Duke Ellington played piano, but it was his intertwined roles as bandleader and composer that propelled him to greatness. He wrote over 1,700 songs, as well as longer orchestral suites and film scores. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, a recently published biography by Wall Street Journal drama critic and blogger Terry Teachout - now available in paperback - explores the man behind the music.
The William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia first imagined the nation’s first LGBT Jazz Festival last year. And over the course of the year, the city, and the city’s jazz community - including the Philadelphia Jazz Project and Ars Nova Workshop - signed on.
He stood five feet, two inches tall, and his musical colleagues dubbed him “Swee’ Pea,” after the little character in the Popeye cartoons. But Billy Strayhorn ranked with the giants that composed enduring standard popular music. He was also nobody’s cartoon character. The handle was a reverent tease, applied by Strayhorn’s musical associates in the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Composer Johnny Mandel shares birthday honors with Billy Strayhorn this week. We'll hear a sampling of their songs this Sunday, November 25th at 7 pm. Billy is best known for his sophisticated works, mostly with Duke Ellington (Take the "A" Train, Lush Life, etc.) and Johnny for his movie scores (I Want To Live and Americanization Of Emily). Join us for exciting Big Band interpretations!