Sinatra: Moonlight in Vermont - JazzWax

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November 04, 2011


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That's some funny period staging with Sinatra standing in front of a large podium shuffling papers (which he never looks at.) Somehow I don't think this routine would fly on American Idol or the X Factor.
But seriously, when you listen to how he phrases around the beat, it's easy to hear why jazz musicians like Lester Young admired him so much.

Jerri Carmo

Love looking at that subtle movement of his head. Thanks for calling that out.


Don't know if it's been mentioned in the past but Moonlight In Vermont is unique in its structure. Count the bars in the phrase - only 6, not 8. Don't know of any other composition of this structure (but somebody will probably name one...). Great performance, of course. But I think his version of You Go To My Head (another unique composition!) on the Nice 'N Easy album is at least as subtle and moving.

Dave James

Thanks, Marc. Nice way to start the weekend. I haven't listened to any Sinatra for awhile. Time to remedy that.


As JLR points out the first phrase is only six bars; however, the bridge is eight. Usually there is also a two bar coda, often repeated on each chorus. On this 1 1/2 chorus version they substitute a different six bar coda. Note also the modulation up one step on the last eight (before the coda.)

Paul Slaughter

Lovely and so relaxing. Thanks!

John P. Cooper



On bass, the incomparable Ray Brown.

Bruno Leicht

Right so, Marc, this is indeed a splendid composition; and - as the others pointed out already - it has a unique form with the six-bar A parts. It's a pity that a quick search brought up only very scarce information about composer Karl Suessdorf whose last name hints to his Jewish/ German origin.

One of my favorite versions (Ol' Blue Eyes'/ Billy May on "Come Fly With Me" is among them) is of course on Ella's & Louis' stellar album with the same title (1957):

It's a timeless marvel, isn't it?

Mark Stryker

Re: “Moonlight in Vermont.” The A-section lyrics are as quirky as the form, falling into a 5-7-5 syllable pattern of a haiku poem. They don't rhyme either.

Re: Sinatra's interpretation. This is something I've written about before, so forgive me for cribbing from myself:

"Moonight in Vermont" was always a particular showpiece for Sinatra, one of the great examples of how his incomparable breath control and sophisticated phrasing heightens the meaning of the lyric. Listen to how he connects the bridge to the last A section with a suspended phrase that raises the tension to a peak before a wonderful release, making it all the way to the end of the sentence in the second bar before breathing; he even ornaments the word “evening” with a little downward portamento slide.

The second time through the tune he ups the ante in what for me remains one of the most electric moments in all of Sinatra Land. Over a rubato accompaniment, he sneaks a breath between “hypnotized” and “by” and then suspends time f-o-r-e-v-e-r. When he finally slides into the final 8 bars, the key slides up a step (thanks, Billy May) and the combination of Sinatra’s phrasing and the arrangement has the music reaching for the stars. Wow.

Mark Stryker
Detroit Free Press
Twitter: @Mark_Stryker


Just when I thought I had seen them's this. Utterly Sublime.
We should note however:
This is from a 1966 TV special called "A Man and His Music, Part 2" and although that is Nelson Riddle conducting the orchestra on this, the magnificent arrangement is Billy May's. He's often overlooked as one of the great string arrangers for Sinatra.

warren fisher

check our warren otis fisher's moonlight in vermont from the sinatra songbook it is fabulous. just goggle: warren otis fisher

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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