Stories of Standards

Each week on First Take with Chavis and Lando, Lando's "Stories of Standards" segment examines a jazz standard or tune from the Great American Songbook. 

Lando delves into the history behind each tune and plays different versions of the week's featured composition all week long! 

Browse the articles below to broaden your knowledge of America's greatest music.

Jerome Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight"

Jan 20, 2015

"The Way You Look Tonight" - written Jerome Kern with lyrics from Dorothy Fields - was originally performed by Fred Astaire in the 1936 film Swing Time

Astaire as John "Lucky" Garnett sung the composition to Ginger Rogers as Penelope "Penny" Carroll as she washed her hair feeling far from attractive.

Fields later said, "The first time Jerry played that melody for me I went out and started to cry. The release absolutely killed me. I couldn't stop, it was so beautiful."

Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train"

Jan 12, 2015

The signature tune of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, "Take the 'A' Train" was composed by Billy Strayhorn in 1939 and first recorded in January 1941 as a standard transcription for radio broadcast.

"Take the 'A' Train" was birthed out of the directions Ellington wrote for Strayhorn to get to his house by subway after moving to the Big Apple from Pittsburg. Beginning with the words of the song's title, the directionsreferred to the subway service line that opened in the 1930's running from eastern Brooklyn to Harlem and northern Manhattan.

Gershwin's "How Long Has This Been Going On?"

Jan 5, 2015

A duet written by George and Ira Gershwin in 1927 for the Broadway musical Smarty, "How Long Has This Been Going On" was originally sung by Adele Astaire and Jack Buchanan to describe the excitement of a first kiss.

Two weeks into the show, the composition was dropped and replaced by another Gershwin songs -"He Loves and She Loves."  Two months later, "How Long Has This Been Going On?" was rewritten as a solo and featured in the Broadway production Rosalie.

Sonny Rollins's "St. Thomas"

Dec 29, 2014

Composed by American jazz tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, "St. Thomas" is based on a Virgin Island nursery song - derived from the traditional English song "The Lincolnshire Poacher" - which Rollins's mother used to sing to him. The Virgin Island influence infuses this instrumental jazz standard with a distinct Caribbean vibe.

First recorded by Randy Weston under the title "Fire Down There" in his 1955 album Happy, "St. Thomas" gained popularity when it was released on Rollins's 1956 album Saxophone Colossus.

Jule Styne's "Let It Snow!"

Dec 22, 2014

Written by composer Jule Styne and lyricist Sammy Cahn, "Let It Snow!" - also known as "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" - was penned during a heat wave in July of 1945 in Hollywood, CA as the musicians wished for cooler conditions.

One of the best-selling tunes of all times, "Let It Snow!" was first recorded by Vaughn Monroe with the Norton Sisters for RCA Victor in 1945, topping the Billboard music chart for five weeks in early 1946.