Five Strayhorn Covers to Celebrate During Jazz Appreciation Month
For generations, famous musicians have covered the classic catalog of renowned jazz composer Billy Strayhorn. In honor of Jazz Appreciation Month, we’re highlighting five of our favorite covers of the genre’s most heart-rendering standards to date.
1. Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett – Lush Life
The melody of “Lush Life” is dream-like, evoking the spirit of this so-called lush life being described in the lyrics. Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett’s album Cheek to Cheek, which topped the Billboard Jazz Album Charts upon release, brought this jazz classic to the younger generations with their sweeping rendition. The pair also earned a Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album award at the 2015 Grammys for their collaboration.
2. Seven Year-Old Japanese Pianist – Take the A Train
“Take the A Train” is perhaps Strayhorn’s most classic composition. So well known, it became a signature tune of the Duke Ellington’s orchestra in the big band era. Only sixteen when he wrote a majority of the song, the transcending piece continues to attracted young musicians, many of whom aspire to have a career like Stayhorn’s. Below, this terrific seven year-old pianist covers the legendary artist’s classic tune.
3. Phillip K Jones II – Day Dream
Another slower number, Strayhorn’s “Day Dream” floats its listeners through the song from start to finish. While many vocalists have sung the song to perfection, there’s something mesmerizing about watching and hearing a pianist such as Phillip K Jones cover the composition solo on the piano below.
4. Joey Alexander – Chelsea Bridge
The 1941 jazz standard “Chelsea Bridge” is known for it’s smooth movements intended to mimic the water under a bridge. Reportedly inspired by one of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s hazy, dark toned paintings of London’s Chelsea Embankment, the piece was widely heralded by Strayhorn’s contemporaries. Below, watch twelve year-old Joey Alexander cover “Chelsea Bridge,” which he would later go on to record on his second studio album Countdown.
5. Elaine Dame – Something to Live For
“Something to Live For” was the first Strayhorn piece that the Duke Ellington band recorded. Strayhorn had begun writing the tune when he was only eighteen years old, exemplifying his pure talent and reflecting the yet to be fulfilled desires of the young composer. The song has since been recorded numerous times, many by jazz legends, including Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone, but Chicago jazz singer Elaine Dame puts her own bouncy spin on the song below.