens program, go here .

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