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Lotus Blossom

I recently finished watching Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, a documentary by Robert Levi about the composer’s life that a friend recorded for me (thanks Peter!). “Lush Life” was not only the name of one of his most enduring masterpieces, but it also alluded to his one weakness. He really enjoyed his cocktails—perhaps a little too much.

I learned that “Lush Life” was composed when Strayhorn was only 16. The lyric certainly belies his age, as it is written from the perspective of a much older person and is imbued more with despair than youthful hopefulness. It’s very sophisticated musically as well, and is one of the few tunes from the standards repertoire where the verse is always played.

I admired “Lush Life” for many years and was well aware of Strayhorn’s long collaboration with Duke Ellington and his enormous contribution to Duke’s fame. Two of Ellington’s most famous tunes, “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Satin Doll,” were written by Strayhorn. It was another song, however, that really elevated Billy Strayhorn into one of my favorite composers. The tune is “Lotus Blossom.” I first heard it about 10 years ago on a trip to San Francisco to visit a friend. My friend had a new CD by the pianist Fred Hersch called “Passion Flower,” which was a tribute to Strayhorn. It included “Lotus Blossom,” which was new to me. It’s not an obscure song at all (there are at least 50 versions of it on iTunes), but I had never heard it before. The feelings it evokes are complex, an introspective sophistication tinged with sadness. It was a perfect soundtrack for gazing down on San Francisco bay from his condo in the hills.

Levi must have been impressed by “Lotus Blossom,” too, because he saved it for the end of the film summing up Strayhorn’s career. Composer Don Shirley said, “Of all the things that Billy wrote, ‘Lotus Blossom’ was such an enigma for Duke. Duke died never being able to figure out how Billy wrote ‘Lotus Blossom.’ It got to a point that I began to realize that it bothered him—in the good sense—trying to figure How did he do that? It's that kind of thing. But Billy had that kind of genius.” It is a remarkable song.

Comments

I love the song, and have looked for years, without success, for the sheet music or a book containing the music. The closest I've come is a lead sheet in a fake book. Does anyone have any leads or tips?

I, too, have looked for years for the sheet music for "Lotus Blossom." And would be grateful for any leads. I've also looked for "Such Sweet Thunder" or an abridged version without success.

Yes, May I too ask for any leads through which one may purchase the piano sheet music of the Strayhorn/Ellington "Lotus Blossom".

Russ, (Dorset, UK)

I love this tune. I also recorded a video of a band from the Netherlands that performed it during a Dixieland Jazz Festival in Orange County California in August of 2007. The name of the band is Jurbena Jazz Band. They do a delicious rendition of the tune.
I enjoyed reading your information above about some of the history of Stayhorn and Ellington.
Thanks,
Tom Warner

I have an old sheet of this tune. Lotus Blossom aka "Asiatic Raes". Contact me at nycjazzplayer@aol.com and I will send a copy to anyone who wants it.

Richard, that is very generous of you! I have never been able to find a sheet for this tune.

Hi, do you think your friend, Peter, would be interested in making me a copy of Robert Levi's "Lush Life"? I have a doctor who essentially saved my life (cancer), who's a huge jazz fan AND shares Billy Strayhorn's birthday. He'd LOVE the video and it would be the ideal "thank you" present.

sweet lotus blossom is original sweet mariuhana titled. The song and melody line should let you hear the trip you get from the drug. the song is used in an old hollywood film and they changed the title because is was not propper in that time to sing about drugs. on youtube there is an clip from the movie were a girl sings the original lyrics about the drug. greetings
John van Ierland (jurbena jazz band)

Hey John, I listened to your Sweet Lotus Blossom on YouTube. Really enjoyed the performance, but that's a different tune than the Strayhorn composition. Still, interesting background info, and I really enjoyed your band!

Hey guys, for those of you wanting sheet music for Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom" have you seen this?

http://www.songtrellis.com/sounds/viewer$2292

And is that useful at all?

What _I'm_ looking for is a lead sheet to the OTHER "Lotus Blossom" -- written by Coslow and Johnson for the 1934 movie "Murder at the Vanities." The tune was originally entitled "Sweet Marihuana" but that didn't get past the censors and so was changed to "Lotus Blossom."

I hadn't heard that version on YouTube, that's GREAT! The tune the Jerbena Jazz Band plays is exactly the one I'm looking for. I got to the piece originally through Dave Frishberg, it's in his repertoire.

No, this is not "Asiatic Raes" -- that's ANOTHER "Lotus Blossom." (Another nice tune in itself.)

Any help gratefully appreciated. Lemme see what else can be found. Thanks.

JParadisHagar
(tuba player/jazz fiend)

I love this song! and I have looked for its lyrics with no success. Can anybody post it here? Thanks!

Laura, As far as I know, the Billy Strayhorn “Lotus Blossom” does not have lyrics. I’ve never heard it sung, only played. CORRECTION: Apparently, someone named Gene Esposito wrote lyrics for "Lotus Blossom." Try Googling that.

The tune Lotus Blossom may be found in these books:

Hal Leonard Jazz Play-Along Series
[Vol 88] Lotus Blossom

The Real Jazz Classics Fake Book - Hal Leonard
Lotus Blossom

Jazz of the 60s and Beyond - Hal Leonard
Lotus Blossom

[Hal Leonard] Real Book Vol 2
Lotus Blossom

Good luck....I have none of the books and would appreciate a copy of the music myself.

Wayne Renardson
Nashville, TN 37204

[Hal Leonard] Real Book Vol 2
Lotus Blossom

Wayne,
Thanks for the info! Very helpful.

Sheetmusicplus.com has the LB lead sheet available for instant download for $3.99.

Andrew,
Thanks for the info! Very helpful.

The extremely underrated vocalist Carole Sloane wrote some very poignant lyrics for Strayhorn's Lotus Blossom, which she performed on her Duke Ellington tribute CD (on Concord) some years ago. Every time I hear it, I get a little misty-eyed.

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