Archive for September 24, 2010

Green Dolphin Street – A Jazz Classic

On Green Dolphin Street is one of the first jazz tunes I ever learned. In fact, I learned it back when I was still studying classical guitar and had not started working on jazz at all. My teacher at the time had me get a book called “Contemporary Moods for Classic Guitar”, a set of arrangements by Laurindo Almeida. Besides this one, it included very nice arrangements for classic guitar of Blue Moon, Over the Rainbow, I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, and others.

Green Dolphin Street is actually the theme song from the movie of the same name. From 1947 and starring Lana Turner, Van Heflin, Richard Hart and Donna Reed, it tells the story of two beautiful daughters of a wealthy merchant who fall in love with the same handsome young man (Richard Hart). Because he favors the gentle modesty of Marguerite (Donna Reed), her “not quite nice” sister Marianne (LanaTurner) persuades him to seek his fortune abroad. Settled down in business in New Zealand with a friend (Van Heflin), he sends for Marguerite to join him: however, he drunkenly addresses his proposal to sensual Marianne. When the wrong sister meets up with her husband-to-be and his partner, a bitter rivalry is provoked between the men for the love of an irresistible woman. Sounds pretty stupid to me, and that there is a reason no one remembers the movie.

However dumb the movie is, the tune is a classic that has been recorded countless times by innumerable jazz artists. I’m not sure who actually did so first, but there is an influential Miles Davis recording from 1958 with John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb — quite a lineup. Search for the tune on YouTube and you’ll turn up versions from artists like John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, Stan Getz, Chick Corea, Carmen McRae, Hank Jones, Ronnie Scott, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans and on and on. It really is one of the most played standards of all time.

Although many of these performances are vocal, the majority are instrumental jazz. Perhaps the lyrics explain that:

Lover, one lovely day,
Love came, planning to stay;
Green Dolphin Street supplied the setting,
The setting for nights beyond forgetting;

And through these moments apart,
Memories live in my heart.
When I recall the love I found on,
I could kiss the ground on
Green Dolphin Street.

I’m not sure the lyrics are much better than the movie — certainly not as timeless as the music is.

I was trying to put a bit of a modern, popular spin on it, so I’ve made an arrangement and recording following my recent emphasis. It’s basically  smooth-jazz style, set for guitar, keys, bass and drums. As is typical for me lately I played the guitar and bass parts and programmed the key and drum parts. The guitar is my Orchid archtop. Here are the links to listen:



September 24, 2010 at 2:12 pm 2 comments

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September 2010