Yesterday's post on Moonlight in Vermont seems to have struck a chord with readers. It turns out large numbers of you, like me, are hopelessly addicted to the song's rhyme-less lyrics and switchback melody. As reader Carl Woideck noted in a posted comment, the song's lyrics are built on the haiku form, with each A section supporting five, seven and five syllables. So they are, so they are.
"I love today's piece on Moonlight In Vermont, and short of my preference for the Konitz/Giuffre entry, I would have had almost the same running order. But it begs the question, where is the Sinatra version on your list?
It is #1 for me, and as much as you clearly love Sinatra, I was shocked his version didn't make your top 12. I would love to read your thoughts on why the FS version doesn't make the cut. Thanks much and keep it up."
Sinatra's version of Moonlight in Vermont was recorded
on October 3, 1957, along with Autumn in New York, London by Night and April in Paris. While I think Billy May's arrangement is stunning (dig those shimmering violin lines!), demonstrating that he had a romantic streak and could score for strings, I don't find Sinatra's reading completely convincing. It's certainly superb, which is why it's on my second list of favorites below. [Pictured: Frank with Billy May]
But for me, Moonlight in Vermont's lyrics (and melody) require a sighing, one-on-one feel with a touch of awe, along with a deep love for Vermont's landscape. I'm not so sure from the Sinatra version that he cared all that much for the state. I'm also not sure why he sounds as though he's about to cry. Perhaps he heard the version Billie Holiday recorded earlier in the year (January). To me, the images Sinatra is describing aren't painful but beautiful. What's more, his rendition sounds a tad reportorial, as though he's telling you over the phone what he's seeing from a car rather than a truly passionate impression of the Green Mountain State's vivid seasonal moods. Or perhaps for me the song just demands a warm female touch to be completely credible.
Not everyone, of course, has the same opinion of Sinatra's version. Charles Granata in Sessions with Sinatra writes:
"On Moonlight in Vermont, we hear the same gradations of color and tone [as April in Paris], and more of Sinatra's fluid legato style. On this tune, he chooses an airy, relaxed approach, and May's picturesque orchestration is sentimentally plush. Particularly noteworthy is the way Sinatra, using the harmonic changes in the orchestration to their best advantage, imparts a half-step key change as he glides from the word lovely to the word evening in the second chorus. The transition is silky smooth, the simple maneuver heightening the listener's anticipation at a critical point in the performance."
All true. I prefer, however, Sarah Vaughan's open-throttle rendition with Johnny Mandel's arrangement and Chris Connor's breathy and intimate small-group telling. Both give the song a fireplace warmth. At any rate, we're splitting hairs. [Photo of Sarah Vaughan by Chuck Stewart]
Yesterday's emails did cause me to go back into my albums to fish for another set of Moonlight in Vermont favorites. Picking up from yesterday's top-12 list, in order of preference...
14. Frank Sinatra—Come Fly With Me (1957)
15. Oscar Peterson—On the Town (1958)
16. Joe Williams—Have a Good Time (1961)
18. Ella Fitzgerald—Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (1956)
19. Four Freshmen—Still Fresh (1999)
21. Frankie Laine—So Ultra Rare (1947)
22. Tony Scott—Swinging in Sweden (1957)