The song of the day for Friday, November 29, 2013 is “Chelsea Bridge.”
About This Song
“Chelsea Bridge” was written in 1941 by Billy Strayhorn. Lyrics for the song were added in 1958 by Bill Comstock. This song has been recorded by Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, Ella Fitzgerald and many more.
We choose this song today to honor the birth of Billy Strayhorn, who was born on November 29, 1915 in Dayton, Ohio. Trained as a classical musician, Strayhorn found it too difficult as a black man to be taken seriously as a classical composer. In 1938, he met Duke Ellington when Ellington was performing in Pittsburgh. Ellington was impressed with the young man and asked that Strayhorn visit him at his home in Harlem so that they could discuss his future. Ellington left directions, which started out with “take the A train.” Strayhorn appeared for his visit, having composed the song “Take The A Train” to present to Ellington upon that first visit. “Take the A Train” became one of Ellington’s most beloved and recorded songs.
Ellington and Strayhorn worked together from that time forward. Strayhorn was an arranger, composer, pianist and collaborator with Ellington until his death from cancer in 1967. Ellington is quoted as saying that “Billy Strayhorn was my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine.”
About This Version
Tony Bennett, who produced this album with his son Danny Bennett, included this instrumental version “Chelsea Bridge” in his 1999 album dedicated to the music of Duke Ellington — Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool. It’s a very fine album; this song in particular features some excellent work from the band, including the muted trombone in the introduction and some exceptional trumpet work by Wynton Marsalis.
What, no Tony Bennett singing? Well, as we are celebrating the anniversary of the birth of Billy Strayhorn, here’s Bennett singing Strayhorn’s “Take The A Train.” This recording was not included in full on the album, but the outtake was made available upon the release of the Complete Collection on the Rarities, Outtakes and Other Delights, Volume 2: