“Night and Day”
Composed by Cole Porter; informal head arrangement by Charlie Barnet and his band.
Recorded by Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra for RCA Bluebird on September 17,1940 in New York.
Charlie Barnet, tenor saxophone, directing: John Owens, first trumpet; Bernie Privin, Lyman Vunk and Billy May, trumpets; Claude Murphy, Don Ruppersburg, Bill Robertson, trombones; Gene Kinsey, first alto saxophone; Leo White, alto saxophone; Kurt Bloom and Jimmy Lamare, tenor saxophones; Bill Miller, piano; Anthony “Bus” Etri, electric guitar; Phil Stephens, bass; Cliff Leeman, drums.
Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” is one of the greatest songs in the Great American popular songbook, a masterpiece of the genre. It was written for the 1932 Broadway musical Gay Divorce. Fred Astaire introduced “Night and Day” in that show in what would be his last appearance on Broadway. After that, he headed to Hollywood to begin his legendary film career. His recording of “Night and Day,” made in November of 1932 with Leo Reisman’s orchestra, was a No.1 hit, topping the charts of the day for ten weeks. Astaire performed the song again in the 1934 RKO feature film, which was entitled The Gay Divorcee. That film was successful and it contributed greatly to the popularity of “Night and Day.” When Warner Brothers produced a highly fictionalized Technicolor version of Cole Porter’s life (starring Cary Grant) 1946, the movie was entitled Night and Day.
The construction of “Night and Day” is unusual for a song of the 1930s. It has a chorus of 48 bars, divided into six sections of eight bars—ABABCB—with section C representing the bridge.
Charlie Barnet’s Bluebird recording of “Night and Day” is an unabashed, romping jazz performance. The main features are Charlie’s improvised solos on tenor saxophone, along with the jazz outings by Bernie Privin on trumpet and Bill Miller on piano. Barnet’s first solo takes the tune through an entire 48 bar chorus. The backing he receives in the first part of this solo is by the syncopated oo-ah brass, which impart a rhythmically intense feeling; after that Barnet rides atop smooth saxophone chords. These backgrounds provide an effective contrast to Barnet’s playing both sonically and rhythmically. Charlie is followed by an equally swinging but rather elegant solo by Bernie Privin on cup-muted trumpet. He is backed by syncopated pointillistic saxophone sounds. Privin is followed by pianist Bill Miller (1), who also improvises with inspiration. Notice how the backing falls away in the first half of Miller’s solo, but then returns in the second half, with the saxophones playing soft harmonic pads then. Drummer Cliff Leeman’s deft accompaniment behind these soloists, and indeed throughout this performance, is excellent
The band perks up after this with some riffs and a few humorous melodic snippets, including a quote from “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” in the final sequence. Notice Barnet’s first off-the-horn shriek, which is echoed by the trumpets doing a downward smear, and then another at the end. These bits of Barnet trickery provided up and coming tenor saxophonists of the time with a challenge. Young Turks like Sam Donahue and Ted Nash would by the mid-1940s develop the high harmonics of the tenor saxophone so that they could play melodies in that stratospheric register.
This is a terrific recording. Bravo Barnet; lots of swing, no sweat.
“Night and Day” was one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite songs. He recorded it at least five times, and it was a part of his stage presentation, off-and-on, for over fifty years. Here is his first recording of it:
“Night and Day”
Composed by Cole Porter; arranged by Axel Stordahl.
Recorded by Frank Sinatra with Orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl for Bluebird on January 19, 1942 in Hollywood.
Odd “Axel” Stordahl, conducting: Harry Bluestone, Mischa Russell, Nick Pisani, Sam Freed, violins; Cy Bernard, cello; Hank Stern, bass; Lyle “Skitch” Henderson, piano; Charles Strickfadden, oboe; Freddie Stulce, Manny Gershman, Domenico Lo Guidice (Don Lodice), Henry “Heinie” Beau, saxophones and clarinets; Clark Yocum, guitar. Frank Sinatra, vocal.
Only you beneath the moon, under the sun.
Whether near to me or far
It’s no matter darling, where you are
I think of you night and day.
That this longing for you, follows wherever I go?
In the roaring traffic’s boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you night and day.
There’s an old, such a hungry yearning, burning inside of me.
And this torment won’t be through
Till you let me spend my life making love to you
Day and night, night and day.
The music: This Sinatra performance is in many ways opposite in approach to the romping, jazz infused methods employed by Charlie Barnet and his band. Their performance used the basic raw musical materials of Porter’s great song as a point of departure for their own jazz statements. The approach Sinatra and his arranger, Axel Stordahl, took in this recording reflects Frank’s innate understanding as a singer of popular songs of why this song was superior to most of the material he dealt with on a daily basis as the boy vocalist in Tommy Dorsey’s band then.(2) Their idea was to present this song in a manner that brought out, indeed celebrated, Cole Porter’s lovely melody and sensuous lyric in a warmly respectful way. In other words, Sinatra sang the song (mostly) as it was written. Part of Sinatra’s genius as a singer was that he relied on his sense of enlightened intuition to guide how he sang a song. He left the technical musical details to the arrangers he worked with, but always after he had discussed with them, often in detail, what he wanted.
Axel Stordahl had had a long association with Tommy Dorsey, going back to almost the beginning of the TD band, in early 1936, when he was a part of the Three Esquires vocal group (along with Jack Leonard and trumpeter Joe Bauer). Although Stordahl had also played trumpet in various bands pre-TD, and sometimes subbed on trumpet for TD early in their association, he soon began devoting his full attention to arranging for the Dorsey band, along with his colleague, Paul Wetstein (later Weston). The arrival of Frank Sinatra in Tommy Dorsey’s band in early 1940 brought Stordahl and him together. It was a productive musical association that lasted into the mid-1950s. (Above right: Axel Stordahl and Sinatra.)
Axel Stordahl’s arrangement provides Sinatra’s singing with a soft, warm background of strings and woodwinds. Subtlety is the order of the day: the focus here is on Sinatra, and he performs as the very talented boy singer he was then. His singing on this recording is earnest without crossing the line into bathos. Frank’s singing style evolved through the 1940s and into the mid-1950s. Gradually, the earnestness of youth was replaced by a relaxed mastery of ballads, and a robust swinging approach to up-tempo tunes. By 1955, the mature Sinatra began a remarkable series of recordings on the Capitol label, which continued through the 1960s, on Sinatra’s own Reprise label. Many of Sinatra’s greatest recordings are to be found in his Capitol and Reprise outputs.
The verse of “Night and Day” (not heard in either the the Barnet or Sinatra recording performances), is also extremely unusual and percussively hypnotic in that most of the melody consists of a single note repeated 35 times —the same note that begins the first chorus of the song. Porter’s music for the verse, wedded to a lyric that evokes passionately sensual longing, is as compelling a prelude to a popular song as exists.
The song proper of “Night and Day” also has unusual chord changes (the harmonies that support the melody). Finally, the song’s lyric is one of Porter’s most witty, poetic and compelling. It in many ways “Night and Day” is a quintessential Cole Porter song.
The performance of it by Ella Fitzgerald provides us with a perfect rendering of what Porter had in mind.
“Night and Day”
Composed by Cole Porter; arranged by Buddy Bregman.
Ella Fitzgerald accompanied by Buddy Bregman and a studio orchestra recorded for Verve Records on March 27, 1956 in Los Angeles.
Buddy Bregman, directing: Ella Fitzgerald, vocal; Conrad Gozzo, first trumpet; Pete Candoli, Maynard Ferguson and Harry “Sweets” Edison, trumpets; Joe Howard, Lloyd Ulyate, Milt Bernhart, tenor trombones; George Roberts, bass trombone; Bud Shank, first alto saxophone; Herb Geller, alto saxophone; Bob Cooper and Ted Nash, tenor saxophones; Chuck Gentry, baritone saxophone; Paul Smith, piano; Barney Kessel, guitar; Joe Mondragon, bass; Alvin Stoller, drums; Corky Hale, harp; 7 violins, Mischa Russell, concertmaster; 2 violas; Edgar Lustgarten and Robert La Marchina, celli.
In the verse for “Night and Day,” arranger Buddy Bregman creates a subtle but rhythmically intensifying background for Ella’s crystalline voice: drummer Alvin Stoller’s tom-toms, underlining the verse’s lyric, are gradually supplemented by the pizzicato strings as the register of the music waxes. Then Ella soars off into the main melody of the first chorus. (I often think of this musical sequence when I am on an airplane that begins to taxi, increases in speed, and then takes off.)
The accompaniment fashioned by Bregman for Ella Fitzgerald’s voice on the main melodies of “Night and Day” are those of a brass and reeds swing band, augmented by rather lush strings. Ms. Fitzgerald’s singing is beautifully on pitch and melodic, though always swinging, through the first chorus. On the second chorus, she deviates a bit from the melody as written as she builds to the climax of the performance. The quality of her voice throughout this performance is perfection. The subtle piano snippets behind Ella are provided by her regular accompanist of the time, the talented Paul Smith.
The recordings presented with this post were digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.
Notes and links:
(1) Veteran swing era pianist Bill Miller became Frank Sinatra’s accompanist in 1951. He continued in that role for over forty years.
(2) Frank Sinatra left Tommy Dorsey’s band to begin his career as a solo artist in September of 1942.
Here are links to more classic performances by Charlie Barnet:
Here are links to some vintage Sinatra performances:
And here are some other Ella Fitzgerald classics:
Finally, here is a link to another jewel of a song by Cole Porter: