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Billy Strayhorn

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was it only in NYC?

I found it interesting and the interviews with Hadju, his biographer, and Gunther Schuller as well as with Mercer and Mercedes Ellington were good.

Interesting paradox in that Ellington is shown to both have helped Strayhorn and yet perhaps ultimately hindered his career.

anyone else see this?

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It was on past my beddy-bye time in our PBS market, and I don't remember how to program my antiquated VCR anymore.

It's always been very interesting to me that a number of brilliant composer/arranger/orchestrators have had these collaborative relationships, and that in many cases there is some mystery as to who contributed what to the finished product.

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It was on at 11pm here in OR. I found it interesting, focussed largely on the collaboration with Ellington and what benefits and costs it may have had for Strayhorn. The tie-in with BN's new tribute project had Lovano, Charlap, Hank Jones and Elvis Costello doing various compositions - interesting but not compelling.

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interesting but not compelling.

I caught all but about the first 20 minutes here, and I was largely unaware of Strayhorn's story (well, I knew he was Ellington's primary and long-time collaborator, and I knew he was gay - but didn't know much beyond that).

I have to say this documentary really cast Ellington in a different light for me.

I've never been a huge Ellington "fanatic", in the sense of having lots of his recordings (which I don't have), though oddly enough I seem to have most of Ellington's output in a piano-trio format. But I've always held Duke in the very highest regard -- one of THE very greatest among The Greats. But this special really showed another side of Ellington, and one that wasn't always favorable. :unsure:

QUESTION: What ever was that tune that they showed footage of with Strayhorn playing contemplative piano (in a kind of impressionistic way), with the band breaking in with a rather raucous two-chord vamp - that appeared not to have one thing to do with what Strayhorn was playing??

That was COOL!!! :cool:

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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I geuss part of my reaction was due to knowing more of the story going in...creative collaboration is often pretty messy and Strayhorn wasn't the only one in Ellington's orbit who sometimes felt misused but ruthlessness is sometimes what it takes to get results and you can't really argue with something as sublime as what Ellington, Strayhorn, Hodges, Williams, Carney, etc. created together. Listen to And His Mother Called Him Bill.

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Yeah, if Duke was a 'nice guy' and treated everyone 'fairly' nothing would have been accomplished.

Read the bio. it's pretty depressing but that's what the Lush Life is all about.

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Just a note that this is on Friday night in L.A.

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I have a number of objections to the show's "thesis". BS was fine but without Ellington he'd be zero. To blame Ellington is a crime in my book.

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I'm not that big an Ellington fan either, but I have the impression, reading the Hadju book, that no-one has ever really been able to fathom the man. Given that, it's kind of reductive to blame the man for "using" his compatriots. I mean, there is a certain sort of guy (Wagner was one) who draws people to him because they see in him a way to make a larger contribution - because the person concerned is fashioned (or fashions himself) on that larger scale. This is one of the theories for Shakespeare's work - people argue that it involves contributions from others, collaborators, who are now forgotten.

I imagine there is an unsavoury side to Ellington. But perhaps Strayhorn et al knew, on some level, that there was greatness involved in Ellington - a greatness involving the black people in art and kind of elevating the whole people - and in that spirit willingly contributed to the Ellington project.

I do feel there is some sort of proper "for the people" thing in Ellington.

Simon Weil

Edited by Simon Weil

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How long was this documentary?

I taped it, setting the timer for one hour. Imagine my surprise to learn it was at least 90 minutes.

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How long was this documentary?

I taped it, setting the timer for one hour. Imagine my surprise to learn it was at least 90 minutes.

It was 90 minutes. Here's what you missed: Strayhorn heroically rescues Ellington by largely doing all the work on "Anatomy of a Murder" and "Paris Blues" Then Strayhorn heroically helps lead the civil rights movement with Lena Horne. Then he gets sicks, heroically fights his illness, visits Paris for the last time, writes "Blood Count" and then dies (heroically).

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How long was this documentary?

I taped it, setting the timer for one hour. Imagine my surprise to learn it was at least 90 minutes.

It was 90 minutes. Here's what you missed: Strayhorn heroically rescues Ellington by largely doing all the work on "Anatomy of a Murder" and "Paris Blues" Then Strayhorn heroically helps lead the civil rights movement with Lena Horne. Then he gets sicks, heroically fights his illness, visits Paris for the last time, writes "Blood Count" and then dies (heroically).

Our local PBS affiliate screwed the pooch on this one - somewhere between 2-5 minutes before it ended, they somehow cut to a completely unrelated children's program, and by the time someone presumably figured out they'd screwed up and cut back to the Strayhorn program, it was already over and the post-credits "funding by..." scroll was winding down. :angry:

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I saw the documentary and enjoyed it, considering I didn't know that much about billy strayhorn. The sounds clips they played from "Paris Blues" were amazing, and I can't wait to get my hands on that album. It sounded beautiful.

It's curious to me that you people are so quick to defend Ellington. Take the bad with the good.

Also the Elvis Costello number was so bad I had to hit the mute button.

Funny how PBS recycles the same images from their other documentaries (Jazz, Civil Rights)

Was this a Ken Burns project? I hope not, the little bastard

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How much does it cost these days to rent Elvis Costello for a tribute?

Edited by Teasing the Korean

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I have a number of objections to the show's "thesis". BS was fine but without Ellington he'd be zero. To blame Ellington is a crime in my book.

did you actually watch it yourself? i thought it was pretty fair-minded and balanced about that "thesis". there was a lot of speculation as to whether billy would have been able to accomplish much without duke during that time. that because of billy's personality, sexuality and society's prejudices at that time that he needed to "hide behind" someone like duke to allow his genius to flow.

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:rofl:

How much does it cost these days to rent Elvis Costello for a tribute?

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How long was this documentary?

I taped it, setting the timer for one hour. Imagine my surprise to learn it was at least 90 minutes.

It was 90 minutes. Here's what you missed: Strayhorn heroically rescues Ellington by largely doing all the work on "Anatomy of a Murder" and "Paris Blues" Then Strayhorn heroically helps lead the civil rights movement with Lena Horne. Then he gets sicks, heroically fights his illness, visits Paris for the last time, writes "Blood Count" and then dies (heroically).

:rofl:

Now, _that's_ funny!

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I have a number of objections to the show's "thesis". BS was fine but without Ellington he'd be zero. To blame Ellington is a crime in my book.

did you actually watch it yourself? i thought it was pretty fair-minded and balanced about that "thesis". there was a lot of speculation as to whether billy would have been able to accomplish much without duke during that time. that because of billy's personality, sexuality and society's prejudices at that time that he needed to "hide behind" someone like duke to allow his genius to flow.

I burned a disc and watched it - twice. Billy was NOT ABLE to "accomplish much without duke" and that is my point. He might have died alone in PA.

The Stravinsky and Mahler comparisons were stupid.

Jazz "fans" diminish the art by comparing it to another form.

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Billy was NOT ABLE to "accomplish much without duke" and that is my point. He might have died alone in PA.

If you are saying that if Duke hadn't hired him, he wouldn't have accomplished much and might have died alone in PA, well, that's impossible to dispute. Obviously no one would know him if Duke hadn't hired him.

The bigger question is, what would the Ellington-Strayhorn songs sound like if Duke hadn't hired him? Obviously we would still celebrate Duke - but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't celebrate Strayhorn as well.

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Billy was NOT ABLE to "accomplish much without duke" and that is my point. He might have died alone in PA.

If you are saying that if Duke hadn't hired him, he wouldn't have accomplished much and might have died alone in PA, well, that's impossible to dispute. Obviously no one would know him if Duke hadn't hired him.

The bigger question is, what would the Ellington-Strayhorn songs sound like if Duke hadn't hired him? Obviously we would still celebrate Duke - but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't celebrate Strayhorn as well.

Strayhorn is fine and I celebrate him.

Ellington's reputation was established earlier.

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the comparison to mahler and stravinsky was indeed stupid, but for the reason that he used their names in the context of making some sort of retarded racially contextualized statement about black musical geniuses and how people of that time weren't inclined to acknowledge the musical talents of blacks or accept them as geniuses, which i find hard believe. I also dislike how classical composers are treated like their form of music is somehow a more noble and elevated artform. (this is an aside, I like mahler and stravinsky alot...oh and one last thing the word genius is thrown around way too much. especially in the way that the people who came up with the macarthur "genius" grant like to use it)

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Billy was NOT ABLE to "accomplish much without duke" and that is my point. He might have died alone in PA.

If you are saying that if Duke hadn't hired him, he wouldn't have accomplished much and might have died alone in PA, well, that's impossible to dispute. Obviously no one would know him if Duke hadn't hired him.

The bigger question is, what would the Ellington-Strayhorn songs sound like if Duke hadn't hired him? Obviously we would still celebrate Duke - but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't celebrate Strayhorn as well.

Strayhorn is fine and I celebrate him.

Ellington's reputation was established earlier.

But its not as if Ellington's reputation iis based solely on that pre-collaboration period.

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Billy was NOT ABLE to "accomplish much without duke" and that is my point. He might have died alone in PA.

If you are saying that if Duke hadn't hired him, he wouldn't have accomplished much and might have died alone in PA, well, that's impossible to dispute. Obviously no one would know him if Duke hadn't hired him.

The bigger question is, what would the Ellington-Strayhorn songs sound like if Duke hadn't hired him? Obviously we would still celebrate Duke - but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't celebrate Strayhorn as well.

Strayhorn is fine and I celebrate him.

Ellington's reputation was established earlier.

But its not as if Ellington's reputation iis based solely on that pre-collaboration period.

It was for me.

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the comparison to mahler and stravinsky was indeed stupid, but for the reason that he used their names in the context of making some sort of retarded racially contextualized statement about black musical geniuses and how people of that time weren't inclined to acknowledge the musical talents of blacks or accept them as geniuses, which i find hard believe. I also dislike how classical composers are treated like their form of music is somehow a more noble and elevated artform...

Agree completely with what you're saying; but at the same time I don't feel this should prevent people from making comparisons between jazz and so-called "classical" artists if the comparisons are merited. Having said that, I would never have thought of comparing Strayhorn to Mahler or Stravinsky.

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