Two People, The Music of Billy Strayhorn (TwoPeople Productions)

Christian Winther, Richard D. Johnson, Two People: The Music of Billy Strayhorn, album cover

Danish-born and New Orleans-based reedman Christian Winther is one of the top jazz saxophonists in town. Also a fine clarinetist, he’s heard on both instruments on this recording.

On Two People, the sixth CD on which Winther has been featured, he collaborates with versatile pianist Richard D. Johnson, a Pittsburgh native, with whom he worked on two of his previous recordings. This time, however, the two are by themselves—and they make a splendid combination. They understand each other intimately, and, as Christian says, they have a lot more flexibility and spontaneity than they would have in a quartet context.

Their program consists of music by the ultra-talented composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn, longtime associate of the great Duke Ellington. The recording opens with an interesting arrangement (by local vibraphonist James Westfall) of the classic “Take the A-Train,” followed by seven numbers that include a Winther favorite “Blood Count,” a gorgeous version of “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing,” and a waltzy “Satin Doll.”

Winther is an outstanding talent who deserves much wider recognition. He and Johnson will continue to work together, with a CD featuring the music of giants Teddy Wilson and Coleman Hawkins a future possibility. I look forward to that.

 

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