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Once in a While (1937)

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Origin and Chart Information
Gary Giddins credits Rahsaan Roland Kirk with reviving interest among jazz musicians in “Once in a While” with his mid-sixties recording.

- Visions of Jazz: The First Century

Rank 262
Music Michael Edwards
Lyrics Bud Green

Composer Michael Edwards was also a classical violinist, an organist, and an arranger for publishing firms. His 1937 composition, “Once in a While” was given a lyric by Bud Green, who was also a composer and harmonica player. Green collaborated on such hits as “Alabamy Bound,” “Sentimental Journey,” and “Flat Foot Floogie.” “Once in a While” charted several times:

  • Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra (1937, with vocal quartet, 7 weeks at #1 for a total of 14 weeks)
  • Horace Heidt and His Orchestra (1937, #2 for one week of 7, featured the electric guitar of Alvino Rey)
  • Louis Armstrong (1938, two weeks peaking at #15)
  • Patti Page (1952, 11 weeks, peaking at #9, one of the early multi-track vocals)
  • The Chimes (1961 #11, doo-wop version, as “Once In Awhile”)

Note: Louis Armstrong recorded another tune named “Once in a While” (by William H. Butler) in 1927.

 

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

In Visions of Jazz: The First Century, Gary Giddins credits Rahsaan Roland Kirk with reviving interest among jazz musicians in “Once in a While” with his mid-sixties recording. Giddins notes that Kirk’s idol, saxophonist Don Byas, released a memorable recording of this “great, neglected ballad” in 1945.

The singer directs his plea to a lover from whom he has “drifted apart.” He’s hoping that he’s thought of “once in a while” even though someone else may be “nearer your heart.” The bridge peaks melodically and emotionally with these lines:

In love’s smoldering ember,

One spark can remain;

If love still can remember,

That spark may burn again.

“Once in a While” was sung by Lee Sullivan in a 1941 “soundie,” and it was featured in the 1950 movie I’ll Get By. It’s lent itself to a variety of interpretations: Nat “King” Cole with the big band of Billy May, saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Sonny Clark, guitarist George Van Eps, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and the vocal duo of Jackie & Roy. In 2007 it was recorded by vocalist/pianist Freddy Cole and by the group Pearl Django. One of the most unique arrangements of the song, not yet available on CD, is from arranger/conductor Pete Rugolo’s 1956 LP, Music for Hi-Fi Bugs. With no rhythm accompaniment, the horns open the first eight measures in octave unison in a slow, fugue-like manner.

- Sandra Burlingame

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