How High the Moon

"How High the Moon" is a jazz standard with lyrics by Nancy Hamilton and music by Morgan Lewis. It was first featured in the 1940 Broadway revue Two for the Show, where it was sung by Alfred Drake and Frances Comstock.[1] In Two for the Show, this was a rare serious moment in an otherwise humorous revue.

"How High the Moon"
Song by Alfred Drake and Frances Comstock
Composer(s)Morgan Lewis
Lyricist(s)Nancy Hamilton


The earliest recorded hit version was by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra, featuring vocalist Helen Forrest. It was recorded on February 7, 1940, and released by Columbia Records as catalog number 35391, with the flip side "Fable of the Rose".[2] The Les Paul Trio recorded a version released as V-Disc 540B with a spoken introduction which was issued in November, 1945 by the U.S. War Department. In 1948, bandleader Stan Kenton enjoyed some success with his version of the tune. The recording, with a vocal by June Christy, was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 911 (with the flip side "Willow, Weep for Me")[3] and 15117 (with the flip side "Interlude").[4] It reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on July 9, 1948, its only week on the chart, at #27.[5]

A recording of the song by Les Paul and Mary Ford was made on January 4, 1951. The record was released on March 26 by Capitol Records as catalog number 1451, with the flip side "Walkin' and Whistlin' Blues",[6] and spent 25 weeks (beginning on March 23, 1951) on the Billboard chart,[5] 9 weeks at #1. The record was subsequently re-released by Capitol as catalog number 1675, with "Josephine" on the B-side.[7] This recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1979 and is on the list of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.[8]

The song was sung in various recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, becoming (with the Gershwin's "Oh, Lady Be Good!") Ella's signature tune. She first performed the song at Carnegie Hall on September 29, 1947.[1] Her first recording, backed by the Daydreamers, was recorded December 20, 1947, and released by Decca Records as catalog number 24387, with the flip side "You Turned the Tables on Me".[9] Her most celebrated recording of "How High the Moon" is on her 1960 album Ella in Berlin, and her version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."[10]

The song has become a gypsy jazz standard and has been recorded by several musicians of the genre.

Other versions

Songs based on "How High the Moon"

Another jazz standard, "Ornithology" by Charlie Parker, is based on the chords of "How High the Moon". It was common among jazz musicians (Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton and others) to seamlessly include "Ornithology" in the solo when performing "How High the Moon". Lennie Tristano wrote the contrafact "Lennie-bird" over the chord changes, and Miles Davis/Chuck Wayne's "Solar" is also based on part of the chord structure.[48]. Coleman Hawkins' tune "Bean At Met" is also based on the changes of How High The Moon; this tune starts with simple riffs on the measures 1 to 8 and 17 to 24. The rest is filled up with solos.

John Coltrane's composition "Satellite" is also based on the chords of "How High the Moon", which Coltrane embellished with the three-tonic progression he also used on his composition "Giant Steps".

Jimmy Giuffre's composition "Bright Moon" is also based on the chords of "How High the Moon". Quincy Jones recorded it in 1957 on his second album, Go West, Man!

See also


  1. "Cover versions of How High the Moon by Frances Comstock & Alfred Drake - SecondHandSongs".
  2. "COLUMBIA 78rpm numerical listing discography: 35200 - 35500".
  3. "Capitol 500 - 1000, 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  4. "Capitol 15000 series numerical listing discography".
  5. Whitburn, Joel (1973). Top Pop Records 1940-1955. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research.
  6. "Capitol 1000 - 1500, 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  7. "Capitol 1500 - 2000, 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  8. "Exhibits".
  9. "DECCA (USA) 78rpm numerical listing discography: 24000 - 24500".
  10. "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame". Archived from the original on 2015-07-07.
  11. "The Frog". 1 January 2000 via IMDb.
  12. "DECCA (USA) numerical listing discography: 28000 - 28500".
  13. "BLUEBIRD 78rpm numerical listing discography: 10500 - 11000".
  14. "Discography for Royal Roost Records".
  15. "DECCA (USA) numerical listing discography: 29000 - 29500".
  16. "Aladdin 3000 series 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  17. "SAVOY 78rpm numerical listing discography: 500 series".
  18. Productions, Global Dog. "Singles Discography for National Records".
  19. "Capitol 10000-series 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  20. "Musicraft 78rpm numerical listing discography - 200 through 600".
  21. "VICTOR numerical listing discography".
  22. "COSMO 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  23. "COLUMBIA RECORDS: 78rpm numerical listing discography 38500 - 39000".
  24. "MGM 78rpm numerical listing discography: 10000 - 10500".
  25. "Arco 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  26. "COLUMBIA 78rpm numerical listing discography: 39000 - 39500".
  27. Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 108.
  28. MGM Records in the 30500 to 30887 series
  29. "Capitol 20000-series 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  30. "RCA Victor 20-prefix 78rpm numerical listing discography: 20-2000 through 20-2500".
  31. "DECCA (USA) numerical listing discography: 24500 - 24999".
  32. "Capitol 60000-series 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  33. "SIGNATURE 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  34. "Varsity 78rpm numerical listing discography: 5000 series".
  35. "Montgomery Ward 78rpm numerical listing discography: 10000 series".
  36. "MERCURY 78rpm numerical listing discography: Jazz ath the Philharmonic 11000 series".
  37. "DISCOVERY 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  38. "COLUMBIA 78rpm numerical listing discography: 38000 - 38500".
  39. "DECCA (USA) 78rpm numerical listing discography: 3000 - 3500".
  40. "MERCURY numerical listing discography: 8900 series".
  41. "Atlantic Records 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  42. "Vocalion 78rpm numerical listing discography - 5000 series (main sequence)".
  43. "MGM Records - 78rpm numerical listing discography: 30000 - 30499".
  44. Productions, Global Dog. "45 Discography for Blue Note Records".
  45. "NATIONAL 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  46. "COLUMBIA RECORDS (USA), 78rpm numerical listing discography 39500 - 40000".
  47. "DISC 78rpm numerical listing discography".
  48. Meeder, Christopher (2008). Jazz: The Basics. Routledge. p. 204. ISBN 0-415-96694-9.
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