Tag Archives: Chet Baker

Moonlight in Vermont

Johnny Smith - Moonlight in Vermont

“Moonlight in Vermont” is a ballad written by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf in 1944. It was recorded by Margaret Whiting and the Billy Butterfield Orchestra and became immediately a big hit.

The lyrics of John Blackburn are also special, since they do not rhyme, but they describe perfectly a late fall-early winter landscape in Vermont (an area which has the perfect scenery for an American Christmas dream) and no wonder, that the song was also very popular with the American troops fighting in Europe during World War II.

The form is the very popular 32-bars AABA form with an additional 2 bars played as ending, sometimes after each chorus, sometimes only at the end of the tune. The original key was Db major, but the real book notates it in Eb, and the most popular cover version by Johnny Smith was played in C major.

The version of guitarist Jimmy Smith, released in 1952, became also the inspiration for many other guitar player and that is one of the reasons why my playlist has the focus on that instrument:

  1. Johnny Smith and Stan Getz: This instrumental version of the song is the most popular version and I think also the most interesting one. It shows Johnny Smith playing very closed voicings on the guitar sounding almost like a steel-guitar and Stan Getz adding a very cool and relaxed saxophone.
  2. Stan Getz has recorded another cool version of this tune together with Chet Baker on trumpet. The tempo of this version is quite similar to the version with Johnny Smith, but Chet Baker and Stan Getz play the melody well-composed and arranged in two voices.
  3. Nat King Cole recorded an instrumental version of this song in 1947. Very soft and easy played with a sparkling Nat King Cole on piano. Interesting enough I found no version where he sings.
  4. Billie Holiday recorded this song in 1957 with her orchestra, featuring Ben Webster on tenor saxophone and Barney Kessel on guitar. Also very easy and relaxed and I like her voice anyway very much.
  5. From Joe pass you can find two nice versions, one as soloist on his CD “Unforgettable” from 1992, released after his death in 1998, where Joe Pass plays the song on a nylon string guitar, not on his regular Gibson ES-175 Jazz guitar. The other version is a duet with Ella Fitzgerald on the album “Easy Living” from 1986.
  6. Finally I would like to present a version from country singer Willie Nelson. His version is from 1978 from the album “Stardust”. This album consists of pop and jazz standards that Nelson chose from his list of favorite songs. The album was 10 years in Billboard’s Country Charts and Nelson won a Grammy for the song “Georgia on My Mind” in 1979. The song starts simple and easy with guitar and vocals and has a very sweet harmonica solo part.

Listen to the songs in the playlist and if you know an interesting and unusual version of this song, please leave a comment.


Eliane Elias: I Thought About You (A Tribute To Chet Baker)

Some weeks ago I received a newsletter from Concord Music including an offer to buy CDs released in 2013 for a reduced price. I took the opportunity and ordered some CDs including a free download and a signed booklet.

One of the CDs was Eliane Elias’ tribute to Chet Baker. Chet Baker died 25 years ago and there is a little bit of an extra remembrance about him, even if I never had the impression he is really forgotten, since playing “cool” was never out of fashion.

The group that supports Eliane Elias on this CD are her husband Marc Johnson on bass, Victor Lewis on drums (the two played with Chet Baker – as I have learned), Randy Brecker on trumpet and flugelhorn and two guitar players, Steve Cardenas and Oscar Castro-Neves, and these two guitar players make for me the difference on this CD. Some tunes are played without a drummer like the title song “I Thought About You” and bass and guitar lay the perfect foundation for a really cool and groovy song.

On “There Will Never Be Another You“ the samba groove comes from an acoustic guitar and in other tunes (e.g. in the intro of „Just In Time“) piano and guitar play the melody together which I think is just a classic sound.

Nevertheless, the rest of the CD is also quite remarkable:

  • Randy Brecker shows his skills with notable trumpet solos on “There Will Never Be Another You”,  “That Old Feeling” and with the flugelhorn on “Just Friends”.
  • Some of may favorite tunes like “You Don’t Know What Love Is” or “Girl Talk” are found on the CD.
  • “Embraceable You” and “Let’s Get Lost” have a lengthy coda where Eliane Elias is improvising over some simple changes and creates a nice groove.
  • “Just in Time” starts with a fantastic piano and guitar intro. The bass is then defining the fast tempo of this song and only the guitar accompanies the singing.
  • The CD ends with a beautiful ballad “I Get Along Without You Very Well” where Eliane Elias is alone, just her voice and her piano playing.

 If you like the sound of traditional and perfectly swinging jazz, you should try to listen to this CD. I like it a lot.

Concord released also an informative video to promote the album: