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There Is No Greater Love (1936)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Vibraphonist Stefon Harris delivers an exciting rendition ... the song was nominated for the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.”

- Ben Maycock

AKAThere's No Greater Love
AKANo Greater Love
Rank 52
Music Isham Jones
Lyrics Marty Symes

In 1936 Isham Jones and His Orchestra introduced “There Is No Greater Love” as the B-side to their recording “Life Begins When You’re in Love” from the film, The Music Goes ‘Round. Both sides featured Woody Herman vocals and were modest hits, appearing on the pop charts in April of 1936 for one week and rising to number 20.


More on Isham Jones at JazzBiographies.com

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

Beginning in 1920, Isham Jones and His Orchestra had produced over seventy hit songs, including eight number one recordings, many of which Jones composed. “There Is No Greater Love” was their last hit before the bandleader changed the band’s name to Isham Jones’ Juniors that same year. Within months of the name change, Jones decided to take time off for composing, turning over the band’s leadership to saxophonist, clarinetist, and vocalist Woody Herman. This would be the beginning of Herman’s career as a bandleader, one that would last for the next fifty years. Jones subsequently returned to band leading but recorded only two more hit songs. “There Is No Greater Love” would also be the last of several major hits for lyricist Marty Symes.


More on Woody Herman at JazzBiographies.com

More on Marty Symes at JazzBiographies.com

More information on this tune...

George T. Simon
Big Bands Songbook
Barnes & Noble

(Simon devotes four pages to anecdotes, the artists who have performed the song, and biographical notes on the songwriter. He also includes the sheet music.)

- Jeremy Wilson

Music and Lyrics Analysis

“There Is No Greater Love” was written in the popular 32-bar, A-A-B-A form and is not difficult for vocalists as it requires only an octave and a half range. Jazz vocalist recordings have generally been by females, including Betty Carter, Billie Holiday, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughan. One exception is Jimmy Scott on Falling in Love Is Wonderful, originally released in 1963 and re-released on CD in 2003.

Marty Symes’ lyrics are straightforward and romantic, simply declaring the strength of one’s affection in the first and last A sections, “There is no greater love … than what I feel for you” and then describing the thrill and appreciation of love in the second A section and the bridge.

Symes further chooses a simple rhyming scheme and an economical vocabulary. He end-rhymes the second and fourth bar of every section, the eight rhymed words picked from a pool of just five words:

A – you and true
A – me and
B – known and alone
A – true and


Musical analysis of “There Is No Greater Love”

Original Key Bb major; false key change to G minor during the bridge
Form A1 – A2 – B – A2
Tonality “A” sections are major; “B” is minor.
Movement “A” consists of descending steps, followed by a downward fourth, which are answered by two upward leaps of a fifth. “B” moves primarily upward; the melody outlines the harmony of the moment.

Comments     (assumed background)

This is a highly motivic tune, tightly structured and showing the composer to have had some classical training. The motif of three descending seconds (steps) followed by a downward fourth occurs twice in “A” and once in “B.” The motif used in the consequent phrase of “A” consists of an upward fifth and two steps downward, repeated twice, with the second repetition beginning where the first one ended. It is a good example of given “licks” played in different keys over different changes.

Harmonically the “A” sections are more interesting than the “B,” which simply goes back and forth between V7and i. “A” starts out as if it were to be a blues, I – IV7. Instead of returning to I, however, the IV chord is followed by a III7, leading into the cycle of fifths that returns to the tonic (delayed during the first “A”). Some performers play a bVII(#11) chord instead of the III7, adding some exotic color to the harmonic progression (in the original key, Bb – Eb7 – Ab7(#11) – G7).

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).
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Soundtrack information
“There Is No Greater Love” was included in these films:
  • The Music Goes ‘Round (1936, Isham Jones and His Orchestra)
Reading and Research
Additional information for "There Is No Greater Love" may be found in:

George T. Simon
Big Bands Songbook
Barnes & Noble

(4 pages including the following types of information: anecdotal, performers, song writer discussion and sheet music.)

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

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: history and performers. 1 paragraph including the following types of information: history and performers.)
Free Chord Changes for this Tune
Chord changes and downloadable tracks at PlayJazzNow.com
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Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments
Reading & Research
Free Chord Changes

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

Jazz History Notes

Duke Ellington’s 1935 version of this tune, although historically the first jazz version, is basically a standard dance orchestra rendition except for a fine alto saxophone solo by Johnny Hodges.

During the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s the tune was most frequently recorded as a ballad, but it underwent a change to a medium-to-up tempo swinger following a 1958 session under the leadership of West Coast bop trombonist Frank Rosolino. This recording also features the wonderful playing of tenor saxophonist Harold Land and a nonpareil rhythm section of pianist Victor Feldman, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Stan Levey.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Duke Ellington
Classics 659

Frank Rosolino
Free for All
Original Jazz Classics 1763

Getting Started
This section suggests definitive or otherwise significant recordings that will help jazz students get acquainted with “There Is No Greater Love.” These recordings have been selected from the Jazz History and CD Recommendations sections.

“There Is No Greater Love” has a storied history as a ballad, and Dinah Washington’s 1954 recording (Dinah Jams) is a classic example of this. These days, though, the tune is more often played at medium to bright tempos and with a swing feeling. The most influential recordings in this style are by Miles Davis with two of his influential quintets. His 1955 version (The New Miles Davis Quintet) is relaxed and amazingly swinging. His 1964 version (Four & More) also swings hard, but is even more noteworthy for the rhythmic quirks that foreshadow that band’s subsequent innovations.

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Miles Davis
The New Miles Davis Quintet
1990 Original Jazz Classics 6
Original recording 1955
Miles Davis shows off his new band on this lyrical ballad performance. The rhythm section of Red Garland, Paul Chambers and “Philly” Joe Jones would go on to be extremely important in creating the sound of hard bop. John Coltrane rounded out this quintet, though he sits out on “There Is No Greater Love.”
Miles Davis
Four and More
2005 Sony 93595
Original recording 1964
As he did in his 1955 recording, Davis uses this tune to show off a new rhythm section that would prove to be tremendously influential. In this instance it is Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams who anchor the tune, with a brighter, swinging tempo and no shortage of surprises.
Paris Concert
2001 ECM Number
Original recording 1971
“No Greater Love” is a vehicle here for the groundbreaking but under-recorded avant-garde quartet Circle, featuring Anthony Braxton on saxophone, Chick Corea on piano, Dave Holland on bass and Barry Altschul on drums. The creativity and interplay are breathtaking at times, yet the musicians maintain a significant sensitivity to the tune.

- Noah Baerman

Dinah Washington
Dinah Jams
Polygram Records

Singer Washington sends a chill up the spine on this crisp, live session. She's all brass and passion in front of an all-star band that includes the likes of Richie Powell, Clifford Brown and Max Roach.
Stan Getz with Kenny Barron
People Time

Recorded just three months before Getz passed away, this lightly swinging duo performance shows that he was playing soulfully and creatively right up until the end.
Sonny Rollins
Way Out West
2000 Original Jazz Classics 337
Original recording 1957
In keeping with the theme of the album Rollins' saxophone is expressive and exspansive, while bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne fill in the background with a plodding western shuffle.
Mccoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Art Davis
Grp Records

Pianist Tyner steps out from behind John Coltrane and leads his group in a mid-tempo swing of the song. Tyner's sound is brilliant in front of the stalwart rhythm of bassist Art Davis and drummer Elvin Jones.
Jimmy Scott
Falling in Love Is Wonderful
2003, Wea/Warner
Original recording, 1962
Out of print for 40 years, this superb display of Scott's vocal styling is set against the orchestral arrangements of Marty Paich and Gerald Wilson under the musical direction of Ray Charles. Scott means every word he sings, and his phrasing has set the standard for jazz singers. (Import only)
Stefon Harris
Black Action Figure
1999, Blue Note

Vibraphonist Stefon Harris delivers an exciting rendition of “There Is No Greater Love.” Inspired, frenetic, and wildly original, the song was nominated for the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.

- Ben Maycock

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

Isham Jones and Marty Symes

Year Rank Title
1936 52 There Is No Greater Love

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