Did You Know?
And His Mother Called Him Bill, 1967
Personnel: Duke Ellington (piano); Russell Procope, Jimmy Hamilton (alto saxophone, clarinet); Johnny Hodges (alto saxophone); Paul Gonsalves (tenor saxophone); Harry Carney (baritone saxophone); Cat Anderson, Mercer Ellington, Herbie Jones, Cootie Williams (trumpet); Clark Terry (flugelhorn); John Sanders, Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper, Chuck Connors (trombone); Aaron Bell, Jeff Castleman (bass); Steve Little, Sam Woodyard (drums).
I am completely captivated by the Strayhorn/Ellington narrative and by the 1967 CD And His Mother Called Him Bill. Every story has a beginning and a middle, and as many of us eventually figure out , there are no real endings. This CD is a living legacy of that reality. My appreciation for this body of work is inseparable from the love story it expresses.
Can you imagine being fortunate enough to meet someone in your lifetime that you connect with on a creative and soul level so profound that it is not a threat to, nor rivalled by any other kind of intimacy? From all that I have read by historians and biographers, and all myths aside, this is the essence of the relationship Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn shared and nurtured for 30 years. A bond beyond gender or sexuality, and even deeper than friendship. Yet, most of their famous compositions were collaborated on while apart and from completely different approaches, one being self taught liking contrast and discord, the other classically trained loving harmony and melody.
Strayhorn recalled the first time he watched the Duke in action: Something inside me changed when I saw Ellington on stage, like I hadn't been living until then. And later Ellington described Strayhorn as my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brainwaves in his head, and his in mine. When Billy Strayhorn died in 1967 after a two year struggle with esophagus cancer, Ellington was so devastated that he did not get out of bed for weeks, and three months later he called his band into the studio to record this tribute album.
Hence, my inspiration to share. These are my first You Tube uploads, audio only and not perfect, but just lay back, close your eyes and drift.
(Ellington's spontaneous emotive piano; you can hear the chatter in the background as the band members packed up at the end of this recording session.)