The song of the day for Sunday, November 8, 2015 is “Sophisticated Lady.”
About This Song
Duke Ellington wrote “Sophisticated Lady” in 1932 as an instrumental. Lyrics were added later by Mitchell Parish. Ellington is said to have been inspired to write this song by two of his grade school teachers, who toured Europe in the summers after teaching all year. “To me that spelled sophistication.”
“Sophisticated Lady” was first recorded in 1933 on the flip side with Harold Arlen’s “Stormy Weather.” It is, of course, one of Ellington’s most popular and often-played songs. In addition to numerous recordings by Ellington over the years, the song has been recorded by Art Tatum, Anita O’Day, Billie Holiday, Billy Eckstine, Johnny Hodges, Sarah Vaughan, and Glenn Miller.
About These Versions
Today we feature three different versions of “Sophisticated Lady,” from 1960, 1999 and 2014. Mr. Bennett also recorded this song in 1973 while on the MGM/Verve label, but that version is not available on either Spotify or iTunes.
We open with the 1960 version, arranged by Frank DeVol and released on Alone Together. In spite of this version including two of my least-favorite things (too many strings and a chorus), it’s a good arrangement and Bennett is in top voice.
Next is the 1999 version, which Mr. Bennett recorded for his centennial tribute album to Duke Ellington: “Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool.” This is a slower and more considered version than the 1960 recording. The beginning of the song, with just Gray Sargent’s guitar, is wonderful. And if that’s not special enough, Joel Smirnoff’s violin comes in. It just guitar, violin and Bennett’s voice. It’s delicate, sincere and touching, with just a hint of irony. For me, this is a perfect recording of this wonderful song.
We conclude with Bennett’s most recent (solo) recording from 2014 on Cheek to Cheek. This version features just piano with a very effective Marion Evans arrangement.
“Sophisticated Lady,” as well as Alone Together, is available from iTunes.
“Sophisticated Lady,” as well as Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool, is available from iTunes.
“Sophisticated Lady,” as well as Cheek to Cheek, is available from iTunes.