In 2009, the duo of saxophonist Woody Witt and pianist Joe LoCascio released the album Seasons Ago: The Songs of Alec Wilder. In this volume of rather obscure songs by one of American music’s great composers, the duo sought to explore and offer a wider perspective on Wilder’s work resulting in “ten tracks and ten moments of exquisite melody and harmony”.
This time, the duo are at it again, tackling the music of Duke Ellington’s esteemed collaborator, Billy Strayhorn. Aside from his most popular tunes (“Take the ‘A’ Train”, “Lush Life”), Strayhorn’s repertoire consists of several lesser known wonders. To most jazz aficionados, his ballads “Chelsea Bridge”, “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing” and “Isfahan” are probably the most loved. But Strayhorn’s swinging side was nothing to shrug off, as evidenced by the posthumous album …And His Mother Called Him Bill.
Last year, the LoCascio/Witt duo recorded many of these obscure Strayhorn compositions for an album in the same vein as the Wilder songs. While the album is still yet to be released, Friday evening’s concert will offer a great preview of what is to come. The two have played together for the past 20 years and their time together has enabled them to achieve, in Witt’s own words, “a strong level of musical communication. Very seldom do we rehearse for duo performances. Even the [Wilder and Strayhorn] recordings were put together with very little rehearsal time. Joe has really been the musicologist of the duo. He transcribed all the tunes, for both projects. Some of the Strayhorn tunes we recorded, I’ve never heard played in a small group setting.”