Why this tune?
This week’s tune is another reminder that many of the songs we think of now as jazz standards didn’t start that way. They only became jazz songs when jazz players interpreted them with a jazz language. Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” as a melancholy song for a 1928 operetta “The New Moon.” Nelson Eddy’s 1940 recording gives you an idea of what Sigmund and Oscar had in mind. That version certainly matches the lyrics about love arriving and leaving just as quickly.
Jazzstandards.com credits Artie Shaw with introducing this song, and many others, to the jazz stage. His 1938 swing version was a first step on the way to establishing the song as a popular jazz standard. Since then, “Softly” has been recorded by hundreds of artists at many tempos and rhythmic grooves.
Many vocal versions stay closer to the original ballad feel of the song, but there are exceptions, like Tierney Sutton’s creative arrangement. As an instrumental tune, “Softly” is usually played at a medium or fast tempo. I’ve been listening to Wynton Kelly’s 1959 recording closely, trying to learn the lovely bebop language he uses in his playing. I hope some hints of that came through in my short take.
Hear my version
Tunes On Tuesday Reel
Check out these recordings
Nelson Eddy, 1940
Artie Shaw, 1938