June 23, 2008

"Stella by Starlight"

Information from Jazz Standards:

Victor Young and His Orchestra introduced “Stella by Starlight” in the 1944 Paramount film, The Uninvited, a ghost story starring Ray Milland.

The addition of lyrics would increase the chances of the song becoming a pop hit, and a vocal hit could promote the film and vice-versa. When Young turned “Stella by Starlight” over to Ned Washington, he also posed the lyricist a bit of a problem. The song had already been titled, and Washington had to incorporate the phrase into his lyrics. The lyricist found he could only fit the title one place in the song, and as a result “Stella by Starlight” is unusual in that its title is not at the beginning or end of the song but about three-quarters of the way through.

In May of 1947, “Stella by Starlight,” recorded by Harry James and His Orchestra, rose to # 21 on the pop charts. Two months later, in July, Frank Sinatra’s recording of the song with Alex Stordahl also reached 21st place.

Here's a taste of that Sinatra version (from The Best of the Columbia Years: 1943-1952, disc 3).

Charlie Parker had an exceptional ability in choosing repertoire that had previously been overlooked by jazz players. A perfect example is the tune “Stella by Starlight.” Parker was responsible for making the first recording of it in a jazz context in January 1952.

Here's a bit of that, from Charlie Parker and Strings. Also, this is a really amazing, live version (of the Charlie Parker with Strings arrangement) from a jazz band, possibly in Japan, or comprised of players from Japan. The saxophonist appears to be channeling Parker:

Finally, filmed for a TV broadcast in Oslo on October 28, 1966, this is the Bill Evans Trio, raising the jazz bar just a tad:

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