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It's Only a Paper Moon

Written: 1932

Music by: Harold Arlen

Words by: E. Y. (Yip) Harburg
and Billy Rose

Written for: The Great Magoo
(show, 1932)

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On the Main Stage at Cafe Songbook

Nat King Cole
(piano and vocal)
Renauld Jones, Trumpet; Johnny Collins, guitar;
Charlie Harris, Bass; Leon Pettis drums


"It's Only a Paper Moon"

BBC TV special

John Pizzarelli Trio
John Pizzarelli, vocal and guitar;
Ray Kennedy, piano;
Martin Pizzarelli, bass


"It's Only a Paper Moon"

at the Burghhausen Jazz Festival (Germany) 2000

Pizzarelli recorded "It's Only a Paper Moon" with a somewhat different trio on his 1994 album
Dear Mr. Cole (See Record-Video Cabinet below.)

More Performances of "It's Only a Paper Moon" in the Cafe Songbook Record/Video Cabinet
-- Please complete or pause one video before starting another.

Cafe Songbook Reading Room

"It's Only a Paper Moon"

Critics Corner || Lyrics Lounge

About the Show The Great Magoo / Origins and Early Early of the Song

Rimler Life and Songs of Harold Arlen
Walter Rimler
The Man That Got Away
The Life nad Songs of
Harold Arlen

Urbana: U of Illinois Press



Edward Jablonski
Harold Arlen: Rhythm, Rainbows, and Blues, Boston: Northeaster UP, 1996
(paper bound ed. 1998 shown).



THE GREAT MAGOO.: Hecht, Ben. Fowler, Gene.
Ben Hecht and Gene Fowler,
The Great Magoo,

New York: Covichi Freide, 1933
First edition. A play in three acts and 8 scenes, with decorations in full color by Herman Rosse
(available at ABEbooks.com)


Harold Meyerson and Ernie Harburg (Yip's son) in their biography of Yip, quote Yip on Billy Rose's involvement with "Paper Moon": "I was a neophyte at the time. He was doing a show caled The Great Magoo . . . and it needed one song. It was about a barker in a Coney Island joint. They wanted a song for that barker, a man disillusioned with the world, and he had finally fallen in love. He called me up and said, 'Do you have any kind of a song that would fit that situation?' Harold [Arlen] had a tune. He had the whole tune. And I got an idea--There's a guy who sees the lights on Broadway, theinks the whole world is that, that the moon is a paper moon, everything is a Barnum and Bailey world. So I got a title and fitted the first two lines: Say , it's only a paper moon / Floating over a cardboard sea." Harold and I brought it to Billy Rose, and he said, "Gee, that's great. Let's sit down and do it." When Billy Rose said 'Let's sit down and do it' -- he's the producer of the show; he's paying you an advance; you're a neophyte; what are you going to do? You sit down to arise with . . . ." the lyric. See p. 66 in:

"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




Take a Chance Poster
More Info about this movie at IMDB.com

Video available at

sheet music cover "It's Only a Paper Moon" from movie Take a Chance
sheet music for
"It's Only a Paper Moon"
as featured in the 1933 movie
Take A Chance


See an abbreviated annotated chronology of "Paper Moon's" recordings over the decades in the Cafe Songbook Record/Video Cabinet (right column, this page). See also a more extensive list of recordings of the song at CDUniverse.com.


The 1932 Broadway show, The Great Magoo, despite being produced by the legendary Billy Rose and written by stalwart playwrights of the era Ben Hecht and Gene Fowler was not a success. It opened in December and closed in December after only eleven performances. Except for one revival (off, off Broadway in 1982) the show disappeared altogether. As Mel Gussow wrote of the revival in his review in the The New York Times, the song ["It's Only a Paper Moon"], frequently reprised, "is easily the most appealing aspect of the evening" (NY Times Nov 1982).

Bearing the rather unromantic title The Great Magoo, the play was was a romantic drama set on the Boardwalk at Coney Island during the heart of The Depression -- which in fact was at full throttle outside Broadway's Selwyn theater as well as being depicted on its stage. It's one song, originally having the title "If You Believed in Me" was created when producer Billy Rose approached the young lyricist Yip Harburg asking him for a song about a cynical Coney Island boardwalk barker (and would-be songwriter) who although disillusioned with the "seamy, phony side of show business life" had fallen in love with a boardwalk singer and so began to feel that if only she believed in him all might be well. The lyric included, according to Harburg's biographer Walter Rimler, the young lyricist's own cynical world view in the metaphor: 'It's a Barnum and Bailey world / Just as phony as it can be" (Rimler, p. 32, hardcover Ed.). Harburg was no doubt influenced by the jaundiced view of show business held by the authors of The Great Magoo, Ben Hecht and Gene Fowler. Certainly, as Edward Jablonski notes, "Paper Moon" casts the world of the theater in a much less rosy light than Irving Berlin's "There's No Business Like Show Business." Nevertheless. the song's cynicism is mitigated by the barker/singer's romantic side when he claims that all the phoniness would disappear "If you believed in me" leaving the listener with a distinctly ambiguous final take on the song's view of life. Harburg himself harbored a cynical side both philosophical and practical. On producer Rose's claim of coauthorship credit for the lyric for "Paper Moon" he offered that Rose's only contribution to the song was providing the Selwyn Theater for eleven performances, but seeing as how Rose was the man with the money, he found it hard to object to his demand.

For the music, Harburg turned to a young composer who had already achieved a significant degree of success. Harold Arlen had, with lyricist Ted Kohler, written a number of songs for revues at Harlem's Cotton Club, songs that became standards like" I've Got the World on a String" and "Stormy Weather." These and others had gained him a significant reputation as a jazz influenced composer. As Edward Jablonski writes, "Harburg had an affinity and 'affection for Arlen's typically American approach. It was away from the Viennese derivation of the Kerns and other writers," and he quotes Harburg saying, "'I took a shine to [Arlen's] gutsy earthy [quality]. It was "a combination of African and Jewish music" (Jablonski Harold Arlen, p. 58, paperbound Ed.). With Harburg he would later gain even greater success with, for example, the score for the 1938 film The Wizard of Oz, but at this point the team had written only one other song together and not a particularly memorable one.

Producer Billy Rose, however, liked the song they wrote for The Great Magoo, put it in the show and while he was at it took a full share of credit for the lyric (even though he probably hadn't written a word of it). This was frequently done by producers a way of lining their own pockets but was often not a bad thing if the producer had enough smarts to recognize a good song and so had skin in the game to motivate him to save the song even if its vehicle was beyond repair. Indeed the savvy Rose saved many a quality song even if his claim to having shared in the writing of the lyric was entirely bogus. In this case while Magoo a non-musical drama was headed for oblivion, it's one song not only lived on to become an American standard, indeed a classic, but also was the song that kick-started one of the most fruitful collaborations in the history of American popular song: "It's Only a Paper Moon" was Harold Arlen and E. Y. (Yip) Harburg first joint success.

So how was it that "Paper Moon" did survive after Magoo failed so quickly? Rose had produced a show for Broadway in 1931 entitled Billy Rose's Crazy Quilt. That show's greatest contribution to musical theater history was the song "I Found a Million Dollar Baby in a Five and Ten Cents Store" (music by Harry Warren and words by Mort Dixon). Rose reincarnated that show under the title Crazy Quilt of 1933, and when that production did a post-Broadway tour, Rose interpolated "It's Only a Paper Moon" very effectively retitled from "If You Believed in Me," into its score." It was was from that incarnation under the "Paper Moon" title that the song was first published. So Rose in saving the song from the sinking Magoo kept it afloat and with new buoyancy it floated on. It didn't take long for its big break to arrive. Also in 1933, it showed up in a movie Take a Chance based on a Broadway production with the same title. In the movie "Paper Moon," (the first of Arlen's songs to be used in a movie) was in fact performed twice: once as a solo by Cliff Edwards (aka Ukulele Ike) and again in an extravagant production number in the manner of Busby Berkeley featuring June Knight and Buddy Rogers.

Cliff Edwards (AKA Ukulele Ike) performs
"It's Only a Paper Moon" in the 1933 movie Take A Chance.
(from the video Early Classics: Movie Musicals -- 1920-1940 Vol 2)


June Knight, Buddy Rodgers and ensemble perform
"It's Only a Paper Moon" from the 1933 movie Take A Chance


The bet Rose made on "Paper Moon" was already paying off. Cliff Edwards recorded the song and it made the charts. That it was used as extensively as it was in Take a Chance might have had to do with a couple of show biz coincidences. Lyricist Harburg already had written the lyric for two other songs in the score for Take a Chance: "New Deal Rhythm" and "I Did It with My Little Ukulele." The writer of the screenplay for the film as well as producer of the stage show (of the same title) on which the movie was based, was himself an established lyricist who had written thewords for four other songs in the film. He was B. G. DeSylva, one of the most prominent lyricists of the Twenties. And, of course, as members of the same profession traveling in the same circles, DeSylva and Harburg got to know each other. In 1931 DeSylva had left the extraordinarily successful songwriting team of DeSylva, Brown and Henderson and moved from New York back home, which just happened to be Hollywood, to try his hand at writing screenplays and producing movies. So it's not hard to imagine these two lyricists, the young Harburg and the venerable De Sylva, crossing paths, talking shop and eventually agreeing to use Harburg's and Arlen's (not to mention Rose's) "Paper Moon" in DeSylva's new movie. Serendipidoulsly, Take A Chance was being shot not in Hollywood but at Astoria Studios in Queens, New York just across the East River from Broadway where "Paper Moon" had recently been performed (under the title "If You Believed in Me," in the Rose produced show The Great Magoo.) Even though it had been sung only eleven times before Magoo closed, DeSylva had had a chance to hear "Paper Moon" performed on a Manhattan stage while he was making Take A Chance in Queens, and maybe took a chance on it. And it's not so much of a long shot that wheeler-dealer Billy Rose was involved in making that happen. Whenever and however DeSylva heard "Paper Moon" he no doubt understood the song's potential and did what was necessary to get it into his movie.

Along with the 1932 Cliff Edwards' record of "Paper Moon" (Vocalion 2587-A) quite a few other recordings of the song were issued. The one by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra (Victor (24400 A) was also a hit and as Whiteman was a bigger deal than Edwards it was a sign that "Paper Moon" was gathering steam on its way to standard status; and what became one of the most successful American songwriting teams of the first the half of the twentieth century -- Harold Arlen and E. Y. (Yip) Harburg -- was chugging right along with it.

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Critics Corner

Book cover: Alec Wilder, "America's Popular Song"
Alec Wilder, American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.
Alec Wilder's comment on "Paper Moon" is in tune with his view of the song in general: despite its straightforward, uncomplicated structure ("A straight AABA song"). In the vain of so many pop songs of the era, it is "much superior to most of them of that, or any time." It is a favorite, Wilder notes, of jazz musicians and, he says, Harburg's lyric has an innocence about it that, Wilder implies, is not easy to accomplish. That Billy Rose claims equal credit for the lyric is absurd according to Wilder, who sarcastically suggests his maximum contribution couldn't be more than the word "the." Wilder is particularly fond of the "release" or bridge which he sees as Rodgers- like in its simplicity, winding up with a "marvelous 'snapper'": "It's a melody played / in a penny arcade," which is what his life would be "without your love"
(Wilder, p. 261, 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.

Max Wilk in an interview with Harburg, he elicited from the lyricist this about "Paper Moon" by way of another of Yip's songs:

Billy Rose was doing a play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur , The Great Magoo, and he called and said, "We need a song here for a guy who's a Coney Island barker. A very cynical guy who falls in love and finds that the world is not all Coney Island. . . . In "Fun To Be Fooled" [another Harburg song] I was saying life is all being fooled, we are all being fooled by it, but while it's happening it's a lot of fun. . . . . [So when it came to] "It's Only a Paper Moon" the idea there was that the guy says to the girl the moon is made of paper, it's hanging over a cardboard tree, but there's a saving grace called love. Without it life is all a honky-tonk parade. In other words, it's not make believe as long as someone believes in it. The Great Magoo was a failure but that song became a big hit. (Wilk, p. 294, 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.

Several critics have pointed out how "It's Only a Paper Moon" combines sentiments that are on the one had brutally realistic while at the same time curiously romantic. Philip Furia and Michael see Harburg as "weaving a list of tawdry versions of traditional romantic images--paper moon, cardboard sea, canvas sky and muslin tree" such as one encounters in the phony world of Coney Island": a world of " fakery made from the cheapest materials. Yet even as he derides that world as a 'honky-tonk parade'," the singer (who is in fact a Coney Island Barker struggling to make it as a songwriter for Broadway) "insists that it would not be 'phony' if you [the Coney Island girl he has fallen for] believed in me," at once a romantic and realistic conception that intensifies both by their conflation. Harburg characterized himself as not someone who could just come out and say, 'I Love You' head on. It's not the way I think. For me the task is never to say the thing directly and yet to say it -- to think in a curve, so to speak" (Furia and Lasser pp. 102-103).
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Lyrics Lounge


( verse)
I never feel a thing is real

When I'm away from you.
Out of your embrace,
The world's a temporary parking place.
Mm, mm, mm, mm,
A bubble for a minute

Mm, mm,
You smile,
The bubble has a rainbow in it

( refrain)
Say, it's only a paper moon,
Sailing over a cardboard sea,
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me.

Yes, it's only a canvas sky,
Hanging over a muslin tree,
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me.

Without your love,
It's a honky-tonk parade.
Without your love,
It's a melody played
in a penny arcade.

It's a Barnum and Bailey world,
Just as phony as it can be,
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me.

Click here to read Cafe Songbook lyrics policy.

book cover: "Reading Lyrics" Ed. by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics,
Edited and with an Introduction by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball, New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.




Natalie Cole sings "It's Only a Paper Moon" (with the verse)
on the 1991 album Unforgettable: With Love


Several commentators have suggested that the lyric as originally written by E. Y. Harburg had no verse, perhaps because so few recorded versions include it. This is unlikely because recordings including the verse pretty much span the life of the song beginning as far back as Cliff Edwards in 1933. Also, it is commonplace for recording artists and other performers who sing a song, outside of its original context of musical play or movie, to omit the verse. (See the Cafe Songbook Record Video/Cabinet (this page) that includes versions of the "Paper Moon" by Cliff Edwards (1933) and Natalie Cole (1991) who both sing the verse. Also note the video below from 2002 in which Rufus Wainwright includes a somewhat altered version of the verse. Finally, the reliable lyrics anthology, Reading Lyrics, collected by well known scholars of The Songbook, Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball, include the verse (See in left column).

Rufus Wainwright performs "It's Only a Paper Moon" (with the verse)
in the film Stormy Weather: The Music of Harold Arlen (c 2002).
(note that Rufus changes the phrase "temporary parking place" to "temporary f*****g place.")

Stormy Weather: The Music of Harold Arlen (video)

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("It's Only a Paper Moon" page)


Credits for Videomakers of custom videos used on this page:

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The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet:
Selected Recordings of

"It's Only a Paper Moon"

(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)

Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra
(with vocal by Peggy Healy)
Albums: various

Paul Whiteman


Notes: The label on the 78 rpm record credits the song as being the from 1933 movie Take a Chance not from the 1932 Broadway show The Great Magoo for which it was written but in which the song was titled "If You Believed in Me" illustrating that the movie was a key element in popularizing the song. The Whiteman recording (Victor record 24400 recorded 9/11/1933) made the charts reaching #9.
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

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Nat King Cole Trio
on various albums


Notes: This is the original Nat King Cole Trio version of "It's Only a Paper Moon," recorded on December 15, 1943. Nat King Cole is on vocal and at the piano, Oscar Moore is on guitar and Johnny Miller on, bass.
The Amazon link above brings up many albums with early Nat King Cole Trio versions of "Paper Moon." It is interesting to note that the 1944 78 rpm Capitol label connects the song with the 1933 Paramount picture Take A Chance, making no mention of the song's original source, the 1932 Broadway drama The Big Magoo, emphasizing the importance of the movie in popularizing the song.
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

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Lee Wiley
(with Jess Stacy and His Orchestra)
album: various


Notes: John Bush at CD Universe recommends the Wiley album Time On My Hands as "One of the few single-disc compilations that ably covers her career from the early '30s to the early '50s, . . . . from her earliest features with the orchestra of Leo Reisman to the peak of her elegance on 1950's Night in Manhattan, Wiley recorded no bad sides, making the compiler's job a difficult one. Still, ASV/Living Era missed only a few excellent songs -- and those usually fan favorites such as "A Hundred Years from Now" -- to create this 24-track disc. Her Reisman breakout "Time on My Hands" makes an early appearance, followed by strong early selections like "How Long Has This Been Going On?" and "You Took Advantage of Me." Her songbook work is closely tracked, with a dozen songs appearing from the pens of either George Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter, or Harold Arlen. Time on My Hands ends with Wiley playing the dour, reflective socialite on early-'50s sessions with trumpeter Bobby Hackett and pianist Joe Bushkin, including a few more of her masterpieces: "Manhattan," "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You," "A Woman's Intuition," and "Oh, Look at Me Now." ~ John Bush


Ed.'s note: above album though worth it is expensive. See Amazon for other less pricey Wiley collections with same track of
"Paper Moon" available as single MP3.

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1945 and 1960
albums: Ella Fitzgerald
and the Delta Rhythm Boys
Ella The Legendary Decca Recordings (1945 track for both);
Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook on Verve with Billy May (1960)

1945 (Decca)


Notes: The Decca track was recorded in New York City, March 27, 1945 with personnel Haig Stephens, Double Bass; George Wettling, Drums; Hy White, guitar; René DeKnight, piano; Ella Fitzgerald and The Delta Rhythm Boys, vocals. When Metronome reviewed the release of the single in August of '45 they noted, the teaming of Ella with the tasteful Delta (Records) rhythm was "a vast improvement" over her former forced alliance with The Ink Spots." They cite "Paper Moon" as a consummate example of Ella's "ease of style and phrasing," which is a perfect phrase in itself to distinguish this recording from her later jazz inflected version with Billy May, which pulses with rhythm. The two recordings taken together illustrate how Ella could go in vastly different directions with the same material and make each great.

(The album covers shown on videos are not necessarily our recommended album. For recommended album including track, click Amazon link.)

1960 (Verve)


About the Verve Fitzgerald Arlen Songbook album, which was part of Norman Granz' magnificent Songbook series, in many ways the basis for what is now known as The Great American Songbook, Kevin Whitehead writes of the album for Amazon: "Recorded in 1960 and '61, this is one of the last and very best of Fitzgerald's songbooks spotlighting individual composers. Arlen's lyrical songs, filled with bluesy touches and abstractions from the blues form, are perfect jazz fodder (he wrote for Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club, circa 1930), and beautiful tunes in their own right. Fitzgerald is in peak voice; she's attentive to the nuances of soulful lyrics (Ira Gershwin's 'The Man That Got Away'), and lightly teases some witty ones (like Johnny Mercer's 'Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive'). Billy May's big-band arrangements are models of self-effacing fleetness--punchy without hysteria, smooth without syrup--and enlivened by alto saxophonist Benny Carter and trumpeter Don Fagerquist. But May also brings a delicate sensibility to introductory verses, interludes, and tender ballads. Strings on a few tracks are for variety, not window-dressing. Arlen's graceful American art songs have never had a better showcase--even if they could have skipped 'Ding! Dong! The Witch Is Dead.' --Kevin Whitehead (Cover drawing on Verve album shown below is by Henri Matisse.)

Click cover to view our recommended album for this track -- at Amazon.

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Benny Goodman and His Orchestra
(vocal by Dottie Reid)
album: title


Notes: Dottie Reed vocal, recorded in New York City, June 18, 1945; personnel: Piano, Charlie Queener;  Bass, Clyde Lombardi;  Alto Saxophones:  Ray Eckstrom,  Hymie Schertzer;  Tenor Saxophones:, Al Epstein, Bill Shine; Baritone Saxophone, Danny Bank; Clarinet, Benny Goodman; Trumpets: Al Cuozzo, Tony Faso, Frank LePinto; Trombones:  Eddie Aulino, Chauncey Welsch,  Trummy Young.
(Please complete or pause one
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Django Reinhardt and
Stephane Grappelli

various albums


Notes: Our recommended album of those shown at the Amazon link above is the 2002 remastered Djangology with 23 tracks including the Hot Club de France version of "It's Only a Paper Moon" featuring Django on guitar and Stepahane on violin. The Quintette Of The Hot Club Of France: Django Reinhardt (guitar); Stephane Grappelli (violin); Stephane Safred (piano); Carlo Pecori (bass); Aurelio De Carolis (drums). Recorded in Rome, Italy in January & February 1949. Originally released on RCA (2319).
"A few years after their postwar reunion, Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and his most illustrious foil and confrere, violinist Stephane Grappelli, recorded perhaps as many as fifty tunes in the space of a couple of months in 1949 in Rome. The Italian rhythm section of piano, bass and drums was probably intended to "modernize" the frontmen's sound, replacing as it did their more Gallic all-string band of the 1930s, the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. But like the two-guitars-and-bass backing Reinhardt and Grappelli pioneered fifteen years earlier, this American-style rhythm section stays out of the way, and violin and guitar are the stars of the show."

"As with the Quintet, the repertoire is a mix of popular Tin Pan Alley tunes and Reinhardt or Reinhardt-Grappelli concoctions, including versions of "Minor Swing," "Swing 42" and "Djangology."
Read full review at CD Universe.

(Please complete or pause one
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Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, et. al
album: Dig


Notes: "Recorded in New York, New York on October 5, 1951. Originally released on Prestige (7012). Includes liner notes by Ira Gitler.

"Digitally remastered by Joe Tarantino (1991, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California).

"Miles Davis' third Prestige session of 1951 is notable for the presence of two youngsters who'd mature into identifiable voices on their instruments: 21-year-old tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins and 19-year-old alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. The spirit of their idol Charlie Parker seems to hover over the proceedings (in fact, Bird was a visitor at the date).

"DIG opens with the shifting canvas of George Shearing's "Conception," which, as jazz historian Dan Morgenstern points out, bears the mark of Miles' group conception on BIRTH OF THE COOL. Davis sets the pace with vigorous, dancing lines--an imposing statement with which to inaugurate a session when you're just getting your chops together. Elsewhere, the contrasting medium tempos of "Out Of The Blue" and "It's Only A Paper Moon" inspire Miles' most direct melodic statements, full of expressive smears and rhythmic variations.
. . . " (All Personnel: Miles Davis (trumpet); Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone); Jackie McLean (alto saxophone); Walter Bishop (piano); Tommy Potter (bass); Art Blakey (drums). See CD Universe page for their full notes.

(Please complete or pause one
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c. 1954
Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby
album: Bing and Rosie: The Crosby-Clooney Radio Sessions


Notes: William Ruhlmann writes at CD Universe: "Bing Crosby's musical relationship with Rosemary Clooney is well established by their co-starring roles in the film White Christmas; their three duo albums; and their joint concert appearances toward the end of Crosby's life. But one aspect of the partnership has gone undocumented until now, and it may be the most extensive one: their radio work. Crosby, a major star of radio during its heyday in the 1930s and `40s, clung to the medium as it went into commercial decline with the rise of television starting in the `50s. He maintained a weekly network show until 1954 and continued to host radio programs for syndication into the early `60s, prerecording songs and patter for later broadcast. Clooney was not only a frequent guest, but also shared The Crosby-Clooney Show with him in 1960-1961. This double-CD set, assembled under the auspices of Bing Crosby Enterprises and released through Collectors' Choice Music, presents 61 tracks in over two-and-a-half hours, nearly all of them Crosby/Clooney duets. On the first disc, recorded between 1952 and 1958, they are accompanied by Crosby's longtime bandleader John Scott Trotter and his orchestra. On the second disc, keyboardist Buddy Cole leads a quartet to support them. It looks as though producer Robert S. Bader, in analyzing the material, decided he had too much for a single 80-minute CD and, instead of cutting, decided to expand. Particularly on the first disc, this means the tracks are often loosely edited with studio chatter included, and there are sometimes multiple versions of songs. No doubt the Crosby and Clooney fans most likely to buy this album won't mind, but four versions of 'You'd Be so Nice to Come Home To' and three of 'Something to Remember You By' seem a bit much. The two singers take on everything from each other's hits to standards, then-current songs from Broadway musicals, and novelties, always performing with comfortable chemistry. Bob Hope pops in for a specially written "Open Up Your Heart" that calls to mind the Hope/Crosby 'Road' pictures, but otherwise it's the two principals trading off lines and harmonizing. Sometimes the songs were designed as duets, such as Clooney's first hit 'You're Just in Love' (two versions) or 'Anything You Can Do.' Others were not; it would be hard to find another duet arrangement of 'Summertime' from Porgy and Bess, for instance. But that matters less than the joy of hearing two such compatible voices singing together at length."

(Please complete or pause one
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Mel Tormé
album: Gene Norman Presents
Mel Tormé At the Crescendo


Notes: In February, 1957, Mel Torme made his second appearance at the Crescendo, a Los Angeles c;club know for presenting the best in jazz and folk music. Torme was accompanied by pianist (and arranger) Marty Paich, trumpeter Don Fagerquist,  vibraphonist Larry Bunker,  bassist Max Bennett. and drummer Mel Lewis. Jason Ankeny writing at All Music notes, "Paich's nimble arrangements inspire Tormé's most adventurous vocals, and the sheer imagination and soulfulness on display throughout the set laid to rest any lingering question of whether he was a jazz artist or merely an easy listening balladeer."

The album was remastered in 2014 and rereleased in 2018.

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Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
album: The Big Beat

final take

alternate take


Notes: Christopher Felder at CD Universe writes: "Perhaps the best known and most loved of Art Blakey's works, The Big Beat is a testament to the creative progress of one of the best jazz drummers of all time. Now over 40 years old, The Big Beat is as thunderous as ever. Here, Blakey combines his rhythm with tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter's brilliant composing to make what could only be termed a 'structurally raw' album. Each track rips through bebop as quickly as Blakey ripped through drum heads. 'Dat Dere' and 'Lester Left Town' stand out as part of the true canons for hot jazz. Two alternate versions of 'It's Only a Paper Moon' round out the album, both brimming with the fluid integrity of the song and the drive only Blakey could provide. As one of the few drummers to step out and lead, not just play backup, Blakey created a true jazz treasure in The Big Beat."

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Frank Sinatra
album: Sinatra's Swingin' Session!!!


Notes: It's interesting that 'Swingin" recordings of "It's Only a Paper Moon" by both Ella Fitzgerald (with Billy May -- see above -- and Frank Sinatra (with Nelson Riddle) appeared in 1960. Both have taken a song originally performed as a traditional ballad (once by Ella herself fifteen years earlier) and swung it. Here's what CD Universe has to say about Sinatra's album:

"Never before could an album title be taken so literally. Sinatra is at his peak on SINATRA'S SWINGIN 'SESSION!!!, working in the big-band setting that is his metier. There is a palpable confidence in his voice as he redefines chestnuts like "My Blue Heaven," "Always," and "When You're Smiling" for the swing generation. With his brother-in-swing Nelson Riddle in the arranger's chair, these songs achieve an effervescence that decades of popular singers have bent over backwards trying in vain to approach.

"An added enticement on the CD reissue are three extra tracks that were recorded at the same sessions as the rest of the album but ended up on two later albums. Thus, the listener gets to hear "Sentimental Baby," "Hidden Persuasion" and Sinatra's hip update of "Ol' MacDonald" in their original context. The extended song list also lengthens the simple enjoyment of Sinatra and Riddle's bright, jazzy expertise, proving you can't have too much of a good thing.

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Natalie Cole
album: Unforgettable


Notes (Amazon editorial review): "A major change of direction for Natalie Cole, Unforgettable found the singer abandoning the type of R&B/pop she'd been recording since 1975 in favor of jazz-influenced pre-rock pop along the lines of Nat King Cole's music. It was a surprising risk that paid off handsomely -- both commercially and artistically. Naysayers who thought that so radical a change would be commercial suicide were proven wrong when the outstanding Unforgettable sold a shocking five million units. Quite clearly, this was an album Cole was dying to make. Paying tribute to her late father on "Mona Lisa," "Nature Boy," "Route 66," and other gems that had been major hits for him in the 1940s and early '50s, the 41-year-old Cole sounds more inspired than she had in well over a decade. On the title song, overdubbing was used to make it sound as though she were singing a duet with her father -- dishonest perhaps, but certainly enjoyable. Thankfully, standards and pre-rock pop turned out to be a primary direction for Cole, who was a baby when the title song became a hit for her father in 1951."

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Artists: James Taylor
and Mark O'Connor (violin)
album: A League of Their Own


Notes: This Track is from the soundtrack album for the movie A League of Their Own where it is heard as background music on several of the team bus rides. As far as we know it doesn't appear separately as a single or on a CD of it's own.

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Artist: John Pizzarelli Trio
album: Dear Mr. Cole


Notes: The album is mostly a tribute to Nat King Cole in his jazz trio mode from before his crooning days. There are eighteen tracks with John Pizzarelli on vocals and guitar, Ray Kennedy or Benny Green on piano, mostly Christian McBride is the bassist (otherwise it's Martin Pizzarelli), and if there are drums on a track the drummer is John Guerin.

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artists: Steve Smith (drums), Vinny Valentino (guitar) and and Tony Monaco (organ)
album: Groove: Blue


Notes: Recorded (2011). Released (2016). "We owe the existence of this precious jewel of an album to a chance encounter in Indonesia's capital Jakarta in March 2011. Drummer Steve Smith and guitarist Vinny Valentino decided to go for a nightcap after playing the Java Jazz Festival with their band Vital Information. As they approached the lounge bar, they heard the sound of a wild swinging electric organ. Wondering who the hell was banging those black and white keys they walked in and there they saw Tony Monaco, one of the unsung heroes of the Hammond B3. Few people knew much about him apart from that he had been promoted by organ legend Jimmy Smith and had spent two years touring with jazz guitarist Pat Martino. Smith and Valentino made their way through the crowd and asked if they could join in. They proceeded to spent the rest of the night jamming out together later joined by festival greats like George Benson and Roy Hargrove. Five months later, fate once again intervened. Smith and Valentino had been booked for a workshop in Cleveland Ohio. Tony Monaco lived close by in Columbus, a modest 230 km drive away. A spontaneous phone call resulted in a car journey and resulted in the three of them playing in Monaco's small home studio. Steve borrowed a small jazz drum kit from a friend of Tony's as his own didn't fit in the car. Valentino plugged his guitar into the only available amplifier and they were off. They worked so well together, they decided there and then to record an album. One and a half days later the recording was in the box! To get a sense of the style of this album, think of the classic Blue Note organ trios of the 60s. These true musos inject effortlessly this 50 year old sound into their own compositions, adding a few specially arranged jazz standards along the way such as the legendary 1958 Miles Davis classic version of On Green Dolphin Street which Smith's zestful drumming gives a distinct Latin feeling; Ray Nobles Cherokee is gently modernized with a funky groove; Nat King Cole's immortal It's Only A Paper Moon from the Broadway musical The Great Magoo retains a timeless swing but with a walking pedal bass from the Hammond organ; they wind down with a gentle version of That's All, an unforgettable ballad from the Great American Songbook. (Amazon album review).

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Paul McCartney
album: Kisses on the Bottom


Notes: From CDUniverse: "Paul McCartney's first full-length studio album in four years, Kisses on the Bottom is a collection of vocal standards -- the first of its kind in his discography. The son of a '20s bandleader, McCartney no doubt heard many of these songs while growing up, and this album shows a special kinship between singer and song that goes far beyond the many songbook collections attempted by others of his generation. Produced by jazz and vocal associate Tommy LiPuma, the album features guestwork from the likes of Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Krall. The lead-off track (and the inspiration for the album title) is Fats Waller's "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself a Letter)."

From Rolling Stone 02/12/2012 by Will Hermes: "The ensemble is led by Diana Krall, a jazz-pop pianist who now has a track record of wooing British rockers – like Elvis Costello, her husband. With some A-list jazzbos (including drummer Karriem Riggins), the group complements McCartney’s playfulness while trying to steer clear of corn. Krall’s cozy swing animates 'It’s Only a Paper Moon,' and even 'The Inch Worm' is rescued from the kindergarten curriculum."

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