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The Songs of Billy Strayhorn by Ron Gill

Ron Gill is a young vocalist out of the Boston area. For the past twenty years, it has been a dream of Ron's to record the music of one of the most important songwriters of the 20th Century, Billy Strayhorn. The wait was well worth it, as is evidenced by the lovely interpretations on this recording. With the recent passing of Joe Williams and Mel Tormé, it is up to vocalists like Ron to carry the torch into the next millennium.

"Greivin" kicks off this set with an inspired reading from Ron. Pianist Manny Williams and drummer Reid Jorgensen begin with a light intro before Ron states his case with some fine phrasing. Always remaining in control, and offering the listener a hint of misery with a tongue firmly in cheek. Reminds me of the way that Jimmy Rushing sang with the great Count Basie band.

The perennial favorite, "Lush Life" begins with a wonderful intro by saxophonist Bill Thompson. Ron settles in with the lyric borrowing from Tony Bennett's way of phrasing yet remaining Ron's all the way. Sultry with poignant thought's from Ron capturing the meaning of this song from beginning to end. Never over emphasizing, and always remaining true to Billy's words, this is the most personal and touching version I have ever heard.

"Lotus Blossom" achieves the same effect, and really puts the listener in a relaxed but always attentive mood. Pianist Manny Williams is to Ron, like Ralph Sharon is to Tony Bennett. Sympathetic, always offering Ron beautiful chords and runs to build on. Manny offers us a solo rendition worthy of many listens.

Bassist Ron Mahdi comps behind Ron's lyric on "Satin Doll", understating the melody to maximum effect, before swinging into the song.

"My Little Brown Book" highlights the way that Ron can sing a ballad. Taking his time in order to build the mood in a most seamless way. Again pianist Manny Williams offers us a warm, light, and yes inspiring accompaniment.

Guitarist, John Stein offers us his usual great taste in playing. Throughout the CD John is always there adding colors to each piece that are both appealing and very musical.

From beginning to end Ron not only offers us versions of Billy Strayhorn's writing, but rather timeless renditions that will inspire other up and coming vocalists, and musicians alike on how to project, phrase, and have fun doing it at the same time. For anyone wanting to hear what Strayhorn was all about, I would highly recommend this recording. Ron has a bright future ahead of him. With all of the Jazz festivals taking place this year, if you have a chance to see and hear Ron, you will not be disappointed.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ron Gill
  • CD Title: The Songs of Billy Strayhorn
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 1998
  • Record Label: WGBH Radio
  • Rating: Five Stars
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