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April In Paris

Written: 1932

Music by: Vernon Duke

Words by: E. Y. (Yip) Harburg

Written for: Walk a Little Faster
(show)

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On the Main Stage at Cafe Songbook

Two Classic Performances: Ella and Basie

Ella Fitzgerald

performing

"April In Paris"

with Don Abney, piano; Herb Ellis, guitar; Ray Brown, bass; and Philly Joe Jones, drums
at Jazz Pour Tous (Jazz for All) Brussels, Belgium
(June 6, 1957)
A three CD set including a live performance of "April in Paris" by Ella in Paris between 1957 and 1962 is available from Amazon."

More Performances of "April In Paris"
in the Cafe Songbook Record/Video Cabinet
(Video credit)

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Count Basie and His Orchestra

performing

"April In Paris"

1965

See Cafe Songbook Record/Video Cabinet for more
about Count Basie and "April in Paris."

More Performances of "April In Paris"
in the Cafe Songbook Record/Video Cabinet
(Video credit)

Cafe Songbook Reading Room

"April In Paris"

Critics Corner || Lyrics Lounge

About the Show Walk a Little Faster
and the Origins of the Song: A Tale of Two Restaurants


book cover: "Passport to Paris, an Autobiography" by Vernon Duke
Vernon Duke,
Passport to Paris
,
Boston: Little Brown, 1955

(Duke's Autobiography)

 


"Who Put the Rainbow in The Wizard of Oz?: Yip Harburg, Lyricist" by Harold Myerson and Ernie Harburg
Harold Myerson and
Ernie Harburg
with Arthur Perlman.
Who Put the Rainbow in The Wizard of Oz?: Yip Harburg, Lyricist.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993

 


book cover: "The Jazz Standards" by Ted Gioia
Ted Gioia
The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire
New York:
Oxford University Press, 2012.

 

Other songs written for Walk a Little Faster currently included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook: none

 

 

The Broadway revue Walk a Little Faster with music by Vernon Duke and lyrics by E. Y. (Yip) Harburg opened on Broadway on December 7, 1932. The production starred comedians Bobby Clark and Paul McCullough and comedienne/actress/singer Beatrice Lillie. This was Duke's first complete score for a show, and at first “April in Paris” wasn't even in it -- though Paris the city was. In fact the inspiration for the writing of the song was a model for a stage set for one of the revue's projected scenes. Set designer Boris Aronson had created the model with a Left Bank street in mind, and as he was, at that moment, so enamored of The City of Light, having recently arrived from Kiev newly under the control of Stalin, he apparently injected into his design much of the feeling generated by first setting eyes on the city. According to Harburg, the set Aronson created was so "beautiful and sensitive," in fact so moving that when producer Cortney Burr saw the model he immediately called Harburg, had him view the model and said. "We need a song for that." Harburg, who had never been to Paris, by his own account went down to Cook's Tours and got some brochures to get a feel for the city. The lyricist relates:

Most people think I was at the Cafe de Jou-Jou looking at the Eifel Tower when it ["April in Paris"] was written, but I was really at Lindy's looking at the marquee of the Winter Garden. Anyhow I find that writing songs of places I haven't been and people I haven't seen are the most exciting because, after all, beauty is what you in your spirit and imagination invest in a place or a person (Myerson and Harburg, p. 61).

The music for "April in Paris," as composer Vernon Duke tells it in his autobiography Passport to Paris, had its origins in the Manhattan restaurant Westside Tony's where a group of friends, indeed a group of New York 1920s-'30s theater literati, having just just come from a particularly frustrating cast tryout session for the chorus of Walk a Little Faster were discussing song possibilities. One of them, purportedly Dorothy Parker, waxed nostalgic and expressed a longing to be in Paris during the month of April. The other members of the group: Evelyn Hoey -- who eventually sang "April in Paris" in the show --, Monty Wooley, Robert Benchley, Duke himself and some others, after several double scotches, joined Ms. Parker in her nostalgia for Paris in the Spring--adding how "vile" Manhattan could be at the same time of year, were revived, "in true class B musical picture fashion" when Duke interjected, "My kingdom for a Piano." Overheard by "the ever obliging [proprietor] Tony, who ventured the information that an old and wretched upright" was available on the second floor," the group trooped up, Duke sat down at the piano and composed, what he proclaimed quite correctly to be (as it turned out) a "masterpiece." In other words, the writing of "April in Paris" was a tale of two New York City restaurants: the words having been written at Lindy's and the music at Tony's.

Vernon Duke and Yip Harburg were an odd couple, Duke a European sophisticate with aristocratic background and/or pretensions whose first love was classical music to which he devoted most of his composing energies, and quite successfully. His real name was Vladimir Dukelsky. Harburg, on the other hand came from the lower east side of Manhattan where he had to be streetwise during his formative years in order to get ahead not to mention survive. His sensitivity to the social inequities most of his family and neighbors encountered turned him into a political lefty more radical than tne rest of his songwriting buddies--even though he himself was able to make a success for a while in business. His left wing inclinations stayed with him from the time of his most well known political song, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," (written with Jay Gorney) a lyric he wrote during the same year he penned the words for "April in Paris," the depression year of 1932. Nevertheless he recognized the value of working with conservative white Russian Vernon Duke. Instead of rejecting Duke's conservatism, he took from it. Many years later, in an interview with Max Wilk, he said,

I liked Vernon's facility. He was fast and very sophisticated, almost too sophisticated for Broadway. Walk a Little Faster had some very smart stuff in it. In fact, that's where I bounced out of the bread-and-butter stage into sophistication. My light verse background popped up to reinforce me, and I could write much easier with Vernon than I could with some of the others. [Others being songwriters whose backgrounds were more similar to his own, including his lower East side school chum Ira Gershwin.] (Wilk p. 294. paperbound Ed.)

Harburg summed up his relationship with Vernon Duke saying to Max Wilk:

Vernon brought with him all of that Noel Coward/Diaghilev/Paris/Russian background. He was a global guy with an ability to articulate the English language that was very interesting. A whole new world for me. He could drive you crazy, and he could also open up a new vista. Maybe a little bit chi-chi and decorative, but with my pumpernickel back-ground and his orchid tunes we made a wonderful marriage. . . . I applied the everyday down deep things that concerned humanity to his sense of style and grace . . . . (Wilk p. 295. paperbound Ed.)

"April in Paris," was introduced by Evelyn Hoey on the stage of the Selwyn Theater, Broadway, New York City on December 7, 1932. Although the song was destined to become an American standard, nobody knew it on opening night. Hoey messed up her performance because she was hoarse from a bad cold and for one reason or another never got around to recording the tune. The song was, however, kept alive by several dance band recordings beginning with Henry King and His Hotel Pierre Orchestra who made the first record of "April in Paris" on November 29, 1933, nearly a year after the show opened and, in fact, months after it had closed on March 18, 1933. Somebody knew something though because the King recording was followed quickly by Freddy Martin and his Orchestra with vocal by Elmer Feldkamp on December 1, 1933, and both recordings were popular enough to make the charts; Nevertheless, "April in Paris" did not take off. There was little indication that "April in Paris" was on a firm course to becoming a standard or even a hit. Other recordings, mostly big band versions, staggered out over a number of years and kept the song from dying fading altogether. These included the BBC Dance Orchestra in 1934 as well as Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller in the states. Hildegarde recorded it in Paris in 1940 (the year Germany occupied the song's title city, so like Jerome Kern's and Oscar Hammerstein's "The Last Time I Saw Paris," "April in Paris" resonates with a longing for Paris before the war.

Still not much happened with the song until the jazzmen and women heard something they liked and picked up the tune in the late forties and the fifties some two decades after its debut. The most important of these recordings were by Thelonious Monk in 1947 and Charlie Parker in 1949, to be followed by Bud Powell in 1950, The Sauter-Finegan Band in 1952, Count Basie (the most famous of all) featuring his immortal call for "one more time" in 1955; and as for the singers, Sinatra in '51 with Axel Stordahl, with Billy May in '57 and ' with a sextet created for Sinatra's European tour in '62. Sarah Vaughan recorded it in '54, and Ella on her own and with Louis in the second half of the decade. Another factor in the song's rise (in a pop vein separate from jazz) was the movie April in Paris starring Doris Day who recorded it in 1952 followed by a bunch of other pop singers. By that point it was quite clear the song would not be forgotten but its quality of immortality came from the jazz people.

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Critics Corner

Alec Wilder, American Popular Song -- book cover

Alec Wilder, American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.

Wilder (more often then not thought of as dean of music critics for the songs of what has become known as The Great American Songbook or in his terms "American theater songs") writes that Vernon Duke's first complete Broadway score was written in 1932, for Walk a Little Faster and in that score "was his best known song, "April in Paris." Wilder states unequivocall y, "There are no two ways about it: this is a perfect theater song. If that sounds too reverent, then I'll reduce the praise to 'perfectly wonderful,' or else say, if it's not perfect, show me why it isn't.

Wilder devotes significant space to making his technical case for the superiority of the song summing up by writing, "Best of all the harmony continues to excite and completely satisfy, while the melody continues to soar above it, never seeming to be guided by it. . . . I'm certain that Duke's musical sense functioned so that his melodic line and harmonic pattern were always in balance, with the stress, or control, being on the melodic side. Certainly this is so in "April in Paris" (Wilder, American Popular Song, pp. 357-58, hardcover, Ed.)

book cover: Max Wilk, "They're Playing Our Song"
Max Wilk, They're Playing Our Song: Conversations with America's Classic Songwriters (originally published 1973 as They're Playing Our Song: From Jerome Kern to Stephen Sondheim—The Stories behind the Words and Music of Two Generations), New York and Stratford, CT: Easton Studio Press, 2008.

In his interview with Max Wilk for Wilk's 1973 book They're Playing Our Song: Conversations with America's Classic Songwriters, lyricist Yip Harburg explains his source of inspiration for "April in Paris," a place he himself had never been. He had, as he tells us, gone to a travel agency in New York and looked at all the Paris brochures he could but when it came time to write his lyric, he knew he couldn't write about falling in love in Paris having never done it. He could, however, use the images experienced in the brochures to describe falling in love in general. Harburg tells Wilk:

First of all I think [my lyric] captures Paris in a way that only French people have been able to do. And then it's not about simply being in love in Paris but about wanting to be in love anywhere. Again I tried to avoid the cliché. . . This is a person who has never been in love. He goes to Paris and, for the first time, experiences wanting to be in love with somebody. He wants to run to somebody. Paris has opened him up for the first time (Wilk, p. 295, paperbound Ed.).

 



Book cover: Philip Furia and Michael Lasser, "America's Songs"
Philip Furia and
Michael Lasser,
America's Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley, New York: Routledge, 2006.

Philip Furia and Michael Lasser expand on Harburg's point about how he wished to "avoid the clichés so easily available when writing about falling in love in Paris. They note how Harburg "prided himself on subverting romantic clichés.

He started with a hackneyed scene--a woman drinking a glass of wine in a Pars café in the spring--but instead of having her recall an old flame, Harburg gave the cliché a twist by portraying her as a woman who has never been in love. Then as a tribute to the power of Paris in the spring, she wishes she had had a lover just so she could recall him at this romantic moment. (Furia and Lasser, p. 98 (hardcover Ed.)

   
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Lyrics Lounge

(Verse)
April's in the air.
But here in Paris
April wears a diff'rent gown.
You can see her waltzing
Down the street.
The tang of wine in the air,
I'm drunk with all the happiness
That Spring can give.
Never dreamed it could be so
Exciting to live.

(Refrain)
April in Paris,
Chestnuts in blossom,
Holiday tables under the trees.

April in Paris,
This is a feeling
No one can ever reprise.

I never knew the charm of Spring,
Never met it face to face.
I never knew my heart could sing,
Never missed a warm embrace,
'Till,
April in Paris,
Whom can I run to?
What have you done to
My heart?

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book cover: Charles Granata, Sessions with Sinatra
Charles L. Granata
Sessions with Sinatra:
Frank Sinatra
and the Art of Recording

Chicago: Chicago Review Press
A Capella Books, 1999

 

 


Will Friedwald Sinatra "The Singers Art"

Will Friedwald, Sinatra! The Song Is You A Singer's Art New York: Scribners, 1995.
Chicago Review Press; Revised and expanded edition edition, 2018 (shown above)

 



"April in Paris" as recorded by Dinah Shore (vocal), André Previn (piano); Red Mitchell, bass; Frank Capp (drums). Album recorded Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA (06/02/1959-03/23/1960). -- Shore and Previn include Harburg's and Duke's verse--which at most is rare.

Known during the latter part of her career chiefly as a TV variety host, the late Dinah Shore fist became famous as a top flight pop singer but over time evolved into a fine jazz-influenced vocalist. This aspect of her singing comes to the fore on the album Dinah Sings Previn Plays, recorded in Hollywood on Capitol between June, 1959 and March, 1960. On the album, Shore joins André Previn, whose reputation was and still is mainly as one of the world's great classical conductors, but who, in the late 1950s, became as well known as a versatile jazz pianist. Shore and Previn delve into a classic selection from The Great American Songbook, songs by the likes of the Gershwin brothers, Cole Porter, etc.), "resulting in an intimate, late-night set in which Shore's sultry singing and Previn's warm, succinct piano both shine." (See CDUniverse.)

The verse for "April in Paris" has frequently been left off of recordings of the song, a not uncommon fate for verses that often require some patience on the part of performers and listeners alike who find the verse difficult to sing or want to get to the more familiar (or famous) part of a lyric sooner -- not to mention the producer who has to consider the time restraints associated with singles recordings of the era. Harburg's verse for "April in Paris" (See left column above.) is performed even less often than most. (It should be added, however, that a not uncommon method of generating a verse, when someone (e.g. performer, arranger, producer etc.) wants one that isn't there, is for the bridge to be used as verse. This is the case, as Will Friedwald has pointed out, in the Sinatra/May version on Come Fly with Me.

One should also note that the refrain is irregular, not a slave to a particular rhyme scheme yet rhyming enough to remind the reader this is not free verse. Instead of two quatrains (four line AABA pattern stanzas) preceding the brid ge as would be typical, we have two irregular triplets, three line stanzas that are not mirror images of each other. It is as if the lyricist is reminding us of the relatively discombobulated state of mind of the singer (caused by the overwhelming effects of the desire for love combined with springtime in Paris) but without cheating our ears and minds of their need for a discernible, irregular though it may be, rhyme pattern.

Charles Granata, in his book Sessions with Sinatra, takes us deeper into the sound values of the lyric as sung by Sinatra encouraging us to "listen closely to the precision with which Sinatra opens and closes off his syllables, especially those that come at the ends of lines."

Note the distinct enunciation of the ending of the word "face," as Sinatra holds the second "face" and pronounces the "s" sound in a way that's sharp and articulate, but not overdone.

In the second line, the shading and color that others have spoken of is heard especially in his inflection of "heart," "sing," "warm" and"embrace": Sinatra's control throughout is exacting, his vocal, sharp, articulate, and clean.

In other words the the final result is a collaboration among lyricist Harburg, who has provided the words and their meanings (both denotative and connotative), their particular order, their rhymes and their inherent sounds); the vocalist Sinatra who has added inflections in ways that realize the potential of the words and phrases and so enhance their effect; and the musicians and leader/arranger May who "behind the vocal follow[s] Sinatra with similarly phrased instrumental lines that augment and support the lyric." For example, Granata writes,

"note the crisp deliberateness of the endings on the 's' words. like "Paris," "chestnut," and "tables." (On "trees," he [Sinatra] covers the "s" sound a bit within the slide from word to word.) Sinatra's voice blooms with color, especially on the words and phrases he holds over like "trees" and "reprise." The latter word melds ever so smoothly into the "I" in the following line. But this time, Sinatra adds a bit of melancholic inflection to the word reprise.

The fourth and fifth line of the chorus are replete with lovely inflective tones. Sinatra emphatically ends the word "embrace" with a sharp focused "s," and then begins a smooth downward spiral on the word "till," which he melds directly into the "April" of the final line of the song.

No better account of the collaboration among lyricist, singer and musicians (and implicitly composer Vernon Duke) exists than Granata manages here -- and throughout his book.

For all quotations above, see Charles Granata, Sessions with Sinatra, pp. 134-138).

 

 

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Credits

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The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet:
Selected Recordings of

"April In Paris"

(All Record/Video Cabinet entries below
include a music-video
of this page's featured song.
The year given is for when the studio
track was originally laid down
or when the live performance was given.)

Performer/Recording Index
(*indicates accompanying music-video)

1933
Freddy Martin
albums: various

Amazon

Notes: Freddy Martin and His Orchestra recorded "April in Paris" on December 1, 1933, in New York City (Brunswick Records 7717) with a vocal by Elmer Feldkamp. Although Martin's recording was not the first recording of "April in Paris" (Henry King and His Hotel Pierre Orchestra recorded the song on November 29, '33, beating Martin by a couple of days), it was Martin's that made the charts in the highest position eventually getting to number 4.
(Please complete or pause one
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1942
Glenn Miller Orchestra
album: The Glenn Miller Story,
Vol. 15-16
(and others)

Amazon

Notes: Glenn Miller & His Orchestra. "April In Paris," arranged by Bill Finegan, Recorded September, 1942, NYC, RCA Victor. Miller played it only a few times in public before he left for the service. "It is one of the most tasteful arrangements of a band noted for its tasteful arrangements." (YouTube comment by Tim Bard.)

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1947
Thelonious Monk
album: Thelonious Monk:
The Complete 1947-1956 Trios

Amazon

Notes: This album is a 2 CD import on the Essential Jazz Classics label issued in 2017. Accompanying Monk here are Gene Ramey on bass and Art Blakey on drums. Recorded on October 24, 1947.
Thelonious Monk, according to Ted Gioia in his book The Jazz Standards is not a fan of jazz versions of "April in Paris" with (not surprisingly) strings involved, even when the featured players are the likes of Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins. Monk's 1947 version avoids this pitfall for Gioia who writes how Monk succeeds in "squeezing the romanticism out of "April in Paris" for a more eccentric itinerary in The City of Lights."
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1949
Charlie Parker
album: Charlie Parker with Strings

Amazon

Notes: On November 30, 1949, Parker and friends (Mitch Miller, oboe, English horn; Charlie Parker, alto sax; Bronislaw Gimpel, Max Hollander, Milton Lomask, violin; Frank Brieff, viola; Frank Miller, cello; Meyer Rosen, harp; Stan Freeman, piano; Ray Brown, bass; Buddy Rich, drums; arranged and conducted by Jimmy Carroll) laid down six tracks for Mercury Records at Reeves Sound Studios, NYC. The resulting singles were merged into the classic LP Charlie Parker with Strings: (Mercury MG-35010) consisting of the six songs ("Just Friends"/"Everything Happens to Me" Mercury" single 11036; "April in Paris"/"If I Should Lose You" Mercury single 11037; "Summertime"/I Didn't Know What Time It Was" Mercury single 11038), all of which were standards and all of which appear in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of the The Great American Songbook.) There has been much debate both about the album and about the whole idea of jazzmen playing in a context of strings. Perhaps the bottom line is whether Parker et. al. pulled this off successfully or were done in by the presence of the string section. It seems to us that Parker navigates these treacherous waters so brilliantly that even pure-minded jazz folks will not have to concede much if anything to appreciate the results. (Many augmented CD and vinyl versions of this album have been issued since, all of which include the original six songs plus other standards. Here are some of them:

Amazon

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1950
Bud Powell
album: Jazz Giant

Amazon

Notes: Recorded at Reeves Sound Studios, New York, New York on February 23, 1949 and in New York, New York in February 1950. "April in Paris" was recorded during the 1950 session

"Easily one of Bud Powell's finest albums, JAZZ GIANT presents sessions from 1949 and '50 that find the revered bop pianist in a spare trio setting. With drummer extraordinaire Max Roach and either Ray Brown or Curly Russell on bass, Powell clearly revels in the spotlight, with his astoundingly deft and emotive playing showcased on both thrilling upbeat numbers ('Tempus Fugue-It') and wistful downbeat tunes ('I'll Keep Loving You'). For Powell aficionados, this disc is truly essential.
" -- See CDUniverse page for full listing.
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1951, 1957, 1962
Frank Sinatra

Notes and recordings: Sinatra recorded "April in Paris" three times (two studio dates), first in 1951 a studio recording on Columbia arranged and conducted by Axel Stordahl.


1951 album: Best of the Columbia Years
(arrangement by Axel Stordahl

Will Friedwald as well as many others considered Stordahl the premier ballad orchestrator of the era unequalled until Nelson Riddle came on the scene in the late fifties. And, in fact, as good as Stordahl was even before he first worked first with Sinatra, it wasn't until he and Frank teamed up in 1940 (mostly with the Dorsey Band) that Stordahl reached his own full potential. Friedwald writes in an article in the liner notes for The Columbia Years that unlike most arrangers, Stordahl personally attended to every arranging assignment himself, especially the ballads. Everybody knew that Axel was the best for ballads only bringing in help on some of the up tempo numbers help he often got from George Siravo.

Amazon

His second recording of the song was made in Los Angeles in Capitol Studio A on October 3, 1957 with Billy May conducting his own arrangement. The first version of the album was recorded between Oct. 3 and Oct. 10, 1957 and released on January 27, 1958. This first version of Come Fly with Me included twelve songs including what have been called Vernon Duke's "Romantic Bookends, "April in Paris" and "Autumn in New York," both of which include major string sections.

In his biography of Sinatra, James Kaplan writes, that the romantic numbers on Come Fly with Me "possess a lush fullness that is all Billy May's own: no comparisons with other arrangers is necessary. He might have had a natural affinity for horns but he could write for strings as well as anybody." Kaplan continues, ". . . the chart was May's, yet he wouldn't have had the benefit of a twenty member string section with any other vocalist . . . 'How many strings shall we get Frank?' and he'd say, 'Fill up the outfield'" (Kaplan, Sinatra, p. 169.)


James Kaplan Sinatra biography, Vol. 2, The Chairman
James Kaplan,
Sinatra, The Chairman
(Vol. 2 of the biography)
New York, Doubleday
2015

And yet

The 1998 reissue of Come Fly with Me includes three extra songs not included on the original release: "Chicago," "South Of The Border" and "I Love Paris." These tracks were not originally recorded for the album.
"Together, Sinatra and May produced some of the most upbeat, joyful albums of the singer's career. In the tradition of Sinatra's other great '50s theme albums, COME FLY WITH ME takes you from "The Isle Of Capri" to "Blue Hawaii" with stops all over the world in between, each one equally memorable" (from CDUniverse album description.

According to Jonathan Schwartz, Sinatra told Arlene Francis in a radio interview--date unknown-- that the recording he, Sinatra, was most proud of was his "April in Paris," on his Capitol album Come Fly With Me:


1957 from Come Fly with Me
Arrangement by Billy May

Amazon



1962 from Frank Sinatra (and Sextet) Live in Paris, Arrangement by Neil Hefti
(though possibly Billy May)

Amazon


"April in Paris" was recorded in '62 during a live concert date with a sextet put together for some actual travel, a foreign tour in the early sixties with most of the arrangements (for the songs not the tour) made by Neil Hefti and a few by Billy May). The sestet included Bill Miller on piano, Al Viola on guitar, Ralph Peña on bass, Irv Cottler on drums, Emil Richards on vibraphone, and Harry Klee on alto sax as well as flute. The tour album was recorded live at The Olympia Music Hall in Paris on June 7, 1962.
In the album liner notes for Come Fly with Me by James Issacs, he quotes guitarist Al Viola (who played with Sinatra as far back as 1946) saying, "We never even rehearsed with Frank for that tour . . . . Arranger-composer Neal Hefti (who had done work for Sinatra on Reprise, as well) did most of the arrangements and Billy May did some, I think," says Viola, "but they were all based on the arrangements that had been made for the albums. Same keys, same introductions, same tempos, same riffs. That way Frank was immediately comfortable, and it's why he felt he didn't have to rehearse with us."

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1952-3
Doris Day
album: Golden Girl (The Columbia Recordings 1944-1966)

Amazon

Notes: No doubt Day's recording of "April in Paris" was intended to her appearance in the 1952 film April in Paris in which she starred with Ray Bolger and in which she sings the title song. The two-CD set covers 22 years of Doris Day's recorded work. "It reveals a picture of a wide-ranging talent. Throughout the decades Doris Day has bestowed an unfaltering sensitivity on her recordings as she applied this talent to the wide range of material.

"One thinks of the sweet, nice girl she was typically cast as in film musicals and comedies of the '50s and '60s, but her singing provides a portrait of greater depth than her film work. From the outset of her career her vocals cast spells on the listener, as in "Sentimental Journey," where she amplifies the tune with dead-on definition. On light, fluffy novelties like "Pillow Talk" she belts out the material with cheer, while "Tacos, Enchiladas and Beans" is a perfect humorous synthesis of power and coyness" (from CD Universe. See complete listing).

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1954
Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown
album: Sarah Vaughan with
Clifford Brown

Notes: On the "April in Paris" track, "Sarah is "accompanied by Leader/Arranger: Ernie Wilkins, Clifford Brown (trumpet), Herbie Mann (flute), Paul Quinichette (tenor), Jimmy Jones (piano), Joe Benjamin (bass), and Roy Haynes (drums). Recorded in New York, December 18, 1954. (EmArcy Records)." RoundMidnightTV

Clifford Brown on trumpet is the featured soloist. "In 2012 a Clifford Brown three-disc anthology The EmArcy Master Takes, Vol. 2: The Singers Sessions was issued. The set "collects all of the tracks Brown recorded with vocalists Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, and Helen Merrill during one magical five-month period in 1954. All of these sessions are now considered classic recordings and landmarks in the careers of each singer, as well as legendary trumpeter Brown"(Matt Collar at CDUniverse). In 2017 many of the Sarah Vaughn recordings with Brown were issued along with the remastered tracks from the Vaughn album Sarah Vaughn in the the Land of Hi-Fi, both on the single CD Sarah Vaughn with Clifford Brown.

Amazon

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1955 (and 1953)
Count Basie and His Orchestra
(One more time with Wild Bill Davis; and one more time again with Judy Garland and Mel Tormé, but not one more time with Jerry Van Dyke)
album: April in Paris (1956)

Amazon

Notes: Unquestionably the most famous version of “April in Paris” is the one on the video above by the Count Basie Orchestra. Arranged by William “Wild Bill” Davis, it immediately became a hit, and has become immortalized by the oft referenced improvised lines of the original musicians. AllMusic awarded the Basie album shown above 5 stars calling it "one of those rare albums that makes its mark as an almost instant classic in the jazz pantheon" and noting "April in Paris proved Count Basie's ability to grow through modern jazz changes while keeping the traditional jazz orchestra vital and alive."

CD Universe writes of the Basie album, "Verve has treated one of the Count's greatest albums with utmost respect. The lush swing of the Basie band has never sounded happier and the addition of alternate takes is a joy to behold. Listeners will be reminded just how good this band was as they stroll through 'Sweety Cakes,' add a sheen to Frank Foster's 'Shiny Stockings' and rip it apart with Neal Hefti's magnificent 'Dinner With Friends.' A highly recommended album just bursting with joy."

The Basie track of "April in Paris" was originally recorded at Fine Sound, New York on July 26, 1955 and released as a single. Album personnel includes: Count Basie (piano); Marshall Royal, Billy Graham (alto saxophone); Frank Foster, Frank Wess (tenor saxophone); Charlie Fowlkes (baritone saxophone); Joe Newman, Thad Jones, Wendell Cully, Reunald Jones (trumpet); Henry Coker, Benny Powell, Bill Hughes (trombone); Freddie Green (guitar); Ed Jones (bass); Sonny Payne (drums).


Michael McKenna provides us with a recording of "April in Paris" [See just below.], by the Wild Bill Davis Trio. (Davis was the arranger of the Basie version as well a jazz keyboardist who headed his own trio.) In his YouTube notes for this recording uploaded on April 2, 2017, McKenna informs us that "With the arrival of April - and the arrival of Spring - it is an appropriate time to present an alternate version of Wild Bill Davis' 'April In Paris,' which was recorded 'live' at Birdland, and then included in his album Wild Bill Davis At Birdland (Epic LN 3118). (An abridged version of this performance was released on Epic single 9137 -- the limited time allotted for the 78 pressing could accommodate only one 'one more time!') whereas "the first version (studio version) of 'April In Paris' [by Davis] was released by Bill on OKeh single 6946 in 1953 (Matrix CO 48676). The 'live' 1955 version includes 3 'one more time!' reprises.. I believe that Bill Davis certainly influenced Count Basie who [ever so famously] would . . . include a number of 'one more times!' virtually every time he would play 'April In Paris.' Or, as Wild Bill himself would exclaim, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah yeah!!'" So it sounds like the Davis "One more times" preceded the Basie "One more times."
The Wild Bill Davis Trio includes along with Davis on organ, Floyd Smith on guitar and Chris Columbus on drums). McKenna concludes, "This stuff is still so cool!"


Wild Bill Davis Trio 1955

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Judy Garland, Mel Tormé, Count Basie and his Orchestra -- but not Jerry Van Dyke on banjo; all on the Judy Garland Show, July 7, 1963

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The live performance by the Basie band of "April in Paris" on the Main Stage above is from 1965.

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1955
Blossom Dearie Trio
album: Blossom Dearie Plays for Dancing

Notes: Blossom's recording of "April in Paris" with Blossom Dearie on piano, Herman Garst on bass, and Bernard Planchenault on drums was made in Paris in 1955. The musicians listed were then known collectively as the Blossom Dearie Trio. All tracks are trio instrumentals. The track for "April in Paris" originally appeared on the album Blossom Dearie Plays for Dancing, which is a bit difficult to find now; but the track is included on a number of compilations, mostly multi-artist anthology albums -- or as an individual MP3. For the most readily available Blossom Dearie CDs including the original track, click the Amazon link just below.

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For an Amazon listing of other digital sources including the track, click here.

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1956
Thad Jones
album: The Magnificent Thad Jones

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Notes: (from CDUniverse) "The late Thad Jones is of jazz's royal Jones family, which also includes brothers Hank (piano) and Elvin (drums). A fine trumpeter/flugelhornist (with a distinctively big, mellow tone) and an imaginative composer and engaging arranger, Jones made a name for himself with Charles Mingus and Count Basie. He would also co-lead one of the finest big bands of the 1960's and '70's, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. But in the '50s, he helmed some fine hard bop sessions for Blue Note, and MAGNICENT lives up to its title. With the accompaniment of the superbly subtle drumming of Max Roach and piano by Detroit bop icon Barry Harris, one should require little else when seeking classic Blue Note bop-ery."

Liner Note Author: Leonard Feather.

Personnel: Thad Jones (trumpet); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Gigi Gryce (alto saxophone); Billy Mitchell (tenor saxophone); Benny Powell (trombone); Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris (piano); Elvin Jones, Max Roach (drums).

Recording information: New York, NY (07/14/1956); Van Gelder Studios, Hackensack, NJ (07/14/1956).

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1956
Billie Holiday
album: Lady in Autumn
Best of the Verve Years

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Notes: Recorded between 1946 and 1959. "April in Paris" Track likely recorded in Los Angeles 1956. Includes liner notes by Joel E. Siegel.

Digitally remastered by Dennis Drake, Andrew Nicholas, Thomas Ruff and Mark Wilder (PolyGram Studios) and Gert Van Hoeyen (PolyGram, The Netherlands).

"Without question the greatest jazz singer there has ever been (or will ever be), Holiday's unmistakable sound, her inimitable phrasing, her faultless sense of what was right, helped mould an artist unique in the history of popular music. In the early years her joyous, youthful voice was backed by soloists of the calibre of Buck Clayton, her close friend Lester Young, and her ideal arranger, pianist Teddy Wilson. Towards the end of her life her voice was a flaking, fractured caricature of itself but her commanding artistry and musical integrity lent dignity and poignancy to her recordings."

Album Personnel: Billie Holiday (vocals); Freddie Green, Herb Ellis, Irving Ashby, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel, Barry Galbraith, Billy Bauer (guitar); Janet Putnam (harp); Tony Scott (clarinet, piano); Romeo Penque (bass clarinet, alto saxophone); Gene Quill, Willie Smith (alto saxophone); Coleman Hawkins, Flip Phillips, Al Cohn, Lester Young , Paul Quinichette, Budd Johnson (tenor saxophone); Harry 'Sweets' Edison , Joe Guy, Buck Clayton, Charlie Shavers (trumpet); Tommy Turk (trombone); Carl Drinkard, Jimmy Rowles, Mal Waldron, Milt Raskin, Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly, Bobby Tucker (piano); Hank Jones (celesta); Chico Hamilton, Cozy Cole, Lenny McBrowne, Don Lamond, Dave Coleman, J.C. Heard , Larry Bunker, Alvin Stoller, Osie Johnson, Ed Shaughnessy (drums).

Producers include: Norman Granz.

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1956-1957
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
album: Ella and Louis

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Notes: (from CD Universe: "An inspired collaboration, masterminded by producer Norman Granz. Both artists were riding high at this stage in their careers. Granz assembled a stellar quartet of Oscar Peterson (piano), Buddy Rich (drums), Herb Ellis (guitar) and Ray Brown (bass). Equally inspired was the choice of material, with the gruffness of Armstrong's voice blending like magic with Fitzgerald's stunningly silky delivery."

Recorded at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, California on August 16, 1956. Originally released on Verve (4003). Includes liner notes by John McDonough.


On his radio show, Sunday, August 14, 2011, Jonathan Schwartz prefaced his playing of the Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong version of "April in Paris" by recalling that years before when Yip Harburg (lyricist for "April in Paris") had appeared on this same show, Schwartz asked him if he was aware that Ella and Louis had recorded his song. Yip responded that no he wasn't aware of it and was surprised to hear it. Upon playing the recording for Harburg (and for his radio audience), Jonathan then reported that the lyricist was so moved by what he heard that he wept.
For another highly praised 1957 live performance by Ella, see the Cafe Songbook Main Stage (this page above).

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1961
Helen Merrill
album: Parole e Musica

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Notes: Thom Jurek writes for CDUniverse: "Though she had been active since the 1940s -- while still a teenager -- vocalist Helen Merrill finally came to prominence in the 1950s through her recordings for EmArcy. By the end of the decade, she was rightfully known as one of the great American jazz singers. She toured Europe and headlined the Comblain la Tour Jazz Festival in 1960, and lived and worked in Italy for a few years. Composer/arranger Piero Umiliani convinced her to record a television program called Moderato Swing. When she agreed, he assembled a top-flight cast of Italian jazzmen -- some of whom were also composers -- to back her. This set compiles the music from that program. Merrill is backed by either a sextet or quartet. The interplay between her and Illimani and his bands is instinctive. A fingerpopping reading of 'Night and Day' features slippery electric guitar from the great Enzo Grillini, and 'Everything Happens to Me' is one of the finest readings she ever recorded -- in no small part due to Umiliani's ethereal arrangement that includes his celeste playing. Her performance of 'You Don't Know What Love Is' is startling. Umiliani's arrangement encourages the singer to leave all sentiment out of her delivery. She does so and replaces it with a brooding noir-ish sense of longing so intense that it implies menace. Nino Culasso's lyric muted trumpet solo underscores that tension. Umiliani's reputation for finding the poetic in a melody is on full display in 'April in Paris,' framed by his celeste and Tonino Ferrelli's expressive bassline supporting the sublimated desire in Merrill's vocal. The darkness in her voice had largely gone unnoticed by American producers to that point, but is highlighted here. The last three performances here, 'Solitude,' 'Willow Weep for Me," and "When Your Lover Has Gone,' come from out of the blues to wrap themselves around the words and dig deeply into the grain of the emotions they express. This set is appended by Fernando Cajati reading the lyrics in Italian between each song. Anglo listeners might initially find this a distraction, but upon repeated listening will find it adds holistically to the feel of the set. On Parole e Musica, the collaboration between Merrill and Umiliani is nothing short of sublime, and it also gives rise to a question: What might they have achieved had they worked together longer?" ~ Thom Jurek

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1963
Bill Evans
album: The Solo Sessions Volume 1

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Notes: (from CDUniverse liner notes.) "This is a solo piano session from jazz piano icon Evans, recorded in January 1963, but not released until 1989. This is a set of standards & show tunes: 'What Kind of Fool Am I,' . . . 'When I Fall in Love,' the Miles Davis tune 'Nardis,' and 'My Favorite Things.' Whether or not his personal problems had an impact on his playing is hard to say. Not that he plays poorly--he plays well. But this is Evans at his most haunted and introspective--the sound of a man nearing the end of his own rope. There is a spare, harrowing quality of this album that is hard to ignore--or forget. Not the best place to begin with Evans, but if you're already a fan, this is one to treasure."
Recorded at Sound Makers Studio, New York, New York on January 10, 1963. Includes liner notes by Orrin Keepnews.
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1987
Wynton Marsalis
album: Standard Time Vol. 1

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Notes: (from CDUniverse page for the album):
"The first in a series, in which Marsalis re-investigates the jazz standards that many of his generation have, for one reason or another, rejected. The classic tunes that were part of the "songbooks" of all the great improvisers of the tradition--Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, Clark Terry, Max Roach--are here, and Marsalis and Co. carry on the tradition of making these tunes their own. He wails 'Cherokee' while paying tribute to the style and influence of Dizzy Gillespie with a rapid-fire muted sound. 'Goodbye' and 'New Orleans' look to the sound of early-'60s Miles Davis.
"Marcus Roberts is a joy to hear. His piano playing draws influence from Monk and Bill Evans, and he executes his carefully-chosen notes and phrases with perfect, no-excess flair. None of this comes off as imitation, but rather shows contemporary players continuing a great tradition. Marsalis uses this album to focus on, and pay tribute to, the standards and styles that formed the foundations for this superior American art form.

Personnel: Wynton Marsalis (trumpet); Marcus Roberts (piano); Robert Leslie Hurst III (bass); Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums).
Recorded at RCA Studio A, New York, New York on May 29 & 30 and September 24 & 25, 1986. Includes liner notes by Stanley Crouch.
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1997
Kurt Elling
album: The Messenger

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Notes: Tracks on the album were recorded between July 1994 and December, 1996 in New York and Chicago, the album was released in 1997 and nominated for best jazz vocal Grammy in 1998.
Notes by Scott Yanow on CDUniverse page for the album include: "Kurt Elling covers a wide range of music, continually taking chances and coming up with fresh approaches. He is assisted by his longtime pianist Laurence Hopgood, different bassists and drummers, and on various tracks trumpeter Orbert Davis and the tenors of Edward Petersen and Eddie Johnson. Among the more memorable selections are Elling's vocalese version of Dexter Gordon's solo on the lengthy 'Tanya Jean,' and his spontaneous storytelling on 'It's Just a Thing' (a classic of its kind), some wild scatting on 'Gingerbread Boy,' the fairly free improvising of 'Endless,' and his mostly straightforward renditions of 'Nature Boy,' 'April In Paris' and 'Prelude to a Kiss'."
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2004
Connie Evingson
album: Gypsy in My Soul

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Notes: Scott Yanow at CDUniverse writes: "A versatile singer with a warm voice and a quietly swinging style, Connie Evingson explores the usually instrumental Gypsy jazz style during this highly enjoyable project. On various selections she is joined by either Pearl Django, the Clearwater Hot Club, or the Parisota Hot Club, quartets that are sometimes augmented by accordion, vibes, drums, and/or percussion. She performs swing standards, Susannah McCorkle's lyrics to Django Reinhardt's 'Nuages,' and her own words to 'Django's Premonition' (originally known as 'Anouman'). The strong repertoire, the instrumental colors, and Evingson's voice are three reasons that Gypsy in My Soul is highly recommended." ~ Scott Yanow

Personnel: Connie Evingson (vocals); Sam Miltich, Mark Kreitzer, Neil Andersson, Greg Ruby (guitar); Michael Gray (violin); Dan Chouinard (accordion); Tony Balluff (clarinet); Susan Pascal (vibraphone); Greg Williamson (drums).

Arranger: R. Henry.

Recording information: Creation Audio, Minneapolis, MN.

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2013
Tierney Sutton
album: After Blue
(includes a combination track of "April in Paris" and Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris.")

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Notes: "Tierney Sutton claims she had never really encountered Joni Mitchell until she heard the songwriter's 2000 album Both Sides Now, a collection mainly comprised of standards. (An album she holds in the same regard as Frank Sinatra's In the Wee Small Hours and Billie Holiday's Lady in Satin.) In 2011 she performed four of Mitchell's songs during a performance with the Turtle Island String Quartet; that gig set this project in motion. After Blue is Sutton's first offering that doesn't include her regular band -- its members were involved with other projects at the time. Instead, her collaborators are a collection of jazz luminaries who include Peter Erskine, Larry Goldings, Ralph Humphrey, Hubert Laws, the TISQ, and Al Jarreau, who duets on 'Be Cool' (the only track to feature one of Sutton's own musicians, bassist Kevin Axt). Sutton reads Mitchell by moving through the songwriter's various creative periods, embracing the singer/songwriter's jazz leanings in her phrasing, improvisation, and syncopation, and their shared love of the Great American Songbook. This last notion is evidenced by Sutton's version of 'Don't Go to Strangers' and 'Answer Me My Love,' both of which Mitchell poignantly delivered on Both Sides Now. She also shamelessly melds closer "Freeman in Paris" with "April in Paris." Other standouts include 'Blue' and 'Little Green' with TISQ, the fingerpopping "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines" with Laws, Erskine, and Goldings, and the swinging, thoroughly re-envisioned "Big Yellow Taxi." On "Both Sides Now," she is accompanied only by Mark Summer's cello. For those accustomed to hearing Sutton re-interpreting standards from the golden era, After Blue retains her trademark gifts of phrasing, restraint, and emotional honesty. But as an album, it is just as remarkable as Herbie Hancock's The Joni Letters in its creative rapprochement of Mitchell's music with the jazz tradition, and reveals Sutton at a vocal and interpretive peak." ~ Thom Jurek at CDUniverse
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