The Lush Life Of Billy Strayhorn The composer was remarkable not only for his harmonically rich collaborations with Duke Ellington, but for living as an openly gay black man in the 1940s.

Billy Strayhorn (right), spent the majority of his career as a composer and arranger for Duke Ellington (left) and his orchestra. David Redfern/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
David Redfern/Getty Images

Billy Strayhorn (right), spent the majority of his career as a composer and arranger for Duke Ellington (left) and his orchestra.

David Redfern/Getty Images

Jazz Night In America

The Lush Life Of Billy StrayhornWBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

The Lush Life Of Billy Strayhorn

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/500504682/500512491" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

The fruitful collaboration between Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington is widely known to have brought us such classics as "Take The 'A' Train," "Chelsea Bridge" and "Isfahan." But behind the music, Strayhorn's life and identity were complex.

While composing some of the most harmonically rich jazz of its time — often in Ellington's shadow — Strayhorn was an outlier in that he led an openly gay life as a black man in the 1940s, an era rife with homophobia and racism.

In this episode of Jazz Night In America, hear interviews with Strayhorn's family members and biographer, along with rare archival tape of Strayhorn himself. You'll also hear Strayhorn's music performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, including pianist Johnny O'Neal's rendition of "Lush Life."

[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Nico van der Stam/Octave Music

Into the Vault: Erroll Garner Uncovered

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Take an essential and unprecedented glimpse into the music and life of the groundbreaking pianist-composer.

Into the Vault: Erroll Garner Uncovered

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/656189856/656604367" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Pat Metheny. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Pat Metheny On Piano Jazz

On this episode, The Pat Metheny Trio, which includes bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez, performs an exclusive version of "Go Get It" and "Bright Size Life."

Pat Metheny On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/649963580/649988817" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Ingrid Hertfelder/Courtesy of the artist

Michel Camilo On Piano Jazz

Hear Grammy-winning pianist, composer and bandleader Michel Camilo demonstrate his whirlwind approach to music, technical brilliance and post-bop Latin rhythms.

Michel Camilo On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/647914078/647930411" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Soprano Eileen Farrell Erich Auerbach/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Erich Auerbach/Getty Images

Eileen Farrell On Piano Jazz

On this episode of Piano Jazz from 1993, she shares her tremendous vocal range on "How High the Moon" and "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning."

Eileen Farrell On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/645639983/645646714" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Peter Symes/Redferns

Gene Harris On Piano Jazz

On this 1988 Piano Jazz episode, Harris opens with a slow and easy "Black and Blue," then McPartland joins him on "Bag's Groove."

Gene Harris On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/643301657/643308374" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Stefon Harris Elizabeth Leitzell/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Elizabeth Leitzell/Courtesy of the artist

Stefon Harris On Piano Jazz

Vibraphonist Stefon Harris is one of the most innovative and impressive artists in jazz, blazing new trails on vibraphone and marimba.

Stefon Harris On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/639381859/639391660" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top