“Skylark” (and lagniappe)

This wonderful song, written by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer in 1941, has been covered many times, including a soft orchestral rendition by Linda Rondstadt in 1984. But no version, I think, tops that of Anita O’Day in 1941, performed with Gene Krupa’s orchestra. She does it as a jazz ballad, complete with a terrific trumpet opening by the vastly underrated Roy Eldridge. nicknamed “Little Jazz.”

O’Day didn’t have the world’s best voice, but she made up for it with an impeccable sense of timing and rhythm. Note how she sings behind the beat on the last verse.  I love this version.

And to show you how good Eldridge is, here’s my favorite piece of his: “Rockin’ Chair“, also written by Hoagy Charmichael (1929) and performed with the Krupa orchestra.

16 Comments

  1. freiner
    Posted February 11, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Nothing like being greeted by a Skylark on a bleak, wet February day in Pennsylvania! This is my favorite Hoagy Carmichael tune — such a wonderful, surprising bridge — and Anita O’Day is a favorite of both my wife and I. Another version I like — though purely instrumental — is Kenny Barron’s on his Maybeck Recital album. And I will NEVER underrate “Little Jazz” Eldridge. (Dizzy certainly never did.)

  2. Mark R.
    Posted February 11, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Lovely. Thanks.

  3. Barry Lyons
    Posted February 11, 2018 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Very nice.

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 11, 2018 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Listened to it on :
    Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Johnny Mercer Songbook
    Nelson Riddle, arranger/conductor
    Verve

    …. good call, never paid attention to it.

    This band is great too..

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      … three things

      (1) the song selections on this Fitzgerald/Riddle album are the same as some on Frank Sinatra Live in Paris

      https://g.co/kgs/UAfWAh

      (^^^ Google gave me a link – not sure how it works out)

      (2) I didn’t know Mercer wrote Day In Day Out, and a number of other ones on that

      (3) the bands sound similar, and great.

      … how’s that for unexpected musical networking, just from posting about “Skylark”.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

        … and lastly, (I guess people see this, otherwise, I’m glad to remain anonymous),…

        It appears that Sinatra never recorded Skylark! As well as a number of other peculiar omissions.

  5. grasshopper
    Posted February 11, 2018 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Lately I have been listening to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald on Youtube, so learning about Anita O’Day fitz right in.

    If I might digress …

    According to one website, Britain’s favourite piece of classical music is called “The Lark Ascending”, written by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1914. It is one of my favourite pieces, too.

    If you want to listen to “The Lark Ascending”, it’s here.

    And an excerpt from the linked page follows.

    Listen out for the soaring violin melody ascends so high into the instrument’s upper register that, at times, it is barely audible; shimmering strings, meanwhile, provide much of the beautifully sensitive accompaniment, evoking glorious images of the rolling British countryside. Midway through The Lark Ascending, Vaughan Williams treats us to an orchestral section that seems to borrow from his love of folk songs; it’s not long, though, before the lark returns, with the melody entwining itself around the orchestra and then breaking free, rising to ever loftier heights.

  6. Posted February 11, 2018 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    For me, Ella’s Verve version is the definitive one. Skylark is my favourite Carmichael ballad. Tough competition there with Stardust, The Nearness of You, Georgia on My Mind and what have you…

    Skylark was also covered beautifully by all the tenor sax greats, including Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz and, maaaaan… Sonny Rollins!

  7. Posted February 11, 2018 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I just realised how old I am! I’ve seen all these greats in person: O’Day and Fitzgerald and Gordon and Getz and Rollins of course… and, in 1975, even Little Jazz. Roy used to introduce himself as “Yours Truly, Wyatt Earp”.

  8. Frank Bath
    Posted February 11, 2018 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    I first heard and saw Anita O’Day in ‘Jazz On A Summer’s Day’, a documentary movie of The Newport Jazz festival 1958. She sings ‘Tea For Two’. Great fun. It’s on YouTube.

  9. rickflick
    Posted February 11, 2018 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I have that version of O’Day’s “Skylark”. I’m listening now with new ears.

  10. Brian salkas
    Posted February 11, 2018 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Never heard that version of skylark, thanks!

  11. mirandaga
    Posted February 11, 2018 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    It’s a great song. Not up there with “Georgia on Mind,” IMO, but as good as many of Carmichael’s other great ones such as “Up A Lazy River,” “Two Sleepy People” and “Stardust.” The man was a genius.

  12. BJ
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    My goodness, so beautiful.

  13. Hempenstein
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    And here’s what Gene was driving back then. (1940 Packard Darrin).


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