Vernon Duke: April in Paris

Written by Amy Asch

Music Theater Historian

In category: Song of the Day

Published 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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Longtime NYFOS subscriber Amy Asch loves the Great American Songbook, and doing research about songs, songwriters, musicals and movies.  She compiled and annotated The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II(Knopf, 2008) and is co-editor with Dominic McHugh of The Complete Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, which will be published by Oxford University Press in February, 2018.  Favorite projects include cataloging Irving Berlin’s office correspondence and cataloging the working files and audio archive of Jonathan Larson, composer of Rent.  She recently provided research for Rob Fisher and Sheldon Harnick’s Lyrics & Lyricists program “Songbook Classics by Unsung Lyricists.”


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