The songs of the day for Thursday, October 26, 2017 are “Lush Life,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “Solitude.”
About These Songs
Though written between 1936 and 1938, “Lush Life” was not performed publicly until 1948, when composer Billy Strayhorn and vocalist Kay Davis performed it with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 1948. It’s rather amazing to realize that Strayhorn was only a teenager when he started writing this song. It has had several notable recordings, including those by Nat “King” Cole, Billy Ekstine and Johnny Hartman.
Duke Ellington wrote “Sophisticated Lady” in 1932 as an instrumental. Lyrics were added later by Mitchell Parish. Ellington is said to have been inspired to write this song by two of his grade school teachers, who toured Europe in the summers after teaching all year. “To me that spelled sophistication.” “Sophisticated Lady” was first recorded in 1933 on the flip side with Harold Arlen’s Stormy Weather. It is, of course, one of Ellington’s most popular and often-played songs. In addition to numerous recordings by Ellington over the years, the song has been recorded by Art Tatum, Anita O’Day, Billie Holiday, Billy Eckstine, Johnny Hodges, Sarah Vaughan, and Glenn Miller.
One of his masterpieces from 1934, Ellington is said to have written “Solitude” in twenty minutes at the recording session, as they were one number short (Ted Gioia in Jazz Standards). It’s a very strong song for both vocalists and instrumentalists. Ellington made over a hundred recordings of this song. Other great recordings include those by Paul Robeson, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Billy Eckstine.
About These Versions
Lady Gaga, our musical collaborator of the month, recorded this lovely solo on Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” on her 2014 album with Tony Bennett: Cheek to Cheek.
“Lush Life,” as well as Cheek to Cheek, is available from iTunes.
Tony Bennett recorded this wonderful solo of “Sophisticated Lady” on the same album:
And while I’m on a Duke Ellington kick, which I almost always am, is this terrific recording of Solitude by Ellington and John Coltrane, from 1961.