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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

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Musical analysis of “I’ll Remember April”

Original Key G major; false key change to Bb major during the first eight measures of the bridge
Form A1 – B – A2
Tonality Major throughout
Movement Primarily by steps in both directions

Comments     (assumed background)

Initially, the harmonic progression gives the impression of “How High The Moon” or “On Green Dolphin Street” with its I turning into parallel minor. However, unlike the other two examples, this tune goes up to ii7, then delays the final resolution back to the tonic by proceeding to iii7(b5) – VI7(b9), taking the circle of fifths back to “home base.”

The chord progression of “B” starts with a iv7 functioning as the ii7 of a new key built on the flatted third degree of the scale (Bb in the key of G). The first eight measures of “B” are harmonically identical to the first four measures of “B” in “A Kiss To Build A Dream On” (the bridge of “Blue Moon” also uses this briefly in mm 5-6 of its “B” section). However, where “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” turns minor in measure 5, this tune turns to the major– actually returning to its tonic key. However, because of the set-up and what follows, the ear doesn’t recognize it as such; it is followed by a viiř7 (F#m7(b5)) in the original), which finally resolves, via III7, to VIma7, giving the impression (in the original key) of E major. The E major here is followed by Am7, however, which quickly gets the tune back to G major by way of the D7. This tune, while fine as written, lends itself to many chord substitutions and alterations, but these should be chosen carefully so as to at least imply a logical harmonic progression.

K. J. McElrath - Musicologist for JazzStandards.com

Check out K. J. McElrath’s book of Jazz Standards Guide Tone Lines at his web site (www.bardicle.com).
Musicians' Comments

I find this tune satisfying in many ways. I love the movement of the melody and the surprising form, the way it seems to go to a bridge immediately, but you find there is yet another bridge around the corner. It’s a terrific tune that swings hard if you play it uptempo. I am studying some etudes and instrumentals to be able to scat on this. It’s a lot of fun learning to scat over these changes.

Debbie Orta, Jazz Vocalist, South Florida

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Soundtrack information
“I'll Remember April” was included in these films:
  • Ride ‘em Cowboy (1942, Dick Foran)
  • Strictly in the Groove (1942, Mary Healy, The Diamond Solid-Aires)
  • Eve Knew Her Apples (1945)
  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
  • The Color of Money (1986, Charlie Parker)
And on television:
  • The Sopranos (1999, Bobby Darin) Season 1, Episode 13 "I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano"
  • The Sopranos (2001, Bobby Darin) Season 3, Episode 6 "University" Episode 32
Reading and Research
Additional information for "I'll Remember April" may be found in:

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

(2 paragraphs including the following types of information: music analysis.)

Thomas S. Hischak
The American Musical Film Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 536 pages

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: summary.)

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Hardcover: 736 pages

(Includes the following types of information: song lyrics.)

Henry Martin
Enjoying Jazz
Schirmer Books
Paperback: 302 pages

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: music analysis and performers.)
Also on This Page...

Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments
Reading & Research

Jazz History Notes
Getting Started
CD Recommendations
Listen and Compare
By the Same Writers...

Jazz History Notes

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. Today, “I’ll Remember April” may be found on CD’s by most of the great jazz musicians with multiple recordings by Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, George Shearing, Harry James, Lee Konitz, Sonny Rollins, and Stan Kenton, and by vocalists Dinah Washington and Carmen McRae.

An interesting comparison of pre-bop versus bop renditions of “I’ll Remember April” can be made with big band vocalist Anita Boyer’s romantic and languid take (The Nat King Cole Trio: The MacGregor Years 1941-1945 disc 4) versus Bud Powell’s definitive bop piano (The Complete Blue Note and Roost Recordings disc 1). -JW

Vibraphonists Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo both recorded “I’ll Remember April” in 1950. Norvo began playing the xylophone and marimba in the 1920’s, and by the 1930’s he was leading his own band, followed by stints with Benny Goodman and Woody Herman.

In 1950 Norvo formed a trio consisting of Tal Farlow, guitar, and Charlie Mingus, bass. The group’s music was given the sobriquet of “chamber jazz,” a name that aptly described the trio’s sound. Their unique arrangements set the pace for an approach utilized by other trios for several years. One of their more compelling arrangements was on the tune “I’ll Remember April,” a number which had only been recorded a few times prior to their recording.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Nat "King"' Cole
The MacGregor Years 1941-1945
Music and Arts Program 911

Bud Powell
The Complete Blue Note and Roost Recordings
Blue Note Records 30083

Red Norvo
Red Norvo Trio with Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus: The Savoy Sessions
Savoy Jazz

Getting Started
This section suggests definitive or otherwise significant recordings that will help jazz students get acquainted with “I'll Remember April.” These recordings have been selected from the Jazz History and CD Recommendations sections.

Modern-day performances of “I’ll Remember April” are generally done with a Latin-feel vamp played as an introduction and ending and for the first eight measures of each A-section. This practice can be heard on Bud Powell’s trio recording of the tune (The Complete Blue Note and Roost Recordings), which preceded other significant Powell versions as a sideman with Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus. Unlike the Powell recording, though, the tune now tends to be taken at a bright tempo, and that trend (as well as some commonly-used material for the vamp sections) can be best heard on the classic version by the Clifford Brown and Max Roach Quintet with Sonny Rollins (At Basin Street).

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD 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

Written by the Same Composer(s)...
This section shows the jazz standards written by the same writing team.

Gene De Paul, Patricia Johnston and Don Raye

Year Rank Title
1941 29 I'll Remember April

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