Breaking the Silence-Standardsstrayhorn & Lullabie
This recording celebrates the second publication of William Zinsser's book about the Mitchell Ruff Duo which appeared originally as Willie and Dwike for Harper and Row. The New York Times Book Review called it 'satisfyingly unusual.' 'It's a revelation,' said Studs Terkel. The new edition published by Paul Dry Books has both a new forward written by Albert Murray, Count Basie's own Boswell, and a new name: Mitchell & Ruff. I welcomed this opportunity to choose music from a large body of the Duo's recorded work as a companion to the book, for I can think of no more fitting occassion for laying Breaking the Silence before our listeners. Breaking the Silence was not chosen as the CD title because the Duo has been silent - far from it - yet there has been a silence of more than a decade in our recording output. While this collection of 'Standards, Strayhorn and Lullabies' is in no way intended as a sound track to Bill Zinsser's book, it reflects not only the Duo's musical choices, but the style that has marked our performances over a period of more than forty years of playing together. We wanted our listeners to hear some of what they have come to expect of us but also some of what Zinsser heard as he followed us on treks to schools and colleges deep into the heartland of the United States and China. The last chapter of his book describes what took place when he tagged along with me on my personal odyssey to St. Mark's basilica in Venice where I played Gregorian Chant and Spirituals on my French horn late at night when nobody else was around. Though what he heard in Venice is not on this CD, it is available through the Kepler Label. What you hear here, then, is a compilation of what Dwike Mitchell and I consider to be the best of what we have committed to the medium of recording; a profile of two American musicians but also a statement about a period in United States life that has been like no other. We chose Autumn Leaves as an opener for the excitement that overtook us in a live piano-bass performance at Yale one night. You hear the excitement even in the audience as Laura follows Autumn Leaves almost without a break. I personally chose Laura for this assemblage because I think it represents not just Dwike Mitchell at his best, but some of the finest piano playing on record today. The three Strayhorn compositions are works we once recorded along with a Suite for the Duo that Billy Strayhorn wrote for us shortly before he died in 1967, a work we premiered at Lincoln Center in New York at Duke Ellington's invitation when he gave a gala concert that established a Billy Strayhorn Memorial Scholarship at Juilliard. The suite is too long for inclusion here, but it will soon be available in a new recording on the Kepler label. The three lullabies that end this CD are new additions to our repertoire; the Brahms we chose for it's universal appeal as an enduring melody, but also for it's richness as a vehicle for the kind of improvising Dwike Mitchell has come to be known for. Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite lullaby is unmatched, we think, as a lyrical challenge for the three instruments we play. The last number, Lullaby of Broadway, uses only the piano and horn, and like the Brahms and Stravinsky, Eugene Kimball engineered it late at night in his studio at Yale without an audience. Taken all together, we feel this is classic Mitchell & Ruff. - Willie Ruff.