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I Hear a Rhapsody (1940)

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Origin and Chart Information
“[In 1957] tenor saxophonist John Coltrane performed a version...that arguably put the tune into the jazz standards vernacular.”

- Chris Tyle

Rank 227
Words and Music George Fragos
Jack Baker
Dick Gasparre

Songwriters George Fragos, Jack Baker (also referred to as Jack Wayne Baker, Jr.), and Dick Gasparre, a pianist who also led a society orchestra, receive equal credit for the words and music for “I Hear a Rhapsody.” The song charted several times:

  • Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra (1941, 10 weeks, two weeks at #1)
  • Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra (1941, Bob Carroll, vocal, 16 weeks, five weeks at #2)
  • Dinah Shore (1941, 2 weeks, peaking at #9)
  • Al Donohue and His Orchestra (1941, one week peaking at #22)
  • Frank Sinatra (1952, with the Jeff Alexander Choir, three weeks, peaking at #24)
 

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

“I Hear a Rhapsody” was at the top of Your Hit Parade in 1941. It was featured in the 1952 film noir, Clash by Night, in which it was sung by Tony Martin. The sound track featured jazz notables such as pianist Gerald Wiggins, alto saxophonist Benny Carter, and tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. The film, directed by Fritz Lang, involved a love triangle in a small fishing village and starred Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, and Paul Douglas.

The impassioned melody is well fitted with a romantic lyric in which the mere presence of the loved one inspires heavenly music: “My darling, hold me tight and whisper to me, Then soft through the starry night I hear a rhapsody.”

In addition to earlier recordings of “I Hear a Rhapsody” by guitarist Tal Farlow, pianist George Shearing, saxophonist John Coltrane, vocalist Frank Sinatra, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and the piano/guitar duo of Bill Evans and Jim Hall, a spate of recordings of the song appeared in the ‘90s including those by guitarist Howard Alden, pianist Alan Broadbent, bassist David Friesen, and saxophonists Bennie Wallace and Nick Brignola. Since 2000 it has been recorded by The Drummonds and pianists Shelly Berg and Warren Bernhardt.

- Sandra Burlingame

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Jazz History Notes
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Jazz History Notes

Tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims’ 1956 recording of this tune is now out-of-print. But it is one of the best of the earliest non-big band versions and a tune he continued to perform throughout his career.

Alto saxophonist Jackie Mclean, a Charlie Parker-inspired player whose playing reflected a working knowledge of hard bop, recorded a fine version in 1957 that begins out-of-tempo then goes into a nice medium swing. That same year, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane performed a version, taken at a faster clip than Mclean’s, that arguably put the tune into the jazz standards vernacular. At this point in his career Coltrane’s playing was more in the hard bop vein prior to his explorations a few years later with Miles Davis.

In stark contrast to the two recordings above, a masterful meeting of two great musical giants from 1962, pianist Bill Evans and guitarist Jim Hall, fostered a thoughtful, slow ballad rendition.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian


Zoot Sims/Bob Brookmeyer
Tonite's Music Today
Black Lion 760907

iTunes
Jackie Mclean
Makin' the Changes
Original Jazz Classics 197

iTunes
John Coltrane
Lush Life
Original Jazz Classics 131
Original recording, 1958, Prestige Records
iTunes
Bill Evans/Jim Hall
Undercurrent
Blue Note Records 90583

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

Jack Baker, George Fragos and Dick Gasparre

Year Rank Title
1940 227 I Hear a Rhapsody

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