Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn

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Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn
Lush Life.jpg
Studio album by Joe Henderson
Released 1992
Recorded September 3–8, 1991
Studio Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ
Genre Jazz
Length 61:50
Label Verve
Producer Richard Seidel, Don Sickler
Joe Henderson chronology
The Standard Joe
(1991)The Standard Joe1991
Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn
So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles)
(1993)So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles)1993
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic5/5 stars [1]

Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn is an album by jazz saxophonist Joe Henderson. Composed of songs written by Billy Strayhorn, the album was a critical and commercial success, leading to the first of three Grammy Awards Henderson would receive while under contract with Verve Records.[2][3] The album had sold nearly 90,000 copies at the time of Henderson's death in 2001 and has been re-released by Verve, Polygram, and in hybrid SACD format by Universal.[2][4]


Before this record, in March 1991, Henderson had recorded The Standard Joe, with Rufus Reid on bass and Al Foster on drums, produced by Italian label Red Records. Henderson had been featured throughout the late 80s and early 90s on recordings by a number of modern jazz musicians, including Wynton Marsalis, when producer Richard Seidel proposed to him the idea of the tribute album to be released under his own name.[5] The album separated the songwriter from his usual material, which according to The New York Times suited Henderson, highlighting his evolution into "one of jazz's most detailed improvisers".[5] Like The New York Times—which credits the album's producers for understanding jazz culture of 1992, "where challenging acoustic music is both an artistic necessity and a play for a market"[5]Ink Blot Magazine describes the album's success as largely due to its instrumental combinations; rather than performing with a band, Henderson is featured in solo performance, in duet, in trio, in quartet and quintet.[6] Entertainment Weekly agrees that the idea of highlighting the material by dramatically changing personnel "works without getting gimmicky".[7]

Critical reception[edit]

The album was praised on its release by The New York Times as being "as close to artistic genius as jazz gets nowadays".[5] In another article in 2002, the same reviewer described the album as "perfectly produced", "thoughtful, carefully experimental and cross generational".[8] Entertainment Weekly declared Henderson's "originality and sheer strangeness" a match for Strayhorn's compositions, stating that Henderson's "fierce muscularity" counterbalanced "Strayhorn's angst—as exquisitely, in a new way, as Duke Ellington and his orchestra used to".[7] The album comes "highly recommended" by Allmusic, which notes that "it does deserve all of the hype".[4]

Commercial performance and accolades[edit]

The album went to #1 on the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart,[4] holding its position at top of the charts for two months.[9] With the track "Lush Life", Henderson received the 1992 Grammy Award for "Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist".[4]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks by Billy Strayhorn except where noted.

  1. "Isfahan" (Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn) – 5:59
  2. "Johnny Come Lately" – 6:30
  3. "Blood Count" – 7:19
  4. "Rain Check" – 5:54
  5. "Lotus Blossom" – 4:31
  6. "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing" – 6:58
  7. "Take the "A" Train" – 7:11
  8. "Drawing Room Blues" – 7:33
  9. "U.M.M.G. (Upper Manhattan Medical Group)" – 5:02
  10. "Lush Life" – 5:03





  1. ^ Yanow, Scott (2011). "Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn – Joe Henderson | AllMusic". Retrieved 17 July 2011.
  2. ^ a b Ratliff, Ben. (July 3, 2001) Joe Henderson, saxophonist and composer, dies at 64 The New York Times. Retrieved 24/03/08.
  3. ^ Hamlin, Jesse. (February 8, 2008) Black history month: Joe Henderson. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 24/03/08.
  4. ^ a b c d Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn at AllMusic
  5. ^ a b c d Watrous, Peter. (March 1, 1992) High notes and low in preserving the ephemeral The New York Times. Retrieved 24/03/08.
  6. ^ Greilsamer, Marc. Joe Henderson, Lush Life – The Music of Billy Strayhorn Retrieved 24/03/08.
  7. ^ a b Hajdu, David. (March 6, 1992) Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn (1992) Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24/03/08.
  8. ^ Watrous, Peter. (June 14, 1992) The jazz festival revisits itself. The New York Times. Retrieved 24/03/08.
  9. ^ Ratliff, Ben. (July 14, 1996) The invisible man at Ellington's elbow The New York Times Retrieved 24/03/08.