Honoring the work and legacy of one of the great jazz composers and collaborators, the Music Institute of Chicago presents a Billy Strayhorn Festival October 26–28. The festival, presented in partnership with Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc., a family corporation of the Strayhorn heirs, includes two star-studded concerts featuring trumpet great Terell Stafford and a screening of the award-winning film Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life followed by a panel discussion. The festival takes place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston.
Billy Strayhorn (1915–67) was one of the greatest composers in the history of American music, the creator of a body of work that includes such standards as “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Chelsea Bridge,” and “Lush Life.” Yet, all his life, Strayhorn was overshadowed by his friend and collaborator Duke Ellington, with whom he worked for three decades as the Ellington Orchestra’s primary songwriter and arranger. While composing some of the most gorgeous American music of this century, Strayhorn labored under a complex agreement whereby Ellington took the bows for his work; until his life was tragically cut short by cancer and alcohol abuse, the small, shy black composer carried himself with singular style and grace as one of the few jazzmen to be openly homosexual. (This text is courtesy of Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)
Saturday, October 27, 7:30 p.m.—Terell Stafford Quintet: This Side of Strayhorn
Inspired by his own recording of the same name, jazz trumpeter Terell Stafford and his ensemble pay tribute to one of the 20th century’s greatest jazz composers and collaborators—Billy Strayhorn. The quintet also features Tim Warfield Jr., saxophone; Bruce Barth, piano; Rodney Whitaker, bass; and Dana Hall, drums.
Terell Stafford is a gifted and versatile trumpeter with a voice all his own. His newest release, This Side of Strayhorn (MAXJAZZ 2011) has been called “the first must have album of 2011” and “genius.” Stafford is a member of the Grammy Award-winning Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Grammy-nominated Clayton Brothers Quintet, and the Frank Wess Quintet; he has performed with Benny Golson’s Sextet, McCoy Tyner’s Sextet, the Kenny Barron Sextet, the Jimmy Heath Big Band, and the Jon Faddis Orchestra. Stafford is professor of music and director of jazz studies at Temple University and recently received its Creative Achievement Award. He is also a former member of the faculty at the Juilliard Institute for Jazz Studies. He appears on five albums as a lead trumpet player, including his debut album Time to Let Go (1995), critically acclaimed Centripedal Force (1997), Fields of Gold (2000), New Beginnings (2003), and Taking Chances (2007). Between 2006 and 2007, Stafford played an integral part on Diana Krall’s Grammy-nominated From this Moment On, joining with the Hamilton-Clayton Jazz Orchestra. In celebration of Jimmy Heath’s 80th birthday, Stafford recorded with the Jimmy Heath Big Band for the album Turn Up the Heath (2006). As a sideman Stafford has been heard on more than 90 albums.
The festival begins Friday, October 26 with a screening of Robert Levi’s recently updated, highly acclaimed documentary Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, followed by a panel discussion, and continues Sunday, October 28 with a performance by Terell Stafford, Music Institute of Chicago jazz faculty, reedist Victor Goines, vocalist Tammy McCann, and the Northwestern University Jazz Ensemble.
The Billy Strayhorn Festival takes place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. The screening of Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life and panel discussion take place Friday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $10. The Terell Stafford Quintet performs Saturday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m. and with the Music Institute of Chicago jazz studies faculty and special guests Sunday, October 28 at 3 p.m. Tickets to each concert are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students. A “3PASS” for all three events offers a savings of $10. Tickets are available online or 847.905.1500 ext. 108. For more information visit musicinst.org.