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Night and Day (1932)

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Origin and Chart Information
“All of the repeated notes flatten the melody, which transfers the emphasis to the harmonies and the Latin beat, all bonuses for a dancer like Astaire.”

- JW

Rank 33
Words and Music Cole Porter

On November 29, 1932, Gay Divorce opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The show marked a departure for star Fred Astaire as it was his first appearance without his sister Adele. That night, teamed instead with Claire Luce, Astaire introduced Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.” Gay Divorce would continue for another 247 performances, distinguishing itself as Fred Astaire’s last Broadway appearance.


More on Fred Astaire at JazzBiographies.com

Today most people believe that Astaire introduced “Night and Day” during the 1934 RKO film The Gay Divorcee. While the film retained much of original plot, it contained none of Porter’s score except for “Night and Day.” The slight change in title was requested by the Hays Office which insisted that divorce could not be gay but a divorcee might well be.

Fred Astaire’s recording of “Night and Day” was an instant hit, climbing the pop charts within weeks of the show’s opening. It would remain in the number one position for ten weeks. In all, five recordings of “Night and Day” would become charting hits, and two of those, by the Eddy Duchin Orchestra and Frank Sinatra, would make second appearances as reissues. “Night and Day” was the first of over 100 hits Sinatra would record under his own name.

  • Leo Reisman and His Orchestra (1932, Fred Astaire, vocal, #1)
  • Eddy Duchin and His Central Park Casino Orchestra (1933, instrumental, #2)
  • Eddy Duchin and His Orchestra (1934, instrumental, #13) (reissue)
  • Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra (1940, instrumental, #24)
  • Frank Sinatra (1942, with Axel Stordahl and His Orchestra, #16)
  • Frank Sinatra (1944, #15) (reissue)
  • Bing Crosby (1946, #21)

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

Ginger Rogers replaced Claire Luce for the film version while Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore both retained their Broadway roles from Gay Divorce. Although Astaire and Rogers had appeared together in Flying Down to Rio (1933), The Gay Divorcee would be the first movie in which they received top billing. The Gay Divorcee received five Academy Award nominations and became the formulaic basis for subseqent Astaire/Rogers films.


More on Ginger Rogers at JazzBiographies.com

The farcical plot revolves around a woman (Ginger Rogers) who wants a divorce, her aunt who arranges for a correspondent, and a suitor (Fred Astaire) who is mistaken for the correspondent. Compensating for the plot were the song and dance numbers, which delighted audiences. Clive Hirschhorn, in his book Hollywood Musicals, comments, “...although the couple spent only about ten minutes of the film’s 107 minutes dancing, they were ten minutes of heaven...” Highlights also included Con Conrad and Herb Magidson’s “The Continental,” which won the first Academy Award for best song, and an eighteen-year-old Betty Grable singing and dancing with Edward Everett Horton to Mack Gordon and Harry Revel’s “Let’s K-nock K-nees.”

According to David Ewen in Great Men of American Popular Song, “The idea of using a persistent note in the verse (B flat) came to Porter during a visit to Morocco where he heard the steady, even beat on a tom-tom from a distance.” Porter even alludes to the origin in the opening lyrics, “Like the beat, beat, beat, of the tom-tom; When the jungle shadows fall...” Will Friedwald gives a very different account in Stardust Melodies, in which he tells of Porter visiting friends in Newport. On a rainy night, the hostess, Mrs. Vincent Astor, exclaimed about a broken drainpipe, “...This drip-drip-drip is driving me mad.” Porter raced to the piano to finish his song. And in the verse Porter also alludes to this origin, “Like the drip, drip, drip, of the rain drops...”


More on Cole Porter at JazzBiographies.com

Night and Day was also the title for the 1946 Warner Brothers film biography of Cole Porter. If one overlooks the miscasting of Cary Grant and forgives the strength of fiction over fact, there are some enjoyable songs.

More information on this tune...

Will Friedwald
Stardust Melodies
Pantheon; 1st edition
Hardcover: 416 pages

(Friedwald thoroughly investigates the song, offering 33 pages dealing with its history, music and lyric analyses, the performers, recordings and anecdotes. The book also covers eleven other popular songs in depth.)
See the Reading and Research links on this page for additional references.

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
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Stan Getz with Bill Evans
Stan Getz & Bill Evans
Polygram Records
Original recording 1964
This fiery recording is an all-time classic interpretation of “Night and Day” and displays the modern side of Getz’s playing. The band includes pianist Evans and drummer Elvin Jones in their only recorded meeting with one another.
Bill Evans
Everybody Digs Bill Evans
Original Jazz Classics 68
Original recording, 1958, Riverside Records
Pianist Bill Evans, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Philly Joe Jones deliver a spirited version of the song, as entertaining as it is technically brilliant. Jones is particularly engaging as he plays with variations on a theme and adds some Latin spice.
Frank Sinatra
A Swingin' Affair
1998 Capitol 960882
Original recording 1957
Sinatra recorded this tune many times throughout his career, but this version is one of the brashest and certainly one of the most swinging.
Joe Henderson
Inner Urge
2004 Blue Note 92422
Original recording 1964
This performance shows definitively how well-suited this tune is to modern jazz performances. Henderson is in peak form and the band features John Coltrane sidemen McCoy Tyner on piano and Elvin Jones on drums.

- Noah Baerman

Adam Makowicz
A Tribute to Art Tatum
2000, VWC 4108
Original recording, 1997
Makowicz was inspired to pursue jazz as a child in Poland when he heard Tatum on Willis Conover’s radio program, “Voice of America.” Makowicz has the technique to elevate this tribute to the level of the master. It’s hard to believe that only two hands are playing “Night and Day.” He includes another version in his solo concert in the Maybeck Recital Hall Series, Vol. 24.

- Sandra Burlingame

Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day Swings Cole Porter with Billy May
Polygram Records
Original recording 1959
The always energetic singer is her usual highly inventive self on this track. She spends the song playing cat-and-mouse with the orchestra and with the melody, lagging behind and then rushing joyously ahead.
Kenny Garrett
1995, Warner Bros. Records 45731

Alto saxophonist Garrett is all over the map with this bop rendition. Through his sharp improvisation he seems to, at times, channel the likes of Dexter Gordon or John Coltrane while still maintaining unique freshness.

- Ben Maycock

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