124. Heading North by Southwest with Willie Ruff: Strayhorn, Suite for The Duo

Brilliant and meaningful, North by Southwest may have been the initial name for Billy Strayhorn’s Suite for The Duo, a brilliant, late work for horn and piano: it’s a title that suggests confusion and conflicting ideas about the dying composer’s direction of travel. It’s a great piece: virtuosic but raw and written with a total understanding of both horn and piano and what they can do.

It’s a longer episode than normal because (amazingly) I was able to speak with Willie Ruff, the horn player for whom it was written. Willie, now in his nineties, joined me from his home in Alabama and he talked about his life and career, the Mitchell-Ruff duo, Strayhorn and how Suite for The Duo came to life.

Listening time 37 mins (podcast 25′, music 12′)

The Suite for The Duo can be found here:

Other music clips in the episode: Take the A-Train[Strayhorn], All the things you are [Jerome Kern], Serenade for tenor, horn and strings [Benjamin Britten]

Willieruff.com has further info on Willie as well as links to buy this and other recordings on cd and his biography A Call to Assembly.

Another episode of Cacophony will feature more from Willie in due course!

Are you a horn player or fab pianist? You can buy the sheet music for the Suite too. Get this in your repertoire! (Be sure to buy parts 1-4, the other edition is incomplete.)

What do you think? Let me know with an easy voicemail or comment below!

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Thanks for listening!

Photo credit: Vincent Oneppo (pic from WillieRuff.com)

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