Harlem Nocturne

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"Harlem Nocturne"
Instrumental by Ray Noble Orchestra
Written 1939
Composer(s) Earle Hagen, Dick Rogers

"Harlem Nocturne" is a jazz standard written by Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers in 1939 for the Ray Noble orchestra, of which they were members.[1] The song was chosen by the big-band leader Randy Brooks the next year as his theme song.[2]

The haunting version by the Viscounts has the distinction of being released twice and rising high on the Billboard charts each time:[3] first in 1959, when it peaked at #53, and again in 1966, peaking at #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[2]

"Harlem Nocturne" was the theme song of the television series Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer[4] and The New Mike Hammer.[5]

Harold Faltermeyer recorded a version for the soundtrack to the film Tango & Cash.

In 1990, the pianist Kofi Wilmot gained popularity in the instrumental world for his cover version from the album of the same name, Harlem Nocturne.[6]

Some singers have recorded "Harlem Nocturne", adding lyrics. Mel Tormé recorded a version with lyrics for his 1963 album Sings "Sunday In New York" And Other Songs About New York, beginning with "a nocturne for the blues". Sylvia Brooks recorded a different version, arranged by Jeff Colella, on her album Dangerous Liaisons in 2009,[7] starting with "deep music fills the night", which has since been covered. Other vocal versions are by Ernestine Anderson, Carla White, Denise Jannah, Bonnie Bramlett, and Jacintha. Brian Setzer does a version loosely based on the theme called "Hollywood Nocturne".


"Harlem Nocturne" has been recorded often, by artists as diverse as the Viscounts, Stan Kenton, Charlie Barnet, Sil Austin, Sam "The Man" Taylor, Willis Jackson, Georgie Auld, Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers, Woody Herman, Harry James, Dick Jurgens, Ray Noble, Johnny Otis with Rene Bloch on alto sax and Bill Doggett on piano, Randy Brooks with Eddie Caine on alto sax, Lou Donaldson, Big Jay McNeely, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Carla White with Lew Tabackin, Ted Heath (UK), Ken Mackintosh (UK), Bill Haley and His Comets (performed live),[4] John Lurie & the Lounge Lizards, Earl Bostic, King Curtis, Oliver Sain, Ace Cannon, Herbie Fields,[2] Mink DeVille, Eric Reed, David Sanborn,[8][9] Michael Lington (Denmark),[10] Sonny Moorman, the Ventures, Robby Krieger, Johnny Reno & the Sax Maniacs, Eric Alexander, Mark Whitfield, Edgar Winter, Danny Gatton,[11] Herbie Mann, Messer Chups (Russia), Esquivel, Mantovani, Martin Denny, Flat Duo Jets, Ray Anthony, Les Brown & His Band of Renown, Chakachas, Jake H. Concepcion (Philippines), Illinois Jacquet, the Knickerbockers, Quincy Jones, Boots Randolph, Quartet San Francisco, New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble, Charlie Musselwhite, Ulrich Tukur & Die Rhythmus Boys (Germany), David Rose, Mel Tormé, Ernestine Anderson, Steve Douglas, Mel Taylor & the Magics, Louis Prima with Sam Butera & the Witnesses, Toots Thielemans, Ray Gelato & the Chevalier Brothers, Richard Greene & the Greene String Quartet, Jonny Cooper Orchestra (South Africa), Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, The Reese Project, Bill Justis, Les Elgart, Glen Gray, the Rumblers, Sonny Stitt, Booker Ervin, Freddy McCoy, Eddie Harris, John Firmin & the Johnny Nocturne Band, Jerry Vivino, Bryan Savage, Bill Black, Jim Campilongo & the 10 Gallon Cats, Bill Perkins with Frank Strazzeri, Henry Franklin with Azar Lawrence, Billy Butterfield, Sam Donahue, Sue Palmer & Her Motel Swing Orchestra, and Terry Edwards & the Scapegoats (paired in a medley with Lydia Lunch's "Cesspool Called History").[12]


  1. ^ "'Andy Griffith' Composer Dies at 88". CNN. May 27, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  2. ^ a b c Marsh, Dave (1999). The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. De Capo Press. p. 610. ISBN 978-0-306-80901-9. 
  3. ^ Joel Whitburn, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. 7th edn, 2000.
  4. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (May 28, 2008). "Television Composer Earle Hagen Wrote Memorable Tunes". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  5. ^ The New Mike Hammer on Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ "Harlem Nocturne Overview". Allmusic.com. 
  7. ^ Dangerous Liaisons at AllMusic
  8. ^ "Time Again Overview". Allmusic.com. 
  9. ^ "Time Again – David Sanborn". JazzTimes.com. 
  10. ^ "Michael Lington Overview". Allmusic.com. 
  11. ^ Gress, Jesse (2006). Guitarevolution: Lessons from the Groundbreakers & Innovators. CMP Media. p. 84. ISBN 0-87930-868-0. 
  12. ^ "42 Versions of Harlem Nocturne", WFMU's Beward of the Blog, May 29, 2008.