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Sweet Lorraine (1928)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Vocalist Armstrong delivers a sincere ‘Sweet Lorraine’ as Peterson’s quartet supports him with grace and depth.”

- Ben Maycock

Rank 37
Music Cliff Burwell
Lyrics Mitchell Parish

Written in 1928, ”Sweet Lorraine” found modest popularity with a recording by Rudy Vallee and his Heigh-Ho Yale Collegians. In that same year clarinetist Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra made an instrumental recording of the song for the Vocalion label. Further recordings were made Isham Jones and His Orchestra (1932), and jazz violinist Joe Venuti (1933).


More on Rudy Vallee at JazzBiographies.com

It was Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra’s 1935 Brunswick recording, however, that made the pop charts for one week in October, rising to number seventeen. For Teddy Wilson it would be one of the first of dozens of hits he would produce in the 1935-1937 time frame.


More on Billie Holiday at JazzBiographies.com

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

“Sweet Lorraine” was Clifford Burwell’s only hit composition. He worked as a pianist for several popular bands including Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees.


More on Cliff Burwell at JazzBiographies.com

Mitchell Parish is best known for penning the lyrics to “Star Dust” in 1929, but “Sweet Lorraine” was his first hit.


More on Mitchell Parish at JazzBiographies.com

The endurance of “Sweet Lorraine”as a favorite among jazz performers may be attributed, at least in part, to Nat “King” Cole, who kept the song in the limelight with his popular recordings. Cole’s fondness for “Sweet Lorraine” began as a Chicago teenager listening to clarinetist Jimmie Noone play. This was undoubtedly sometime after Noone’s group was called “Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra,” as the Apex Club was raided and closed down for serving alcohol during prohibition in 1930. Nat was 13.

“Sweet Lorraine” would play a memorable part in Cole’s transition from piano player to vocalist. The legend, which also reveals the source of his royal nickname, is told by Leslie Gourse in the liner notes for The Nat ‘King’ Cole Trio: The MacGregor Years, 1941-1945. Initially Cole’smain interest was piano, but in 1938, while performing in a Los Angeles nightclub, a tipsy customer asked him to sing, and Cole refused.

The customer insisted. Bob Lewis, the club owner, told Nat to sing-or else. So Nat sang “Sweet Lorraine” ...[and the] customer and everyone else liked the way Nat sang. Bob Lewis put a tinsel crown on Nat’s head and said, “I crown you Nat ‘King’ Cole.”

More information on this tune...

Allen Forte
The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924-1950: A Study in Musical Design
Princeton University Press
Hardcover: 336 pages

(Author/educator Forte devotes a page to his musical analysis of the song.)

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
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Art Tatum
20th Century Piano Genius
1996 Polygram 31763
Original recording 1955
This 2-CD set features two solo piano renditions of “Sweet Lorraine.”’ The tempo ranges from a relaxed medium swing on one version to a brighter tempo on the other, but both versions are irresistible and feature Tatum at his most swinging.
Nat "King" Cole
The Best of Nat King Cole Trio: The Vocal Classics, Vol. 1 (1942-1946)
Blue Note Records 33571
Original recording 1943
Cole recorded “Sweet Lorraine”’ on multiple occasions and was perhaps the tune’s definitive vocal interpreter. This swinging trio version is one of his best.
Jo Jones
The Essential Jo Jones
1995 Vanguard 101
Original recording 1958
”Papa Jo”’ leads his trio (with brothers Ray Bryant on piano and Tommy Bryant on bass) through a tight and infectiously swinging “Sweet Lorraine.”’
Benny Carter and Oscar Peterson
Benny Carter Meets Oscar Peterson
1990 Pablo 2310926
Original recording 1986
Alto saxophonist Carter was 79 years young when he met up with Peterson for this relaxed, soulful rendition of “Sweet Lorraine.”’
Stephane Grappelli
Shades of Django
Polygram Records

Grappelli takes “Sweet Lorraine”’ at a relaxed medium tempo and his irrepressible sense of swing proves to be a perfect fit for the tune.
Cassandra Wilson
Blue Skies
2002 Winter & Winter 919018
Original recording 1988
It is unusual to hear a female vocalist interpret this song, but Wilson does a fabulous job in this slow duo exploration with pianist Mulgrew Miller.

- Noah Baerman

Kenny Barron Trio
2001, Candid Records
Original recording, 1991, Black Lion Productions Ltd
”Sweet Lorraine”’ succumbs to pianist Barron’s gentle touch, while bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Ben Riley give her a little nudge.
Nat King Cole
Complete After Midnight Sessions
Blue Note Records

This is Cole’s jazziest vocal album, featuring his trio--John Collins (g) and Charlie Harris (b)--with guests Lee Young (d), Willie Smith (as), Harry Edison (tp), Stuff Smith (v), and Juan Tizol (tb). They cover three of the top standards, including one of Cole’s signature songs, “Sweet Lorraine.”

- Sandra Burlingame

Lester Young
The Lester Young Trio
Polygram Records 21650
Original recording 1946
Though this CD was issued under Lester Young’s name, Young is nowhere to be heard on this tune; this is one of four tunes on the album that instead features the tenor saxophone of a very young Dexter Gordon along with the trumpet of Harry “Sweets” Edison. The bandleader here is Nat “King” Cole; although Cole was known for his vocal renditions of “Sweet Lorraine,” he sticks to the piano here.
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson
1997 Verve 539060
Original recording 1957
The old guard meets the new guard with surprisingly touching results. Vocalist Armstrong delivers a sincere “Sweet Lorraine”’ as Peterson’s quartet supports him with grace and depth.

- Ben Maycock

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