Composed by Sigmund Romberg, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
Over the years, “Softly, as in a a Morning Sunrise” has become a piece of versatile and elegant jazz, but its origins were not what is said very promising. Initially, the song was interpreted in the form of a melancholic tango in the operetta The New Moon (1928), and the version with which the leader of the Nat Shilkret band triumphed in the lists for that same time, built around a vocal execution Franklyn Bauer, barely includes jazz elements.
The 1930 cinematographic adaptation did not help much in this regard, because the story went from being set in New Orleans to pass in the Tsarist Russia; and the new version that was filmed ten years later did not have much jazz spirit that is said: few probabilities that the image of Nelson Eddy interpreting “Softly, so in a a Morning Sunrise” with a wig, while taking a shoes to some shoes, were to concite the interest of fans of any of the musical genres in vogue.
At that point, however, Artie Shaw had already thrown the glove to the song, although I have the suspicion that not so much to see her capable of adapting to the postulates of the Swing era as for the eternal effort of the clarinetist in looking for pieces exotic or unconventional. Shaw maintains the disturbing atmosphere of the original, but discards the tango rhythm and replaces it with a 4/4 compass swing.
A few band leaders tested with the song during the following years – Beny Goodman and Woody Herman played it in radio broadcasts – but in the 1950s the composition of Romberg had already been forgotten by jazz musicians and had no many visas to go back the flight.
But he traced it, and thanks to a large extent to his flexibility. Instead of based on what the song had been in the past, jazz musicians were inspired by imagining what it could become. The Modern Jazz Quartet converted “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” in a canonical counterpoint vehicle, and other artists of the Cool school followed that example.
The gloomy nuances of the minor tone also made the song an ideal tribune for the Hard Bop instrumentalists of the time, as can be seen in the recordings of Sonny Rollins, Sonny Clark and Lee Morgan. But an even more important aspect of the song – a technical, in fact, in my view – is its harmonic progression, a fairly simple sequence that returns again and again to the tonic and gives it an almost modal flavor.
This facet is the one that John Coltrane explodes in his 1961 interpretation in the Village Vanguard, a version that laid the foundations of the conception of “Softly, as in a a a Morning Sunrise” in force today, which is none other than the platform For the most advanced jazz phraseology.
I have to confess, however, my disappointment, not exempt from a certain strangeness, given the fact that Coltrane did not resume this piece in a more advanced phase of his career. The harmonic structure seems a perfect springboard for its posterior ideology, synthesis of modal jazz and free, and I would have liked to see it the saxophonist in the mid -1960s.
Other explorers of the confines of the tone would cover, without However, that emptiness: there, for example, the iconoclast rereadings of Eric Dolphy and Albert Ayler. At the same time, “Softly” continued to inspire more traditional versions. A Pleiade of Disciples of Lester Young – at Cohn, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz – had recorded the song before Coltrane adopted it, and many continued to do so later, with basic approaches that barely recorded variations.
Buddy Defranco went back even more in time to reach the premodern roots of the composition and rescue their primal condition for clarinet piece, and other artists offered traditionalist jazz arrangements, Latin or Smooth jazz.
In spite of this varied story, the popularity that this song continues to enjoy more than anything from its modal inclinations, which make it an ideal support for adventurous improvisers who do not want to exactly follow the harmonic progression, or completely ignore it.
As examples, I recommend listening to David Liebman’s 1996 recording, Freddie Hubbard’s 18-minute smash performance at the Keystone Korner in 1982, and Nick Brignola’s 1989 revision, backed by Kenny Barron, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette, the latter seasoned with constant modulations to unexpected tones.
Best Sheet Music download from our Library.
John Coltrane – Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise
John Coltrane – soprano saxophone
McCoy Tyner – piano
Reggie Workman – double bass
Elvin Jones – drums
Softly As In A Morning Sunrise (Remastered) · Sonny Clark Trio
Sonny Clark - piano Paul Chambers - bass Philly Joe Jones - drums
George Benson – Softly, as in a morning sunrise
Jim Hall & Ron Carter – Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise (live)
Recorded live at the “Jazz Adventures” concert at the Playboy Club, New York City, Aug.4, 1972.
Miles Davis: Softly as in a Morning Sunrise
(Live at the Black Hawk, San Francisco, CA – April 22, 1961)
Miles Davis with:
Drums: Jimmy Cobb
Piano: Wynton Kelly
Bass: Paul Chambers
Saxophone: Hank Mobley
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise
Vince Guaraldi (piano), Eddie Duran (guitar), Dean Reilly (Bass)
Sonny Rollins Trio at the Village Vanguard – Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise
Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Wilbur Ware (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)
“Softly as in a Morning Sunrise”- Modern Jazz Quartet in London.
Milt Jackson: vibes,
John Lewis: piano,
Percy Heath: bass,
Connie Kay: drums.
Performed at the Alexandra Palace, London,1982, Capital Radio Jazz Festival.
Softly As In A Morning Sunrise · Bing Crosby · Buddy Cole & His Trio
Other Cover versions:
Ray Alexander – Cloud Patterns (1984) Dorothy Ashby – Django/Misty (1984) Chet Baker – Chet Baker - Wolfgang Lackerschmid – Ballads For Two (1979) Kenny Barron and Regina Carter – Freefall (2001) George Benson – Irreplaceable (2004) Don Braden – The Time is Now (1991) Royce Campbell – Six by Six: A Jazz Guitar Celebration (1994) Ron Carter – Where? (1961) Ron Carter and Jim Hall - Alone Together (1972) June Christy – Something Cool (1955) Sonny Clark – Sonny Clark Trio (1957) John Coltrane – Live! at the Village Vanguard (1962) Bing Crosby – New Tricks (1957) Bobby Darin – That's All (1959) Miles Davis – In Person Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk (2003) Eric Dolphy – The Illinois Concert (1963) Mark Edwards - Triple Exposure (2000) Jenny Evans – Shiny Stockings (1997) Lesley Garrett – Soprano in Red (1996) Stan Getz and Kenny Barron – People Time (2010) The Great Jazz Trio – The Great Jazz Trio at the Village Vanguard Again (1977) Vince Guaraldi – A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing (1958) Freddie Hubbard – Above & Beyond (1982) J. J. Johnson – Things Are Getting Better All the Time (1984) Wynton Kelly - Kelly Blue (1959) John Larkin – John Larkin (1986), re-released on his compilation album Listen to the Scatman (2001) Abbey Lincoln – Abbey Is Blue (1959) Ellis Marsalis – On the First Occasion (2004) Helen Merrill – The Nearness of You (1957) Modern Jazz Quartet - Concorde (album) (1955), The Last Concert (1975, re-released as The Complete Last Concert in 1988) Dianne Reeves – I Remember (1991) Emily Remler – East to Wes (1988) Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota – La Bestia Pop (Argentina, 1985) Marc Ribot – Yo! I Killed Your God (1992–4) Sonny Rollins – A Night at the Village Vanguard (1958) Doreen Shaffer (with the Moon Invaders) – Groovin' with the Moon Invaders (2009) Artie Shaw (arranged by Jerry Gray) helped popularize the tune with his recording in 1938. Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra (vocal by Franklyn Baur), made the first hit recording in 1928. Frank Sinatra Jr. – That Face! (2006) Takeshi Terauchi & Bunnys – The World Is Waiting for Terry (1967) Hiromi Uehara – Beyond Standard (2008) Roseanna Vitro – Softly (1993) Dave Weckl – Master Plan (1990) Larry Young – Unity (1965) Ori Dagan – Songs of the Roaring Twenties (2020) Tigran Hamasyan – StandArt (2022)
Jazz standards are musical compositions that are widely known, performed and recorded by jazz artists as part of the genre’s musical repertoire.
The list includes compositions written in the 1920s that are considered standards by at least one major book publication or reference work.
Some of the tunes listed were already well-known standards by the 1930s, while others were popularized later. The time of the most influential recordings of a song, where appropriate, is indicated on the list.
A period known as the “Jazz Age” started in the United States in the 1920s. Jazz had become popular music in the country, although older generations considered the music immoral and threatening to old cultural values.
Dances such as the Charleston and the Black Bottom were very popular during the period, and jazz bands typically consisted of seven to twelve musicians. Important orchestras in New York were led by Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman and Duke Ellington.
Many New Orleans jazzmen had moved to Chicago during the late 1910s in search of employment; among others, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and Jelly Roll Morton recorded in the city. However, Chicago’s importance as a center of jazz music started to diminish toward the end of the 1920s in favor of New York.
In the early years of jazz, record companies were often eager to decide what songs were to be recorded by their artists. Popular numbers in the 1920s were pop hits such as “Sweet Georgia Brown”, “Dinah” and “Bye Bye Blackbird”.
The first jazz artist to be given some liberty in choosing his material was Louis Armstrong, whose band helped popularize many of the early standards in the 1920s and 1930s.
Some compositions written by jazz artists have endured as standards, including Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Ain’t Misbehavin'”. The most recorded 1920s standard is Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish’s “Stardust”.
Several songs written by Broadway composers in the 1920s have become standards, such as George and Ira Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” (1924), Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” (1927) and Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?” (1929).
However, it was not until the 1930s that musicians became comfortable with the harmonic and melodic sophistication of Broadway tunes and started including them regularly in their repertoire.
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