A word from A. Alyce Claerbaut


A. Alyce Claerbaut writes in response to my post “Lush Life variations.” Ms. Claerbaut writes:

I am the niece of Billy Strayhorn and Vice President of Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc. Perhaps you saw me in the Robert Levi documentary on Strayhorn that aired this past February [on PBS].
Your article on “Lush Life” is very insightful and so correct. I am always amazed that of all the songs Billy wrote for Ellington “Lush Life,” which was never a part of the Ellington book, remains the piece by which he (Strayhorn) is measured as a composer.
I also agree with the Will Friedwald’s interpretation of “Lush Life” in his book Stardust Melodies. Will is a very thorough and knowledgeable music scholar. We are proud that Billy’s composition was included in this significant set [of songs considered in the book]. There is much debate about the recordings of it. The Johnny Hartman version is the most revered and it was voted as one of the top 50 recordings of all time.
Have you heard Queen Latifah? She has been touring all over the world with “Lush Life” ever since she sang it in the movie “Living Out Loud” . She also included it on her “Dana Owens Album.” Of course, Nelson Riddle did a great arrangement of it for Linda Ronstadt. Although Nat “King” Cole popularized the song, his rendition was not Billy’s favorite. He loved the Coltrane/Hartman version. Disco queen Donna Summer even recorded it in the early 80’s when disco was king/queen.
I was also fascinated with your review of Ann Hampton Callaway’s version. Her singing is just so amazing and so versatile. Interestingly, I am presenting Ann Hampton Callaway this Thursday in Chicago, her home town, with Jeff Lindberg’s Chicago Jazz Orchestra, of which I am the Executive Director. She was my personal choice to do our holiday concert. Visit our website Chicago Jazz Orchestra.
A. Alyce Claerbaut
Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc.

I took my oldest daughter to see Ann Hampton Callaway perform at the Blue Note in New York this summer and wrote about her show briefly in “But Beautiful.” Seeing Callaway perform that set including “Lush Life” was an incredibly movng experience both for my daughter and me. If you’re in Chicago this week, don’t miss the show! Thanks to Alyce Claerbaut for her kind words and for giving us the living connection to Billy Strayhorn.
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