Thursday, February 20, 2014

Strays On

 "I referred to him like a lot of the cats did, as 'Strays,'" says Clark Terry of Billy Strayhorn in his autobiography, Clark, which has a lot to say about Ellington years and the people of that tribe.

In a short chapter of the book, dedicated to "Strays," there is nothing but admiration and deep respect for the man and his music both as a composer/arranger and piano player. "Strays was like a breath of fresh air," says Mr Terry, "he had an almost spiritual touch in his writing. Deep undertones that would draw emotion and dig into the psyche." So true.

There are some stories in Clark about the relationship between Duke and Strays, whether artistically, emotionally ("he had a way of calming Duke") or even financially for which CT remembers:

"Strays was a man who lived the most unique life style of anybody. He had no bills: no hotel bills, no apartment bills, no food bills, no clothes or tax bills. No nothing. He didn't have a salary, either. He just signed a tab. Duke paid for everything."

The Take the "A" Train video posted here is another entry from Bern Jazz Festival's Trumpet Masters summit, 1998, which gathers many of Strayhorn devotees under one roof. It is from there than the all star line up takes the "A" train. Hank Jones, who probably has played it zillion times, pushes the train ahead with his tinkling notes. While evidently enjoying going through it more than once, the four leading trumpet masters, CT, Snooky Young, Joe Wilder and Harry "Sweets" Edison, takes off rather quiveringly but soon speed up and keep on steadily until the end.

"We all admired the chord changes and moods of his work," CT states and remembers how Strayhorn always used to ask: "Did you enjoy your part?"

I'm sure all the musicians here have enjoyed their part. Hope you enjoy their part, too.

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