Stéphane Grappelli & Stuff Smith: How High The Moon

Stéphane Grappelli and Stuff Smith were, along with Joe Venuti, the most significant and influential early jazz violinists. Stéphane and Stuff display their contrasting styles on this version of "How High the Moon" from 1965, just two years before Stuff's death. Smith had the coarser, straighter tone with little if any vibrato, played with more blues feeling due to the way he slurred his notes, and sometimes would hit a string with his bow in a way that produced a plucked effect. Grappelli's more elegant style grew out of the classical and Gypsy guitar traditions, and he had the admirable ability to maintain his rich vibrato at any tempo and in any register. Bix Beiderbecke's piano playing, Grappelli once said, had "a fantastic psychological effect on me." Smith's style, on the other hand, he said was inspired more by such horn players as Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins and Red Nichols. You can hear all that and more on this track, as the violinists challenge each other, playing intricate, careening lines in their distinctive solos. After pianist Urtreger's well played, boppish improv, Stéphane and Stuff trade passages in exciting fashion, and then give drummer Delaporte some space, which he utilizes skillfully. Very hot jazz from a hot group.

March 25, 2008 · 0 comments


Gene Krupa: How High the Moon

By mid-1946, when Gene Krupa recorded 19-year-old arranger Gerry Mulligan's arrangement of "How High the Moon," the 1940 Broadway show tune was such a jazz staple that interpolating Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" (based on songwriter Morgan Lewis's lunar phases) was a transparent signal of wannabe hipness. Even so, the fading, 37-year-old Swing Era superstar drummer deserves credit, both as talent scout for discovering Mulligan and as bandleader for so crisply executing the lad's buoyant chart. Despite this track's substandard audio on Columbia's 1998 Mullenium CD, the postwar swing-to-bop transition is revealingly documented from the belly of the beast—Gene Krupa's throwback big band.

November 17, 2007 · 1 comment


Ella Fitzgerald: How High the Moon (live in Berlin, 1960)

We're still trying to make sense of the Grammy Hall of Fame jazz wing. In 2002, the Recording Academy inducted Ella Fitzgerald's "How High the Moon." But which version? Grammy identified Decca, the label of Ella's 1947 single. However, Grammy also specified 1960, the date of Ella In Berlin on Verve. We normally prefer an original, but if the Hall of Fame has room for only one of Ella's honeyed "Moons," we'd vote for 1960. If this isn't the most virtuosic scat vocal performance ever, please don't tell us what is—our old heart can't take more excitement that this.

November 08, 2007 · 0 comments


Ella Fitzgerald: How High the Moon

This 1940 Broadway show tune became so ubiquitous in jazz that, just before Christmas 1947, Ella Fitzgerald recorded it with a small combo; the next day, June Christy covered it with Stan Kenton's big band; and Anita O'Day quickly completed the trifecta. Yet even after Les Paul & Mary Ford's 1951 #1 pop hit, "How High the Moon" was for jazz fans from 1948 onward most closely identified with Fitzgerald. Effortlessly adopting bebop's musical vocabulary to her Swing Era sweetness, Ella interpolates Charlie Parker's 1946 "Ornithology" (based on the same chord changes) and Ella-vates scat singing from novelty to high art.

November 02, 2007 · 0 comments


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