Vernon Duke: April in Paris

Written by Amy Asch

Music Theater Historian

In category: Song of the Day

Published July 22, 2020

We’re featuring a week of musical theater tunes from music researcher and longtime NYFOS subscriber Amy Asch. This post originally ran on June 28, 2017.

“April in Paris” was recorded by all the big mid-century pop singers; lists more than 60 versions.  But my favorite recording omits the lyric. Here is the Count Basie Orchestra, swinging hard in a 1955 arrangement by Wild Bill Davis.

I don’t remember where or when I first encountered this track, but I think there was some jumping up and down with pleasure.  And that is why I offer it here.

If you’re not familiar with this particular arrangement, be sure to listen all the way to the very, very end.

“April in Paris” from Walk a Little Faster (1932)
Lyric: E.Y. “Yip” Harburg; Music: Vernon Duke
Performed by the Count Basie Orchestra, arr: Wild Bill Davis

“April in Paris,” was written in 1932 by Yip Harburg and Vernon Duke for their revue Walk a Little Faster.  The show starred comedians Bobby Clark and Paul McCullough and Beatrice Lillie. Apparently (I say “apparently” because I got the following details from internet, rather than the library)  there was Paris scenery and Harburg and Duke wrote this song during the out-of-town tryout in Boston in order to put the set to good use.  It was introduced by Evelyn Hoey in Boston, but she had laryngitis when the Broadway critics came on opening night and the song was not singled out.  The show ran for 3.5 months, and later the song took on a life of its own.

This arrangement took on a life of its own too.   Jazz and pop music historian Will Friedwald told me that Count Basie played it virtually every night from 1955 to his death in 1984, and the “ghost’ band continues to play it today.

There is really wonderful footage of the band playing “April in Paris,” but it’s a little different than the one I adore. This aired on BBC4 in November 1965.

And here’s yet another performance of “April in Paris” — from the movie Blazing Saddles.

author: Amy Asch

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Amy Asch is a long-time NYFOS subscriber who does research about Broadway songwriters, musicals and films for books, concerts and documentaries.  With Dominic McHugh she is co-editor of the recently published Complete Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner (Oxford University Press).  She also compiled and annotated The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II (Knopf).  She has done projects for the 92nd St Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists series, the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, the Library of Congress, and the estates of Irving Berlin and Jonathan Larson (Rent).

1 Comment

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    My first April in Paris was miserably cold and wet. When I inquired about the sad variance from my expectations, I was told, “I guess May did not scan.”

    Perhaps global warming will make the lilting promise of this song true.


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