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Memories of You (1930)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Blake recorded this version at the age of 90 but the style and energy are equal to that of much, much earlier versions.”

- Ben Maycock

Rank 83
Music Eubie Blake
Lyrics Andy Razaf

Minto Cato introduced the lover’s lament, “Memories of You,” in Lew Leslie’s musical revue, Blackbirds of 1930. Opening at the the Eltinge Theatre in New York, March 4, 1929, the eagerly awaited show ran for only 57 performances.

 

More on Minto Cato at JazzBiographies.com
 

The cast of Blackbirds of 1930 was a veritable who’s who of African American entertainers of the day, including Ethel Waters, Mantan Moreland, Blue McAllister, Jazzlips Richardson, Neeka Shaw, Broadway Jones, Minto Cato, The Berry Brothers, Buck and Bubbles, Cecil Mack’s Choir, and Flournoy Miller (who also wrote the book.)

 

More on Lew Leslie at JazzBiographies.com
 

Lew Leslie enlisted the help of Eubie Blake (1883-1983) to write the score for Blackbirds of 1930. Blake was no stranger to Broadway as he had collaborated with Noble Sissle, Flournoy Miller, and Aubrey Lyles on Shuffle Along (1921), the first Broadway musical written, produced, and performed by African Americans. Starring Josephine Baker, Ethel Waters, and Paul Robeson, the musical ran for 504 performances and grossed nearly $8 million. Shuffle Along marked a turning point for the New York theater scene and has even been credited as the beginning of what would be termed the Harlem Renaissance. Blake and Sissle went on to collaborate on the musical Elsie (1923) and the revue Chocolate Dandies (1924).

 

More on Eubie Blake at JazzBiographies.com
 

It was during his work on Blackbirds of 1930 that Blake met Andy Razaf (1895-1973). Razaf was well known in songwriting circles for his collaborations with Fats Waller which included the hits “Honeysuckle Rose” (1929), “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (1929), and “Black and Blue” (1929). Blake and Razaf would become a prolific writing team, going on to collaborate on more than 80 songs, the best known of which are “Memories of You” and “You’re Lucky to Me,” also from Blackbirds of 1930.

 

More on Andy Razaf at JazzBiographies.com
 

The song first appeared on the charts in 1930, rising to number 18, courtesy of Louis Armstrong. Ten years later The Ink Spots’ rendition reached number 29. The most played and probably best-remembered version, however, was by high-note trumpeter Sonny Dunham, who played with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra.

 

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

“Memories of You” resurfaced on Broadway in the musical revue, Eubie, a biographical show starring Gregory Hines, Marion Ramsey, Ethel Beatty, and Terry Burrell. The show, based on the life of Eubie Blake, opened at the Ambassador Theater on September 20, 1978, and ran for 439 performances.

More information on this tune...

George T. Simon
Big Bands Songbook
Barnes & Noble
Paperback


(Author/drummer Simon includes the sheet music with four pages of the song’s history and its performers.)

- Jeremy Wilson

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Blake did not deny that “Memories of You” was inspired by Edward MacDowell’s “To a Wild Rose,” the most popular of the (classical) suite of musical miniatures, “Woodland Sketches.” At the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club website Bill Mitchell wrote a Blake memoir based on diary entries he had made after attending parties where Blake was present. According to a 1973 entry, he said “Eubie spoke of being accused of stealing famous songs such as ‘Gypsy Blues’ from Victor Herbert’s ‘Little Gypsy Sweetheart.’” Blake said he “writes around” songs, but that is not stealing. Blake acknowledged that “Memories of You” was written around “To a Wild Rose,” at least in part.

“Memories of You” is not your typical pop song. With a range of an octave and a fifth, the song intimidates many vocalists who will simply not attempt to perform it. The song, however, was not written to showcase just any voice. Andy Razaf’s paramour at the time, Minto Cato, had an extraordinary three-octave vocal range, and it was Cato who introduced the song in the show. It was the show’s star, Ethel Waters (with a two-octave vocal range, however, who was the first to record it.  -JW

Musical analysis of “Memories of You”

Original Key Eb major; modulates to C minor for the bridge
Form A1 – A2 – B – A2
Tonality Major during “A” sections; “B” section is minor
Movement “A” ascends initially step-wise, followed by an arpeggiated outlining of the chord, then a final upward leap of a fifth before descending pentatonically. “B” moves predominately upward in a pattern consisting of a skip followed by three steps.

Comments     (assumed background)

This tune has a very wide range (octave and a fifth) and is, therefore, more appealing to instrumentalists than to vocalists. The initial chord progression is identical to “Doin’ The New Low-Down” and “Easy Living,” being the ascending I-vii˚/ii-ii-vii˚/iii  (Eb – E˚7 – Fm – F#˚7) pattern. After this it returns to the I, followed by a II7 that doesn’t really resolve to V7 but goes directly back to the I chord (some versions call for a iv between the II7 and I). Another irregular resolution similar to this one occurs in the “B” section. In the third and fourth measures of “B,” C minor is followed by F7 but then proceeds directly to Eb instead of using a Bb7. Since the melody note in the fourth measure of “B” is the ninth, a Bb13 could conceivably be used during the last two beats, but this is not what Razaf wrote in his original score.
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

“Memories of You” has always been a favorite of mine, both music and lyrics, and it was the apparent favorite during Eubie Blake’s 100th birthday celebration at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It was the overriding theme during the four hours’ taping for later PBS broadcast. It was one of the first jazz standards that I learned, and it has always been a favorite among listeners.

Jean Ronne, jazz pianist


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Soundtrack information
“Memories of You” was included in these films:
Reading and Research
Additional information for "Memories of You" may be found in:

George T. Simon
Big Bands Songbook
Barnes & Noble
Paperback


(4 pages including the following types of information: history, performers and sheet music.)

Thomas S. Hischak
The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 568 pages


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

Max Morath
The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Popular Standards
Perigee Books
Paperback: 235 pages


(1 paragraph including the following types of information: history and performers.)

Thomas S. Hischak
The Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 552 pages


(1 paragraph including the following types of information: Broadway productions, film productions, history and performers.)

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Pantheon
Hardcover: 736 pages


(Includes the following types of information: song lyrics.)
Also on This Page...

Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments
Soundtracks
Reading & Research

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

Listen to MP3 and iTunes samples!
Jazz History Notes

Louis Armstrong’s 1930 recording of Eubie Blake’s tune has an interesting feature, aside from Armstrong’s great trumpet and vocal; it is the recording debut of drummer Lionel Hampton on the vibraphone. By the time of his next recording of the tune, with Benny Goodman, Hampton would be considered the master of the vibraphone, his only challenger being another excellent performer, Red Norvo.

Goodman’s version of the tune instantly turned the number into a feature for clarinetists, even though there are excellent solos by Hampton and electric guitarist Charlie Christian on the recording.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian


Louis Armstrong
The Big Band Recordings 1930-1932
JSP Records 3401

Benny Goodman
The Benny Goodman Sextet Featuring Charlie Christian: 1939-1941
Sony
Original recording 1940
Getting Started
This section suggests definitive or otherwise significant recordings that will help jazz students get acquainted with “Memories of You.” These recordings have been selected from the Jazz History and CD Recommendations sections.

Each of Eubie Blake’s performances of “Memories of You” is worth checking out, and his 1973 solo recording of the tune (Memories of You) is no exception. The tune’s versatility and applicability to modern jazz were cemented in 1956 when Thelonious Monk recorded it for the first time (The Unique Thelonious Monk). Among vocal versions, Shirley Horn’s rendition from 1989 is particularly brilliant in capturing the intimacy of the tune.

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Thelonious Monk
The Unique Thelonious Monk
1991 Original Jazz Classics 64
Original recording 1956
Pianist Thelonious Monk had a special knack for interpreting standard ballads alone at the piano. This is the first of his multiple recordings of this song, and it bristles with energy and creativity.
iTunes
Jaki Byard
Jaki Byard Experience
1999 Original Jazz Classics 1913
Original recording 1968
This tune is a duet on an album mostly comprised of quartet numbers, as pianist Byard teams up with Rahsaan Roland Kirk on tenor saxophone. Both of these musicians were known for their personal and compelling ways of combining the cutting-edge with the traditional, and their interpretation of “Memories of You” provides plenty of both.
iTunes

- Noah Baerman

Eubie Blake
Memories of You
2003, Sony
Original recording, 1973, Shout!Factory
Blake recorded this version at the age of 90. The style and energy are equal to that of much, much earlier versions, and one must assume that we are hearing the song in its purest form.
iTunes
Shirley Horn
Close Enough for Love
1990 Polygram Records 37933
Original recording 1989
The trio of pianist/vocalist Horn is joined by tenor saxophonist Buck Hill on this thoughtful, molasses-slow rendition.
iTunes
Art Tatum/Buddy DeFranco
The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Vol. 7
Pablo 2405430
Original recording 1956
Tatum’s piano matches up well here with the clarinet of Buddy DeFranco. Both men contribute brilliant solos and are clearly inspired by one another
iTunes
Hank Jones
Live at Maybeck 16
Concord Records
Original Recording 1991
The elegance of pianist Hank Jones is well-documented, and this soulful, harmonically rich performance of “Memories of You” is a perfect example of his ballad style.
iTunes
Zoot Sims
Quartets
Original Jazz Classics 242
Original recording, 1951
This arrangement of "Memories of You"' explores the song in a quartet format, allowing for some interesting solos and dynamic interplay.
Charles Mingus
Mingus Plays Piano
Grp Records

This is a rare treat, for Mingus not only tackles the Blake song but the bass player and composer does it at the piano. This unique recording is yet more proof of Mingus' genius.
iTunes
Ray Brown
Jazz Cello
2003 Verve 440065295
Original recording 1960
Bass player Ray Brown highlights the non-traditional jazz instrument here.
iTunes

- Ben Maycock

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

Eubie Blake and Andy Razaf

Year Rank Title
1930 83 Memories of You

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