How High the Moon

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"How High the Moon"
First featured in the 1940 Broadway revue Two for the Show
Song by Alfred Drake and Frances Comstock
Published 1940
Composer Morgan Lewis
Lyricist Nancy Hamilton
Language English
Recorded by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra,
Stan Kenton,
Les Paul and Mary Ford,
many other artists (see #Most notable recordings and #Other versions)

"How High the Moon" is a jazz standard with lyrics by Nancy Hamilton and music by Morgan Lewis. It was first featured in the 1940 Broadway revue Two for the Show, where it was sung by Alfred Drake and Frances Comstock.[1]

In Two for the Show, this was a rare serious moment in an otherwise humorous revue.

Most notable recordings[edit]

1951 Capitol Records 78 single by Les Paul and Mary Ford, 1451.
1951 sheet music for the Les Paul and Mary Ford recording, Chappell, New York.

The earliest recorded hit version was by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra. It was recorded on February 7, 1940, and released by Columbia Records as catalog number 35391, with the flip side "Fable of the Rose".[2] The Les Paul Trio recorded a version released as V-Disc 540B with a spoken introduction which was issued in November, 1945 by the U.S. War Department. In 1948, bandleader Stan Kenton enjoyed some success with his version of the tune. The recording, with a vocal by June Christy, was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 911 (with the flip side "Willow, Weep for Me")[3] and 15117(with the flip side "Interlude").[4] It reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on July 9, 1948, its only week on the chart, at #27.[5]

The best-known recording of the song is by Les Paul and Mary Ford, made on January 4, 1951. The record was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 1451, with the flip side "Walkin' and Whistlin' Blues",[6] and spent 25 weeks (beginning on March 23, 1951) on the Billboard chart,[5] 9 weeks at #1. The record was subsequently re-released by Capitol as catalog number 1675, with "Josephine" on the B-side.[7]

The song was sung in various recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, becoming (with the Gershwin's "Oh, Lady Be Good!") Ella's signature tune. She first performed the song at Carnegie Hall on September 29, 1947.[1] Her first recording, backed by the Daydreamers, was recorded December 20, 1947, and released by Decca Records as catalog number 24387, with the flip side "You Turned the Tables on Me".[8] Her most celebrated recording of "How High the Moon" is on her 1960 album Ella in Berlin, and her version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."[9]

The song has become a gypsy jazz standard and has been recorded by several musicians of the genre.

Other versions[edit]

Songs based on "How High the Moon"[edit]

Another jazz standard, "Ornithology" by Charlie Parker, is based on the chords of "How High the Moon". It was common among jazz musicians (Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton and others) to seamlessly include "Ornithology" in the solo when performing "How High the Moon". Lennie Tristano wrote the contrafact "Lennie-bird" over the chord changes, and Miles Davis/Chuck Wayne's "Solar" is also based on part of the chord structure.[46]

John Coltrane's composition "Satellite" is also based on the chords of "How High the Moon", which Coltrane embellished with the three-tonic progression he also used on his composition "Giant Steps".


Paul McCartney stated during the filming of Les Paul: Chasing Sound that "How High the Moon" was the first song The Beatles played when they first got together. The sculptural armchair "How High The Moon", designed by Shiro Kuramata for Vitra AG of Switzerland in 1986, was named after this song.

Jeff Beck paid tribute to Les Paul and Mary Ford at the 2010 Grammy Awards Ceremony by playing a note-for-note version of "How High the Moon" with Imelda May singing, a year after Les Paul died.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Covers of the song "How High the Moon"
  2. ^ Columbia Records in the 35200 to 35499 series
  3. ^ a b Capitol Records in the 500 to 999 series
  4. ^ Capitol Records in the 15000 to 15431 series
  5. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1973). Top Pop Records 1940-1955. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. 
  6. ^ Capitol Records in the 1000 to 1499 series
  7. ^ Capitol Records in the 1500 to 1999 series
  8. ^ Decca Records in the 24000 to 24499 series
  9. ^ Grammy Hall of Fame Database
  10. ^ Decca Records in the 28000 to 28499 series
  11. ^ Bluebird Records in the 10500 to 10999 series
  12. ^ Royal Roost Records listing
  13. ^ Decca Records in the 29000 to 29499 series
  14. ^ Aladdin Records in the 3000 to 3468 series
  15. ^ a b Savoy Records in the 500 to 978 series
  16. ^ National Records listing
  17. ^ a b Capitol Records in the 10000 to 10210 series
  18. ^ Musicraft Records in the 201 to 597 series
  19. ^ Victor Records in the 26500 to 26999 series
  20. ^ Cosmo Records listing
  21. ^ Columbia Records in the 38500 to 38999 series
  22. ^ MGM Records in the 10001 to 10499 series
  23. ^ Arco Records listing
  24. ^ a b c Columbia Records in the 39000 to 39499 series
  25. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 108. 
  26. ^ a b c MGM Records in the 30500 to 30887 series
  27. ^ Capitol Records in the 20000 to 20156 series
  28. ^ RCA Victor Records in the 20-2000 to 20-2499 series
  29. ^ Decca Records in the 24500 to 24999 series
  30. ^ Capitol Records in the 60000 to 60015 series
  31. ^ a b c Signature Records listing
  32. ^ a b Varsity Records in the 8000 to 8419 series
  33. ^ a b Montgomery Ward Records in the 10000 to 10173 series
  34. ^ Mercury Records in the 11000 to 11101 series
  35. ^ Discovery Records listing
  36. ^ Columbia Records in the 38000 to 38499 series
  37. ^ Decca Records in the 3000 to 3499 series
  38. ^ Mercury Records in the 8900 to 8999 series
  39. ^ Atlantic Records listing
  40. ^ Vocalion Records in the 5000 to 5499 series
  41. ^ MGM Records in the 30000 to 30499 series
  42. ^ Blue Note Records listing
  43. ^ National Records in the 3001 to 25000 series
  44. ^ a b Columbia Records in the 39500 to 39999 series
  45. ^ Disc Records listing
  46. ^ Meeder, Christopher (2008). Jazz: The Basics. Routledge. p. 204. ISBN 0-415-96694-9. 

External links[edit]