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I'll Remember April (1941)

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Origin and Chart Information
By the late 1940s the song’s unconventional characteristics became assets, and it found favor as a bop vehicle, most notably with Bud Powell and Charlie Parker.

- JW

Rank 29
Music Gene De Paul
Lyrics Don Raye
Patricia Johnston

As a jazz standard, “I’ll Remember April” first appeared in a rather unlikely performance. Dick Foran introduced the song in the 1942 Abbott and Costello comedy Ride ‘Em Cowboy. The action takes place on a dude ranch where peanut/hotdog vendors Abbott and Costello are pretending to be cowboys. Portraying an author of westerns, Foran croons the song to the ranch owner’s daughter, played by Anne Gwynne. As one critic declared, “For a few brief minutes, ‘I’ll Remember April’ was an oasis of sanity in the madness.”

For jazz fans the film holds yet another attraction. Ride ‘Em Cowboy was one of a handful of films to feature Ella Fitzgerald, playing a maid but nonetheless singing “A Tisket A Tasket” and joining the Merry Macs in another De Paul/Raye song, “Rockin’ ‘n Reelin’.”


More on Dick Foran at JazzBiographies.com

Published in 1941, “I’ll Remember April” was recorded by Woody Herman and His Orchestra and entered the pop charts in March of 1942, rising to number twenty-three. With its unusual melody and form “I’ll Remember April” did not catch on in a big way with the pop world. Despite this there were a number of early recordings, including Martha Tilton, Bing Crosby, and the Nat “King” Cole Trio with vocalist Anita Boyer.


Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

Even at the specified moderato tempo, Gene De Paul’s composition has a wandering, drawn out feeling compared to the average pop song. The 48-bar A-B-C-D-A-B’ gives the feeling of a doubly long A-B-A composition, requiring the listener to wait thirty-two bars before a repeat instead of the eight required by an A-A-B-A form. As a result, “I’ll Remember April” is difficult to hum after the first or second listen.


More on Gene De Paul at JazzBiographies.com

Raye’s and Johnston’s narrative relates how two parted lovers will remember the past, a similar theme to the one employed by Dorothy Fields in 1936’s “The Way You Look Tonight.”


More on Don Raye at JazzBiographies.com

More on Patricia Johnston at JazzBiographies.com

I’ll Remember April is the name of a 1999 movie set during World War II in which four boys find a Japanese sailor on the California shore. It is also the title of a 1945 mystery starring Gloria Jean, who sings the title song.

More information on this tune...

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages

(In his definitive book on American popular song, Wilder offers a musical analysis of the song and a bit of history.)

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
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Charles Mingus
Mingus At Antibes
1990 Atlantic 90532
Original recording 1960
This searing performance documents a classic Mingus group featuring Eric Dolphy. Sitting in on piano for this tune is pianist Bud Powell, who plays with a fire not always heard in his later years.
Sonny Rollins
Night at the Village Vanguard
Blue Note Records
Original Recording 1957
Rollins burns through this tune, displaying his unparalleled mastery of the piano-less trio format. His trio-mates here are bassist Wilbur Ware and a young Elvin Jones on drums.
Jim Hall With the Ron Carter Duo
Alone Together
Original Recording 1972
Guitarist Hall and bassist Carter give a slow, soulful performance that displays their melodic inventiveness and almost telepathic level of interplay.
Andy Bey
Tuesdays in Chinatown
2001 Encoded Music
Original recording 1991
Vocalist Bey’s interpretation of “I’ll Remember April”’ is gentle and lightly swinging. He gives the melody a faithful reading while infusing it with the blues.

- Noah Baerman

Keith Jarrett
Tokyo '96
2000, ECM

Drummer Jack DeJohnette sets the pace with his opening solo. Jarrett then establishes the Latin groove on piano, states the melody, and then creates his own tune over the harmonic structure. This trio, which includes bassist Gary Peacock, has been together for over two decades and is at its creative best on this live performance.

- Sandra Burlingame

Clifford Brown/ Max Roach
At Basin Street
1990, Polygram 814648
Original recording, 1956
Here’s a superb bop reading of the song in which saxophonist Sonny Rollins makes an impressive debut with the short-lived quintet. His musical rapport with trumpeter Clifford Brown is inspirational yet bittersweet. A few months after this recording Brown and pianist Richie Powell would lose their lives in a car accident.
Sonny Clark
Sonny Clark Trio
2002 Blue Note 33774
Original recording 1957
The sidemen sit this one out and pianist Clark delivers an elegant solo rendition of the ballad.
Chet Baker & The Lighthouse All-Stars
Witch Doctor
1991, Orig. Jazz Classics 609
Original recording, 1953
Here’s a great live version of the song as trumpeter Chet Baker performs at the legendary California jazz spot. The band is quick and tight, and the solos tumble out.

- Ben Maycock

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