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Friday, February 27, 2009

In a Sentimental Mood

By Duke Ellington, Irving Mills & Manny Kurtz
1935

Composed as a jazz instrumental by Ellington, the song had lyrics added by Mills and Kurtz later on. Ellington's own orchestra naturally made the first recording, but the origin of the song can reportedly be found in an after-hours party at which Ellington and company were present. To quell an argument that had broken out, Duke spontaneously broke into the tune on the spot.

Lyrics:

In a sentimental mood,
I can see the stars come through my room,
While your loving attitude
Is like a flame that lights the gloom.

On the wings of every kiss
Drifts a melody so strange and sweet.
In this sentimental bliss,
You make my paradise complete.

Rose petals seem to fall.
It's all I could dream to call you mine.
My heart's a lighter thing
Since you made this night a thing divine.

In a sentimental mood,
I'm within a world so heavenly,
For I never dreamt that you'd be loving sentimental me.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Billy Joel
John Coltrane
Art Tatum
Stan Getz

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Get Happy

By Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler
1930

This was the first collaboration of Cotton Club legends Arlen & Koehler, who composed it for Ruth Etting in the 1930 show The Nine-Fifteen Revue. It would become most associated with Judy Garland thanks to her iconic performance of it 20 years later in MGM's Summer Stock. The Abe Lyman recording was used as the original theme music for the Warner Bros.' cartoons. The title refers to the old gospel tradition of being touched by the Holy Spirit.

Lyrics:

Forget your troubles,
Come on, get happy!
You better chase all your cares away.
Shout Hallejulah,
Come on, get happy!
Get ready for the judgment day.

The sun is shinin',
Come on, get happy!
The lord is waitin' to take your hand.
Shout Hallejulah,
Come on, get happy!
We're going to the promised land.

We're headin' across the river
To wash your sins away in the tide.
It's all so peaceful
On the other side.

Forget your troubles,
Come on, get happy!
You better chase all your cares away.
Shout Hallejulah,
Come on, get happy!
Get ready for the judgement day.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Ella Fitzgerald
Benny Goodman
Art Tatum
June Christy

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Indian Summer

By Victor Herbert & Al Dubin
1919/1939

The reason for splitting up the dates on this song is that Herbert originally wrote the tune in 1919, but it remained an instrumental until 1939, when Dubin won a contest to decide who would get to add lyrics. It wasn't until then that the song became a standard, introduced by Glenn Miller's orchestra (Ray Eberle singer), and then shortly after taken to number by Tommy Dorsey's orchestra (Frank Sinatra singer). As a standard, it has normally been associated with big bands.

Lyrics:

Summer--
You old Indian summer.
You're the tear that comes after
June-time's laughter.
You see so many dreams that don't come true,
Dreams we fashioned when summertime was new.

You are here to watch over
Some heart that is broken
By a word that somebody
Left unspoken.
You're the ghost of a romance in June going astray,
Fading too soon, thats why I say
Farewell to you, Indian summer.

Recorded By:

Tony Bennett
Gene Krupa
Ella Fitzgerald
Sarah Vaughan
Django Reinhardt

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Best Is Yet to Come

By Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh
1959

Composed by the same duo responsible for "Witchcraft", this breezy, optimistic tune became closely associated with Frank Sinatra after his inclusion of it on his 1964 album It Might as Well Be Swing, with Count Basie and Quincy Jones. It would also be the last song the Chairman would ever sing in public, on February 25, 1995.

Lyrics:

Out of the tree of life, I just picked me a plum.
You came along and everything started to hum.
Still it's a real good bet, the best is yet to come.

The best is yet to come, and won't that be fine?
You think you've seen the sun, but you ain't seen it shine.

Wait till the warm-up is underway,
Wait till out lips have met.
Wait till you see that sunshine day--
You ain't seen nothin' yet.

The best is yet to come, and won't that be fine?
The best is yet to come, come the day that you're mine.

Come the day that your mine.
I'm gonna teach you to fly.
We've only tasted the wine--
We're gonna drain that cup dry.

Wait till your charms are right for these arms to surround.
You think you've flown before, but you ain't left the ground.

Wait till you're locked in my embrace,
Wait till I hold you near.
Wait till you see that sunshine place--
There ain't nothin' like it here.

The best is yet to come, and won't that be fine?
The best is yet to come, come the day that you're mine.

Recorded By:

Tony Bennett
Nancy Wilson
Michael Buble
Peggy Lee
Sarah Vaughan

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tony Bennett at the Chevrolet Theater: A Review

In 1991, I had an opportunity to see Frank Sinatra at Radio City Music Hall and blew it. Ten years later, I blew an opportunity to see Ray Charles in concert. The regret I've harbored in both cases was instrumental in motivating me to jump on the opportunity to score tickets to Tony Bennett's appearance Saturday night at the Chevrolet Theater in Wallingford, Connecticut. And now, I can say it was my pleasure to witness the greatest living vocal interpreter of popular song practice his craft.

Very rarely these days does one get the chance to truly be in the presence of musical greatness. Tonight, I have been. Mr. Bennett was in top form, holding court like the consummate professional and artist he still is after more than 60 years in the business.

Backed by an intimate ensemble of piano, guitar, bass and drums (played by former Count Basie drummer Harold Jones), Bennett effortlessly put forth heartwarming performances of such tunes as "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got that Swing," "The Best Is Yet to Come," "The Shadow of Your Smile" and "For Once in My Life". A deeply appreciative audience listened in rapt attention as he spun yarns of his days breaking into show biz with Rosemary Clooney, and launched into a particularly powerful rendition of his all-time signature hit "I Left My Heart in San Francisco".

And it wasn't just his most familiar material that the 82-year-old marvel turned to this evening. He also gave the audience a touching performance of the 1943 Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash song "Speak Low," and the lesser-known Gershwin tune "Who Cares", which the singer comically tied into the current economic crisis. He wrapped things up quite emotionally with the 1982 Michel Legrand song "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?", and despite taking several bows, he surprisingly didn't give an encore.

The blessed crowd that evening would have to make do with what they got--an hour and a half with a living and breathing American treasure.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket

By Irving Berlin
1936

Irving Berlin and Fred Astaire. Perhaps never was there a more fortuitous working relationship in the history of popular music. Berlin composed this ode to monogamy for Astaire and Ginger Roger's 1936 musical Follow the Fleet, the very same movie that also gave us "Let Yourself Go" and "Let's Face the Music and Dance".

Lyrics:

I've been a roaming Romeo,
My Juliets have been many.
But now my roaming days have gone.
Too many irons in the fire
Is worse than not having any.
I've had my share, and from now on...

I'm putting all my eggs in one basket,
I'm betting everything I've got on you.

I'm giving all my love to one baby,
Heaven help me if my baby don't come through.

I've got a great big amount
Saved up in my love account,
Honey, and Ive decided
Love divided in two
Won't do.

So I'm putting all my eggs in one basket,
I'm betting everything I've got on you.

Recorded By:

Stacey Kent
Ella Fitzgerald
Louis Armstrong
Carmen McRae
John Pizzarelli

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I'll Be Seeing You

By Sammy Fain & Irving Kahal
1937

Written for the flop Broadway musical Right This Way, it later became known as the theme song for world-famous pianist Liberace. Its original performance on stage came from Russian-born Tamara Drasin. With a powerful, building melodic line by Fain, Kahal's lyrics take a simple phrase of goodbye and turn it into a transcendent expression of longing. The song would enjoy a revival thanks to the 2004 film The Notebook, which features versions by Billie Holiday and Jimmy Durante.

Lyrics:

I'll be seeing you
In all the old, familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through.

In that small cafe,
The park across the way,
The children's carousel,
The chestnut tree,
The wishing well.

Ill be seeing you
In every lovely, summers day,
And everything that's bright and gay.
Ill always think of you that way.

I'll find you in the morning sun,
And when the night is new.
I'll be looking at the moon,
But I'll be seeing you.

Recorded By:

Jo Stafford
Frank Sinatra
Michael Buble
Tony Bennett
Etta James

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Louie Bellson 1924-2009

The man Duke Ellington called "the world's greatest drummer" is no more. Louie Bellson (born Luigi Balassoni) passed away in Los Angeles on Saturday at the age of 84.

A giant of the swing era, Bellson was discovered by fellow drum legend Gene Krupa in 1942, and went on to play in the orchestras of Harry James, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman at the height of the big band glory days. In the '50s, he was a valuable component of the Ellington band, even composing a number of tunes for the group.

Bellson was married to pop singer Pearl Bailey, and the two were a high-profile interracial couple during some of America's most tumultuous years in terms of race relations. Bailey passed on in 1990.

In addition to his big band work, Bellson also worked briefly with Ella Fitzgerald, and was a regular on Norman Granz' Jazz at the Philharmonic, appearing with the likes of Roy Eldridge, Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson.

A dynamic soloist known for pioneering the use of two bass drums, Bellson was the recipient of both a Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Living Jazz Legend Award from the JFK Center for the Performing Arts. He had remained active up until fracturing his hip in November, releasing his final album last year.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I've Got a Crush on You

By George & Ira Gershwin
1928

This unquestioned Gershwin classic is unique in having been used for two of their musicals, Treasure Girl and Strike Up the Band. In the first of the two, it was introduced by Mary Hay and Clifton Webb. Some 15 years later, a young Frank Sinatra would make the song his own. His Columbia recording would become one the cornerstones of his budding solo career.

Lyrics:

How glad the many millions
Of Annabelles and Lillians would be,
To capture me.
But you had such persistence,
You wore down my resistance.
I fell, and it was swell.
I'm your big and brave and handsome Romeo,
How I won you I shall never, never know.
It's not that you're attractive,
But, oh, my heart grew active
When you came into view...

Ive got a crush on you, sweetie pie.
All the day and nighttime, hear me sigh.
I never had the least notion
That I could fall with so much emotion.

Could you coo? Could you care?
For a cunning cottage we could share?
The world will pardon my mush,
'Cause I have got a crush, my baby, on you.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Stacey Kent
Peggy Lee
Julie London
Michael Buble

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hit the Road to Dreamland

By Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer
1942

If ever there was a movie intended to warm the hearts of Americans shocked by the onset of war, it was The Star-Spangled Rhythm, and if ever there was a song intended to do that as well, it was this one, the centerpiece of the picture. Sung in the film by Dick Powell and Mary Martin, it's a classic example of both Arlen's mastery of jazz rhythms and Mercer's expert feel for colloquial language.

Lyrics:

Bye, bye baby,
Time to hit the road to dreamland.
You're my baby--
Dig you in the Land of Nod.

Hold tight, baby,
We'll be swinging up in dreamland.
All night baby,
Where the little cherubs trod.

Look at that knocked-out moon.
You been a-blowing his top in the blue--
Never saw the likes of you,
What an angel!

Bye, bye baby,
Time to hit the road to dreamland.
Don't cry, baby,
It was divine,
But the rooster has finally crowed--
Time to hit the road.

Recorded By:

Dean Martin
Dr. John
Jane Monheit
Betty Hutton
Perry Como

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Moonlight in Vermont

By John Blackburn & Karl Suessdorf
1943

A beautiful song about a beautiful state, "Moonlight in Vermont" was introduced by the incomparable Margaret Whiting. Rare for a pop song, it contains a subtle meter which features no end rhyming. Also, each stanza (not including the bridge) is structured as a haiku. It's considers the state's unofficial song, and is often played as the first dance at Vermont weddings.

Lyrics:

Pennies in a stream,
Falling leaves, a sycamore,
Moonlight in Vermont.

Icy finger-waves,
Ski trails on a mountainside,
Snowlight in Vermont.

Telegraph cables, they sing down the highway,
And travel each bend in the road.
People who meet in this romantic setting,
Are so hypnotized by the lovely...

Ev'ning summer breeze,
Warbling of a meadowlark,
Moonlight in Vermont.

Recorded By:

Jo Stafford
Frank Sinatra
Ray Charles
Willie Nelson
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong

Friday, February 13, 2009

Let's Get Lost

By Jimmy McHugh & Frank Loesser
1943

One of several successful collaborations Loesser took part in with different composers before turning to solo composition, this song was introduced by Mary Martin in the movie Happy Go Lucky. Bandleader/vocalist Vaughn Monroe (pictured) took it all the way to #1 the same year. The best-known version, however, may be Chet Baker's recording. The song is so associated with Baker that its name was used as the title of a documentary on the singer.

Lyrics:

Let's get lost,
Lost in each other's arms.

Let's get lost,
Let them send out alarms.

And though they'll think us rather rude,
Let's tell the world we're in that crazy mood.

Let's defrost
In a romantic mist.
Let's get crossed
Off everybody's list.

To celebrate this night we found each other,
Darling, let's get lost.

Recorded By:

Terence Blanchard
Frank Sinatra
Diana Krall
Elliott Smith
Susannah McCorkle

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blossom Dearie 1926-2009

Standard of the Day is saddened to report the passing last weekend of Marguerite Blossom Dearie, one of the most beloved cabaret singers of the second half of the 20th century.

Known for her whispery, little-girl voice, Blossom Dearie was a fixture in New York and London nightclubs from the 1950s right up to the earlier part of this decade.

The vocalist and pianist began her career shortly after World War II singing with the orchestras of Woody Herman and Alvino Rey. Embarking on a solo career, she recorded six landmark albums in the 1950s for Norman Granz and Verve Records, which helped establish her loyal cult following.

Ms. Dearie passed away in her sleep of natural causes in her Greenwich Village apartment. She was 82.

Monday, February 9, 2009

All My Tomorrows

By Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen
1959

The winning team of Cahn and Van Heusen, a favorite of Frank Sinatra's, composed this tune for the Chairman's Frank Capra picture A Hole in the Head. Sinatra sang the song over the credits of the film. He also recorded it as a single, but it was the release of the other Cahn/Van Heusen song from the soundtrack, "High Hopes", that became a monster hit for Frank.

Lyrics:

Today I may not have a thing at all,
Except for just a dream or two.
But I've got lots of plans for tomorrow,
And all my tomorrows belong to you.

Right now it may not seem like spring at all.
We're drifting and the laughs are few.
But I've got rainbows planned for tomorrow,
And all my tomorrows belong to you.

No one knows better than I
That luck keeps passing me by... that's fate.
But with you there at my side,
I'll soon be turrning the tide... just wait.

As long as I've got arms that cling at all,
It's you that I'll be clinging to.
And all the dreams I dream, beg, or borrow
On some bright tomorrow, they'll all come true.
And all my bright tomorrows belong to you.

Recorded By:

Nancy Wilson
Shirley Horn
Jack Jones
Crystal Gayle
Tony Bennett

Friday, February 6, 2009

I Can't Get Started

By Vernon Duke & Ira Gershwin
1935

A charming ballad written for the Broadway musical Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, in which it was introduced by Bob Hope. Bunny Berigan's recording of it the following year became a top 10 hit, and instantly put the song on the map for all time. Its clever lyric tells of the woe of someone who, despite many amazing accomplishments, can't impress the girl he's crazy about.

Lyrics:

I'm a glum one, it's explainable.
I've met someone unattainable.
Life's a bore,
The world is my oyster no more.
All the papers where I led the news
With my capers, now will spread the news:
"Superman Turned Out to Be Flash-in-the-Pan"

I've flown around the world in a plane,
I've settled revolutions in Spain,
The North Pole I have charted--
But I can't get started with you.

Around the golf course I'm under par,
And all the movies want me to star.
I've built a house and show place,
But I can't get no place with you.

You're so supreme,
Lyrics I write of you.
Scheme, just for a sight of you.
And I dream both day and night of you,
And what good does it do.

In 1929, I sold short,
In London, I'm presented at court,
But you've got me down hearted,
Cause I can't get started with you.

Recorded By:

Rosemary Clooney
Frank Sinatra
Keely Smith
Chet Baker
Carmen McRae

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Don't Take Your Love From Me

By Henry Nemo
1941

Introduced by the lovely Lena Horne, perhaps the last great living pre-WWII vocalist, this song was composed by Henry Nemo. Songwriter Nemo, strangely enough, also happens to have been the inspiration for Charlie Tuna, created in 1961 by an adman friend of his at the Leo Burnett Agency.

Lyrics:

Tear a star from out the sky and the sky feels blue
Tear a petal from a rose and the rose weeps, too
Take your heart away from mine and mine will surely break
My life is yours to make, so, please keep the spark awake

Would you take the wings from birds so that they can't fly?
Would you take the ocean's roar and leave just a sigh?
All this your heart won't let you do
This is what I beg of you
Please don't take your love from me


Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Keely Smith
Doris Day
Julie London
The Four Aces

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

By Harry Warren & Al Dubin
1934

If you know this as a Green Day song, then you're on the wrong blog. This tango was written for the 1934 musical film Moulin Rouge, in which is was sung by Constance Bennett. It would be used again in the 1952 movie of the same name. The most well-known version would be recorded two years earlier by Tony Bennett (no relation to Constance).

Lyrics:

I walk along the street of sorrow,
The boulevard of broken dreams.
Where gigolo and gigolette
Can take a kiss without regret,
So they forget their broken dreams.

You laugh tonight and cry tomorrow,
When you behold your shattered schemes.
Then gigolo and gigolette
Awake to find their eyes are wet
With tears that tell of broken dreams.

Here is where you'll always find me,
Always walking up and down.
But I left my soul behind me,
In an old cathedral town.
Link
The joy that you find here you borrow,
You cannot keep it long, it seems.
So gigolo and gigolette
Still sing a song and dance along
The boulevard of broken dreams.

Recorded By:

Diana Krall
Marianne Faithful
Jan Garber & His Orchestra (first)
Brian Setzer
Esquivel

Monday, February 2, 2009

What's New?

By Bob Haggart & Johnny Burke
1938

Originally written by Haggart as an instrumental for Bob Crosby's orchestra, this song was composed as "I'm Free". Burke was brought in by the publisher to add lyrics, and Crosby's band introduced the tune with words in 1939. Burke's unique lyric takes up the point of view of one of the participants in a conversation between former lovers. The song was used as the title track of Linda Rondstadt's first album of standards with Nelson Riddle, in 1983.

Lyrics:

What's new?
How is the world treating you?
You haven't changed a bit.
Lovely as ever, I must admit.

What's new?
How did that romance come through?
We haven't met since then.
Gee, but it's nice to see you again.

What's new?
Probably I'm boring you.
But seeing you is grand,
And you were sweet to offer your hand.

I understand. Adieu!
Pardon my asking what's new.
Of course you couldn't know,
I haven't changed, I still love you so.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Frank Sinatra
Jack Jones
Betty Carter & Carmen McRae
Sonny Rollins

Sunday, February 1, 2009

That's All

By Alan Brandt & Bob Haymes
1952

A warm expression of love in humble, yet colorful terms, this song is a favorite particularly of jazz singers. Although Nat Cole introduced it in 1953, it was Bobby Darin's 1959 recording that became a big hit, and Darin's first stab at the American Songbook. The lyricist Bob Haymes was the younger brother of vocalist Dick Haymes.

Lyrics:

I can only give you love that lasts forever,
And a promise to be near each time you call.
And the only heart I own,
For you and you alone,
That's all,
That's all...

I can only give you country walks in springtime,
And a hand to hold when leaves begin to fall;
And a love whose burning light
Will warm the winter's night.
That's all,
That's all.

There are those, I am sure, who have told you,
They would give you the world for a toy.
All I have are these arms to enfold you,
And a love time can never destroy.

If you're wondering what I'm asking in return, dear,
You'll be glad to know that my demands are small.
Say it's me that you'll adore,
For now and evermore.
That's all,
That's all.

Recorded By:

Michael Buble
Mel Torme
Sam Cooke
Dorothy Dandridge
Connie Francis

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