Ever Up and Onward: A Tribute to Billy Strayhorn

A virtuoso pianist, lyricist, and orchestrator, Billy Strayhorn was a pioneer of the modern big band sound. His 28-year collaboration with Duke Ellington left a significant mark on Ellington’s musical identity and brand. In this eight-part video series, bassist and Colburn Conservatory alumnus explores the life, legacy, and music of this jazz icon.

Ever Up and Onward presents an in-depth portrait of Billy Strayhorn through interviews, audio recordings, archival video footage, in-depth analysis of musical characteristics, and performances with the Marlonius Jazz Orchestra.

Special thanks to the  for its invaluable support of this project.

Episode 1: Who is Billy Strayhorn?

Meet composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn, who composed some of the greatest jazz standards of the mid-20th century and was a fierce advocate for the advancement of Black music and musicians.

Episode 2: Billy Strayhorn’s Musical Style

Explore Billy Strayhorn’s pioneering style of the big band era, in which he brought a complexity and progressive touch to melody, orchestration, harmony, lyrics, and compositional form.

Episode 3: Billy Strayhorn’s Musical Footprint

Explore signature techniques of Billy Strayhorn’s music that inspired countless legends with forward-thinking melodies, chord progressions and orchestrations.

Episode 4: Billy Strayhorn’s Approach to Structure

Discover how Billy Strayhorn’s formal training in classical music influenced his compositional style.

Episode 5: Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington’s Collaboration

Learn about the collaboration between Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn that spanned almost 3 decades, resulting in some of the greatest compositions in jazz history.

Episode 6: Uncredited Billy Strayhorn

Discover why Billy Strayhorn was lesser known and often uncredited, despite having written about 40% of Duke Ellington’s music.

Episode 7: Artistic Choices Made by the Duke

Explore artistic choices made by Duke Ellington that changed or deleted some of Billy Strayhorn’s compositional elements in favor of a performance moment or particular player’s personality.

Episode 8: Billy Strayhorn’s Legacy

Learn how Billy Strayhorn elevated Black American music and paved the way for countless BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists.

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See the complete performances of works featured in each episode, plus additional Strayhorn performances by Colburn students