First Take

“Royal Garden Blues” | Stories of Standards

Nov 2, 2015; info from

New Orleans pianists Clarence Williams and Spencer Williams (no relation) composed "Royal Garden Blues" in 1919. Named for the Royal Garden Dance Hall in Chicago, the tune was first recorded in 1920 by Denver‘s George Morrison Jazz Orchestra.

The song did not gain popularity until several years after its introduction, with two recordings hitting the charts – once with the Dixieland Jazz Band and again with Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds. 

"Nice Work If You Can Get It" | Stories of Standards

Oct 27, 2015; info from and

George and Ira Gershwin composed "Nice Work If You Can Get It" for the 1937 P. G. Wodehouse film, A Damsel in Distress. This film depicts a light-hearted foray into mistaken identity and love at third or fourth sight through song and dance.

Fred Astaire introduced the song while dancing and playing around a drum set in a segment still regarded by many as a highlight of the film. Astaire’s recording climbed to first in the charts in 1938.

Muskrat Ramble | Stories of Standards

Oct 21, 2015; source

“Muskrat Ramble” was one of Kid Ory’s early jazz hits. Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five first recorded the piece in February of 1926 and “Muskrat Ramble” quickly became the groups most frequently recorded piece.

Ory was born in La Place, Louisiana, in 1886. He moved to New Orleans shortly after his 21st birthday and added Johnny Dodds to his band, which remained one of the most successful ensembles in New Orleans for the next seven years.

“I’m in the Mood for Love” | Stories of Standards

Oct 13, 2015

 Jimmy McHugh composed “I’m in the Mood for Love” for the 1935 motion picture, Every Night at Eight.

The film follows a trio of working girls who form a singing group and enter a big band competition. Francis Langford’s shy character serenades the unknowing object of her affection with “I’m in the Mood for Love,” winning him over at the end of the film.

“Cottontail" | Stories of Standards

Oct 5, 2015; info from

In 1940, just as the stage was setting for the Second World War, Duke Ellington returned to the United States after a successful tour of Europe. Upon his return, he penned “Cottontail” and recorded it with his band on May 4, 1940.