Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life
Nov 11, 2015
(Robert Levi, 2008, United States)
Screens with ImprovJam: A Musical Convergence of Jazz, Rock, and Rap!
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From the 1940s to the 1960s, Billy Strayhorn was one of the forces behind the sound of the renowned Duke Ellington Orchestra. Lush Life tells the story of this pioneering African American composer, arranger and pianist. Strayhorn helped produce a body of work that has no rival in originality and range—from unforgettable tunes and jazz melodies to orchestral suites and soundtracks. He was the sole composer of many classic compositions, including the Ellington theme song, “Take The ‘A’ Train,” and the widely recorded “Lush Life.” Yet at the time of his death in 1967 at age 51 from esophageal cancer, most people were unfamiliar with his musical accomplishments and genius.
Today, historians and scholars agree that Billy Strayhorn remains one of the most under-recognized American composers in history. Born in 1915, Strayhorn chose to live openly as a gay black man. It was perhaps this decision—and his lifelong devotion to Ellington—which contributed to his near anonymity as a major American composer. Ironically, Strayhorn is the composer of many of the world’s most defining and recognizable jazz standards. While Ellington is arguably the most influential and celebrated jazz composer of the 20th century, Strayhorn is unrecognized. Lush Life poses answers to the question of who was Billy Strayhorn, and why is he still relatively unknown?
ImprovJam: A Musical Convergence of Jazz, Rock, and Rap
(Ron Dawson, 2015, United States, 18 min)
Filmed with 8 cameras and 6 filmmakers, this performance film/documentary is an improvisational exercise in capturing a jam session between a jazz trio, a rock guitarist and a freestyle rapper.