Saxophonist, composer, and arranger Benny Golson wrote “Whisper Not” in 1956 when he was with Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band. Dizzy’s orchestra made the first recording of the tune in November of that year, and Golson recorded it with his own group in 1957. “Whisper Not” caught on immediately with jazz musicians, and several instrumentalists recorded the tune in the late ‘50s, including trumpeter Lee Morgan, drummer Art Blakey, pianists Wynton Kelly (who used the song as the title cut of his album) and Ray Bryant, and guitarist Wes Montgomery.
When jazz writer Leonard Feather added lyrics, “Whisper Not” was picked up just as readily by vocalists. Anita O’Day recorded it in 1958; Mel Torme, in 1962; Peggy Lee, in 1963, and Ella Fitzgerald titled her 1967 album, arranged by Marty Paich, after the tune.
Golson wrote several other jazz standards, among them “I Remember Clifford,” “Stable Mates,” “Killer Joe,” and “Along Came Betty” before relocating to the studios to compose for television. He returned to jazz in the mid-‘70s and in 1983 rejuvenated the Jazztet which he had organized in 1959.
Feather’s lyric is about lovers who have reunited after a breakup, rejoicing in their reunion and promising everlasting love:
Our harmony was lost
But you forgave, I forgot
Whisper not of quarrels past
You know we’ve had our last
“Whisper Not” continues to flourish as a favorite of both instrumentalists and vocalists. It was the title cut of albums by pianists George Cables (1987) and Keith Jarrett (2000), it’s been recorded by harmonica player Hendrik Meurkens, guitarist Jim Hall, and several times by vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson. Since 2000 it’s been recorded by guitarist John Stowell, bassist Christian McBride, vibraphonist Joe Locke, pianist James Williams, and vocalists Cheryl Bentyne, Karrin Allyson, Carolyn Leonhart and Michele Weir, the latter in duo with guitarist Bruce Forman.