re-hearing "Blue Moon"

I'm convinced now that most of what we consider our "strong opinions" of a song or a piece of music are actually notions that were, quite unfortunately, shaped more by the first version (AKA "arrangement") of the song (and surrounding environment thereof -- more on this in later posts) than by the value of the original work.  This morning I caught myself grimacing in pain when I heard Clifford Brown's "with Strings" January 1955 version of "Blue Moon," which I thought rather odd of myself to do since Clifford Brown is my #1 all time favorite jazz trumpeter and the arrangements on that album were written by well-documented genius Arranger/ TV+Film composer Neal Hefti.  Listening along for the first few seconds, I just couldn't shake from my head what was, in my mind, the "original" doo-wop recording of this song -- the one I heard first, and most, in my post-1980 MTV-generation life.  Of course I'm speaking of the bom ba ba bom a dang a dang dang 1961 Blue Moon recording by The Marcels, which runs just over two minutes and sold over 2.5 million copies.  However, since I've made the mistake before of double-clicking right past this Clifford Brown track, this morning I decided to try something -- to listen to Clifford's beautiful phrasing of this 1933 Rodgers-Hart classic until I'd purged my mind of the boms and dangs of my parents' generation.  And thought it was hard to get those Marcel notions out of my head, listening to the intricate Neal Hefti reharmonization and sweet sound of Clifford Brown seemed to do the trick.  I've also been helped along by learning the actual history of the song, including the fact that, as is usually the case with old standards, what we think of as the "beginning" of the song is actually the beginning of the Chorus of the song, originally preceded by one or more verses.  Our general concept of songs for radio and albums (AABA or VVCVCBC) is somewhat of a modern one, and keeping all of these things in mind, as well as focusing on the beauty of the Brown/Hefti January 18, 1955 recording -- all of it has helped me to give a just re-hearing to the song now known as Blue Moon.

- Knox

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