The song of the day for Wednesday, September 4, 2013 is “Take The A Train.”
About This Song
“Take The A Train” was the first song that Billy Strayhorn wrote for Duke Ellington in 1938. Strayhorn had met Ellington at a concert in Pittsburgh; Ellington invited Strayhorn to come to New York to talk. Ellington wrote out instructions to get to his home in Harlem, starting with the instructions to “take the A train.” Strayhorn decided to write a song based on that phrase for Ellington. That was the beginning of their collaboration which lasted for nearly thirty years, until Strayhorn’s death in 1967.
During that time, Billy “Sweet Pea” Strayhorn composed, arranged and sat in on piano for rehearsals for the Ellington Orchestra. In addition to “Take The A Train,” he wrote “Lush Life,” “Chelsea Bridge” and “Day Dream,” among others. Having been classically trained in Pittsburgh, he also composed modern classical music, both with and without Ellington, including “Such Sweet Thunder” and “The Far East Suite.”
National Public Radio named “Take The A Train” as one of the top 100 songs of the 20th century. You can hear their wonderful story about the song here.
About This Version
Today’s version of “Take The A Train” was an outtake from Tony Bennett’s 1999 album Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool (though you can hear snippets of this recording in the album). It’s a marvelous recording arranged by Ralph Burns, featuring the Ralph Sharon Quartet (Sharon on piano; Gray Sargent on guitar; Clayton Cameron on drums; and Paul Langosch on bass) with Wynton Marsalis on trumpet and Al Grey on trombone.
“Take The A Train,” as well as all of the songs on Rarities, Outtakes & Other Delights, is available from iTunes.