This year marks the 20th birthday of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (SNJO) and the stars are already in alignment for a very special year of celebrations, beginning with concerts in February and the marvellous music of the remarkable Billy Strayhorn.
Strayhorn was born in 1915 and his name is synonymous with Duke Ellington’s finest work. The hugely-prolific Strayhorn composed and arranged literally hundreds of pieces for Duke and wrote many of Ellington’s greatest hits, often uncredited for his efforts.
In the 1990s, jazz historian Walter van de Leur uncovered dozens of previously unknown compositions by Strayhorn. These captivating pieces sparkle with Billy Strayhorn’s musical ingenuity and his obvious penchant for a brightly gregarious melody. Now those lost Strayhorn tunes are in their rightful place as a restored chapter in the jazz repertoire.
In 2003, the SNJO, directed by Van de Leur, brought Strayhorn’s melodies brilliantly to life. Now, it offers a more rounded portrait of Billy Strayhorn in concerts laced with Ellington-era hits and sensitive Strayhorn originals. Join the SNJO and Take the A Train down to Chelsea Bridge, where Billy Strayhorn’s humanity and optimism are further revealed in numbers like Remember and Jo.
The SNJO also revisits Rhapsody in Blue, this time in an elegant arrangement by Strayhorn. In their hands, it’s a sound that makes you feel a bit more optimistic about the world, and a reminder that it would have been a poorer place without the influential contribution and timeless music of Billy Strayhorn.
‘The Jazz Genius of Billy Strayhorn’ comes to Langholm’s Buccleuch Centre on Saturday, February 21 at 7.30pm. Tickets £17.50, concs £15, under-18s £5. Book online at www.buccleuchcentre.com or tel 01387 381196.