Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Written by Harry Tinney, reposted with kind permission by the author
You can hear and purchase Harry’s music here:
Recently I have starting researching soundtracks to old films and underscores for musicals and Broadway shows that form the basis for a lot of jazz repertoire, which is still taught and played some 70 years after these songs hit the screen and stage.
Stella By Starlight
This is the opening theme from "The Uninvited" which screened in 1944. It's a horror film with ghosts and seances. While it was Victor Young who scored the film, lyrics were later written for the theme "Stella By Starlight" and it became a popular tune thanks to the likes of Harry James and Frank Sinatra. Later Charlie Parker (with strings), Stan Getz, Chet Baker, and eventually onto Miles Davis who perhaps popularised the harmony that currently seems to have disseminated.
It's interesting to try and get back to the original vibe of the tune though. I based my version off the opening theme of the film.
You can check the opening theme here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UB3xvJidk4
and it also appears in a scene here:
Green Dolphin Street
"Green Dolphin Street" is a tune composed by Bronisław Kaper for the film of the same name which premiered in 1947. The lyrics by Ned Washington were also written for the film. The film itself was based the novel ‘Green Dolphin Country’ by Elizabeth Goudge, published in 1944 and released as ‘Green Dolphin Street’ in the USA.
The film score was recorded by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra - with Bill Lawrence singing the refrain. It starts in Db major for an instrumental chorus and then modulates to B major for a vocal chorus. I learned this version from the film score here:
This tune seems to get played nowadays in C major - probably derived from the Ahmad Jamal Trio recording in 1956, or more commonly Eb major from the 1958 Miles Davis recording. The changes people play seem to be mostly derived from the Miles recording (with or without the tag at the end of the form).
Body and Soul
“Body and Soul" is the most recorded jazz 'standard' of all time – there are over 2200 recordings in total of the song.
The music was composed by Johnny Green, with lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton. The tune was written in 1930 for British singer Gertrude Lawrence, but no recordings were made with her as far as I'm aware. The tune was published in the US shortly after for the musical "Three's A Crowd", which featured Libby Holman. It was a race to get the song recorded for popular audiences.
The first recording was made in early 1930 by Jack Hylton's band, with the tune being played as 'foxtrot":
There are many lyric discrepancies, and a mystery verse which appeared in recorded versions by Libby Holman and Billie Holiday among others.
You can read about the full history here: https://jazzhistoryonline.com/body-and-soul/
Jack Hylton and Bert Ambrose's versions - the first to be recorded - are in the (now) common key of Db major. I learned this version of the verse and refrain from the 1930 recording by Libby Holman in Ab major: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoABv10-Gp8
I'm not sure how the current changes came about - the ii V to the min6 chord in the A sections is not in any of these recordings (instead the IV7 to #IVdim) until Coleman Hawkins in 1939. The changes on the bridge are very different to what gets played today - much simpler.
There Will Never Be Another You
"There Will Never Be Another You" was written by Harry Warren, and unlike Stella by Starlight the lyrics were actually written for the film (by Mack Gordon). The film in question is "Iceland" which screened in 1942. It was alternately titled "Katina" in the UK and "Marriage on Ice" in Australia.
The film stars Sonja Henie and John Payne and centres on a love story between a Norwegian woman and a soldier during the US Marine landing and occupation of Iceland. The film did not do particularly well.
Here is the film scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8cSIX5DlFQ
As it appears in the film the song is in the key of B major. The harmony is somewhat similar to what gets played today, but the turnaround at the end is remarkably different as well as a few other points in the form. Sammy Kaye's orchestra recorded the soundtrack for the film and later re-recorded the song with a number of other pop stars singing the refrain.
I took the intro from the 1943 Sammy Kaye orchestra version with Nancy Norman:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdWa093Rwm0 The rest is from the film scene version.
I'm not sure exactly when this tune began to be played in Eb major but perhaps Stan Getz was the first to record it in that key in 1956. Chet Baker recorded it earlier in F, Nat King Cole in Db and there are other vocal recordings in Bb.