Lush Life by David Hajdu, the 1996 biography (published by Farrar, Strauss Giroux). Straight biographer Hajdu gives a master class on how to write about a gay artist, giving Strayhorn’s long-time gay associates the first and last words about the man they loved and admired.
And His Mother Called Him Bill with the Duke Ellington Orchestra (on the RCA label). Recorded by a distraught Ellington only a few months after Strayhorn’s death, it contains some of Strayhorn’s most perfect miniatures and Duke’s most poignant piano playing.
Far East Suite (RCA). Written in 1964, Ellington and Strayhorn reinvent the sounds of the orient.
Such Sweet Thunder (Sony). The two composers’ musical vision of Shakespeare, written for a first performance at Stratford, Ontario.
Lush Life: The Billy Strayhorn Songbook (Verve). A tribute featuring jazz greats like Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson.
The Peaceful Side (Blue Note Records). A rarity: The only solo album Strayhorn recorded. He claimed to hate the Nat King Cole version of “Lush Life;” his own aching, melancholy version here features wacky backup singing.