BOOKS: SHADOW DUKE

A FINE BIOGRAPHY GIVES BILLY STRAYHORN HIS DUE

Most people know that the composer of Take the "A" Train and Satin Doll and of orchestral suites like Such Sweet Thunder was Duke Ellington. But most people are wrong. The composer, or in many cases the co-composer, of those and dozens of other hallmarks of the Ellington sound was a dapper, diminutive musicians' musician named Billy Strayhorn. From 1938 until his death of cancer in 1967, Strayhorn was Ellington's artistic alter ego--bolstered and publicly praised by the Duke but working always in his shadow, less an employee than a member of his extended household.

In Lush Life: A Biography of...

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