In keeping with our Autumn theme for the month of October, today we are listening to the one of my favorite jazz pieces, Autumn Leaves.
Autumn Leaves is a very famous jazz standard from the 1940’s. The actual melody is actually French, written in 1945 under the title, “Les feuilles mortes” which literally means “The Dead Leaves”.
Since its recording debut by singer Jo Stafford, many jazz artists have done renditions of this piece including Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Nat King Cole, Bill Evans, Lionel Hampton, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie.
When you hear the song I think you’ll understand why it was - and still is - such a favorite. It was hard to choose a version for us to listen to this morning but I ended up with Nat King Cole.
About Nathaniel Cole
Nat Cole was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1919. His father was a Baptist preacher and his mother was the church choir director. Nat started playing piano at a young age, mostly church music. Then he had classical training and eventually abandoned those studies for jazz. He added “King” to his name when he formed the “King Cole Trio” as a play on the children’s rhyme, Old King Cole.
Later, Nat would be known not for his piano playing, but his singing. He had a soft, smooth baritone voice that is now one of the most easily recognizable jazz voices.
As you listen. . .
As you listen, notice if the sounds you hear are smooth and connected or short and disconnected. Why do you think the arranger chose this approach?
My favorite part of this song happens at the very end, when the vocals are done and the strings play a lazy, falling phrase down as if to mimic the falling leaves. Listen for it - I think you’ll like it too.
The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall
Enjoy your breakfast, your jams, and the autumn leaves.