Queer Arrangements is a new study of Billy Strayhorn that examines his music and career at the intersection of jazz and Black queer history
The legacy of Black queer composer, arranger, and pianist Billy Strayhorn (1915–1967) hovers at the edge of canonical jazz narratives. Queer Arrangements explores the ways in which Strayhorn's identity as an openly gay Black jazz musician shaped his career, including the creative roles he could assume and the dynamics between himself and his collaborators, most famously Duke Ellington, but also iconic singers such as Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald. This new portrait of Strayhorn combines critical, historically-situated close readings of selected recordings, scores, and performances with biography and cultural theory to pursue alternative interpretive jazz possibilities, Black queer historical routes, and sounds. By looking at jazz history through the instrument(s) of Strayhorn's queer arrangements, this book sheds new light on his music and on jazz collaboration at midcentury.
Introduction: Queer Arrangements/Queer Collaboration • Part One - Working Behind the Scenes: Gender, Sexuality and Collaboration in Strayhorn's Vocal Arrangements • Chapter One – Arriving by Flamingo • Chapter Two – Difficult Beauty Part Two – Strayhorn's Queer Music • Chapter Three – Strayhorn's Lorcian Encounter • Chapter Four – Black Queer Moves in the Strayhorn-Ellington Nutcracker Suite • Part Three – Strayhorn Performing/Arranging Strayhorn • Chapter 5 – Paris, Halfway to Dawn, or Listening to The Peaceful Side • Epilogue - Ever Up and Onward, or Searching for Stayhorn in the 21st Century
"This is a groundbreaking contribution to jazz studies. Lisa Barg brilliantly unpacks how queerness plays out in the music of Billy Strayhorn, one of jazz's most talented composer-arrangers."~Walter van de Leur, author of Something to Live For: The Music of Billy Strayhorn
"This book challenges the manner in which historical frameworks have been constructed and have promoted a personal and creative hierarchy in jazz's historiography. Most importantly it continues the much-needed work of detangling Billy Strayhorn's musical legacy from that of the Ellington organization by making the invisible aspects of his life visible, and the silent facets of his music heard."~Tammy L. Kernodle, author of Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams
"This remarkable, wide-ranging, musical, and intellectually stimulating book offers fascinating new insights on a composer-arranger whom his more famous collaborator Duke Ellington described as 'seldom seen, but always heard.' Lisa Barg's evocative, deeply researched study, invites us to see Billy Strayhorn—and the musical worlds in which he collaborated—more clearly than ever."~Jeffrey Magee, author of The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz
"Lisa Barg deftly and elegantly applies critical analysis of sexuality and queerness to reveal Billy Strayhorn as not only a brilliant pianist and composer, but also a vocal arranger committed to collaborative creativity, a vital, yet woefully understudied aspect of jazz music and culture."~Nichole Rustin-Paschal, author of The Kind of Man I Am: Jazzmasculinity and the World of Charles Mingus, Jr.