Jazz FM celebrates the centenary of composer Billy Strayhorn

Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn

This Sunday November 29th at 2pm James Tormé celebrates one of the most important musical figures of 20th century jazz.

James Tormé celebrates one of the most important figures of 20th century jazz this weekend who was born 100 years ago. William Thomas Strayhorn was brought up amid difficult family circumstances, but his education at Pittsburgh Musical Institute set him on a path to honour and acclaim.

Much of his success was due to the great Duke Ellington who recruited the young pianist in 1939. Strayhorn assisted with arranging and composition, soon becoming integral to the sound of The Duke Ellington Band, and striking up a close personal friendship with its leader (who nicknamed him ‘Sweet Pea’).

He was known to be of a quiet and shy disposition, modest and unassuming. He was a civil rights activist and openly gay – a precarious decision in 1940’s USA.

His compositions are a lasting legacy, including dozens of jazz standards; Take the ‘A’ Train, Lush Life, Rain Check, Chelsea Bridge, Johnny Come Lately, A Flower is a Lovesome Thing and Lotus Blossom amongst many others.

Listen to James Tormé for a centenary celebration of Strayhorn - 2pm on Sunday Afternoon 29th November 2015 and listen to this short documentary from our friends at Dreamworks in Los Angeles – ‘A Vignette by Keith David’ covering all angles of the Strayhorn story.

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