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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Day Dream: Complete 1945-1961
Sessions as a Leader

Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55667



CD 1

1. Lush Life

2. Just A Sittin' And A Rockin'

3. Passion Flower

4. Take The “A” Train

5. Strange Feeling

6. Day Dream

7. Chelsea Bridge

8. Multi-Colored Blue

9. Something To Live For

10. A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing

11. Cue's Blue Now

12. Gone With The Wind

13. Cherry

14. Watch Your Cue

15.You Brought A New Kind Of Love To Me

16. When I Dream Of You

17. Rose Room

18. Feather Roll Blues

CD 2

1. Halfway To Dawn [Version 1]

2. Tailspin

3. Halfway To Dawn [Version 2]

4. Sono

5. Frustration

6. Sono [Alternate Take]

7. Cotton Tail

8. C Jam Blues

9. Flamingo

10. Bang-Up Blues

11. Tonk #1

12. Johnny Come Lately

13. In A Blue Summer Garden

14. Great Times

15. Perdido

16. Take The “A” Train

17. Oscalypso

18. Blues For Blanton

19. Tonk #2

20. Drawing Room Blues

21. Tonk #3

22. Lush Life

Billy Strayhorn – Piano, with:

Tracks I/1-10

Michel Gaudry – Bass

The Paris String Quartet

The Paris Blue Notes – Vocals

Tracks I/11-17

Harold “Shorty” Baker – Trumpet

Quentin Jackson – Trombone

Russell Procope – Clarinet

Johnny Hodges – Alto sax

Al Hall – Bass

Oliver Jackson – Drums

Track I/18

Ray Nance – Trumpet

Jimmy Hamilton – Clarinet

Al Sears – Tenor sax

Harry Carney – Baritone sax

Junior Raglin - Bass

Fletcher Jackson - Drums

Tracks II/4-6

Harry Carney – Baritone sax

Gred Guy – Guitar

Oscar Pettiford – Bass

Sonny Greer – Drums

Duke Ellington – Arranger, plus strings

Tracks II/7-21

Duke Ellington- Piano

Wendell Marshall, Joe Shilman or Lloyd Trotman – Bass

Oscar Pettiford – Cello

Jo Jones - Drums

Track II/22

Kay Davis – Vocals

Duke Ellington – Announcer

Billy Strayhorn was notoriously reserved in his musical career. He made very few albums under his own name and seemed almost content for Duke Ellington to get the credit for much of their work together. Nonetheless he was not only a marvellous composer and arranger but also a talented pianist, as this double album shows. It contains the first two albums he made under his own name: The Peaceful Side (tracks I/1-10) and Cue for Saxophone (tracks I/11-17), as well as his other recordings as a leader between 1945 and 1961.

They reinforce his reticent image, as he allows most of his fellow musicians to occupy much of the space in the recordings. He was a modest soloist, even in his most celebrated compositions. This tendency is evident in the title of his first album, where he is accompanied by strings and cooing vocalists, although he plays alone on such tunes as Chelsea Bridge or just with Michel Gaudry’s bass. All the tracks on The Peaceful Side are gentle, although they prove that Strayhorn was comfortable at the piano and capable of many decorative touches. The slight exception is Take The “A” Train, which becomes positively puckish after a simple introduction.

The album Cue for Saxophone livens up, thanks to four Ellingtonians who play some bluesy arrangements and produce some bluesy solos. The ten-minute Cue’s Blue Now has nice wa-wa trumpet from Shorty Baker, while Gone With The Wind has sublime sax from Johnny Hodges. Russell Procope is outstanding throughout on clarinet. The choice of stalwart old standards like Cherry and Rose Room suggests that Strayhorn was happy to be more extrovert than elsewhere. The ending of Rose Room is positively Dixieland!

The first three tracks of the second CD are unaccompanied performances by Strayhorn, emphasising his delicacy of touch. The next three tracks spotlight the wonderful Harry Carney.

Tracks 7 to 21 on the second CD are the famous piano duets between Stray and the Duke. They begin with a rather shambolic version of Cotton Tail, at a tempo which neither pianist seems comfortable with. The remainder of the duets seem better organised, although it is impossible to tell which man is playing at any one time. I guess that the stabbing notes in a tune like Flamingo are by Ellington. Tonk is the best co-ordinated track, as this was a party piece which the duettists played at social functions. It is a glittering showpiece which shows off the talents of both musicians. Tracks 18 to 21 are not piano duets but the first recordings made by Oscar Pettiford with his cello, plus occasional interpolations by Strayhorn on celeste. The sound is unfortunately distorted.

This set concludes with Kay Davis singing Stray’s Lush Life at Carnegie Hall in 1948. Unfortunately her tuning is not always perfect but she puts the song across with feeling.

Tony Augarde

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