Since I’m both bummed and blue, we’re taking the Friday Cocktail Hour back to its torch song roots this week. It’s also going live earlier than usual. Some day drinking is in order today.
Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach wrote Yesterdays in 1933 for the Broadway musical Roberta. Like many torch songs, it’s tinged with regret and nostalgia. Kern’s melody is flat-out gorgeous.
Billie Holiday wasn’t the first to record Yesterdays, she was the third. But it’s the best early version. Billie could make a sad song sadder as she does here:
I featured this Anita O’Day album cover earlier this week:
Ella’s Jerome Kern songbook album is underrated and often overlooked. It contains some of Nelson Riddle’s best work and that’s saying a lot.
Francis Albert was no slouch with a sad song either. He nails the nostalgic tone of this Kern-Harbach classic.
Finally, the great Dianne Reeves with the jazziest version of all.
What would the Friday Cocktail Hour be without jazz instrumental versions of the week’s song? Jazz musicians adored Jerome Kern’s melodies so there’s an abundance of riches from which to choose this week: The Modern Jazz Quarter, Sonny Rollins & Coleman Hawkins, and our old friend Oscar Peterson.
Have I told you lately how much I love Oscar Peterson?
That’s it for this week. Let’s raise a glass and toast one of the most influential American composers, Jerry Kern. It’s what Larry Hart and Dick Rodgers would want. Never argue with them.