10 Jazz Tunes That Remind You It's Spring!

Mar 28, 2018

It's too cold! It’s too hot! It’s really kind of feverish. Listen to a jazz riot of emotions. Here are 10 spring standouts curated by Jazz Director Maureen Malloy. Each, in no special order, has inspired hundreds of interpretations.

1. “It Might As Well Be Spring,” Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein

For those of us who never can get enough of Astrud Gilberto (“Girl from Ipanema”), here she is, with Stan Getz, singing “It Might As Well Be Spring.” The song from the 1945 movie musical State Fair won an Oscar for Best Original Song and was a Billboard chart hit. Recorded in the ‘60s, Gilberto does unique justice to the lyrics as she sings “I’m as restless as a willow in a windstorm.”

2. “Waters of March” ("Águas de Março") Antônio Carlos Jobim

It’s hard to separate this song from its Brazilian roots because it was inspired by the torrential downpours marking fall in Rio de Janeiro. Antônio Carlos Jobim wrote the song and two sets of lyrics: one in his native Portuguese; the other in English. The words are a poetic stream of consciousness. Jazz artists from everywhere still interpret his cascade of images covering all the seasons.

Afloat, adrift

A flight, a wing

A hawk, a quail

The promise of spring

And the riverbank talks

Of the waters of March

It's the promise of life

It's the joy in your heart

3. “They Say It’s Spring” Bob Haymes / Marty Clarke

This song was first recorded and released by chanteuse Blossom Dearie in 1958. Although it didn’t make the cut when her Blossom Dearie album was first released, it’s on a later version. The singer from New York state studied classical piano before giving it up for a jazz career. Her wispy girlish voice belied a steely wit. The aptly named Blossom Dearie died in 2009 at age 82. Here’s her rendition of “light as a feather.”

4. “Up Jumped Spring” Freddie Hubbard, music; Abbey Lincoln, lyrics

Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard composed the music for “Up Jumped Spring” in the late 1960s. At its most elemental, it’s a waltz that might inspire a swirl around the kitchen. Songwriter and singer Abbey Lincoln wrote the lyrics and released this version of the song in 1991 on her album with saxophonist Stan Getz: You Gotta Pay the Band.

 5. “You Must Believe in Spring” Michel Legrand, composer

Pianist Bill Evans took French composer Michel Legrand’s music for his own wistful ride in a 1977 recording. His soulful version of the original song on the album of the same name was released posthumously. It was full of more reflective choices coming from a time Evans had lost both a brother and a good friend to suicide.

Evans with Tony Bennett singing the lyrics.

6. “I Love Paris” Cole Porter

Cole Porter’s hit “I Love Paris” was part of his score for the 1953 musical Can Can. Porter had an apartment in Paris and an upscale lifestyle in the City of Lights. “I Love Paris” is a simple love song for the city in every season, regardless of whether it’s sizzling or drizzling.

 7. “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” Tommy Wolf, music; Fran Landesman, lyrics

“Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” was written for the 1959 musical The Nervous Set, the tale of a couple’s heartache wrapped up in the beat lifestyle of Greenwich Village. The story doesn’t have a happy ending. “Spring arrived on time/Only what became of you dear/Spring can really hang you up the most.” Here’s Ella Fitzgerald channeling the woe in this tune.

8. “Joy Spring” Clifford Brown and Max Roach.

Another sad one.  Behind this composition, there’s a love story that ends too soon. Trumpeter Clifford Brown wrote “Joy Spring” for his wife Larue Anderson. Drummer Max Roach introduced the couple. Soon after Brown wrote the song, he and Roach recorded the version you'll hear below.

The clean-living Brown showed incredible talent as a trumpeter. Tragically, his career was cut short when he was killed in a car crash near Bedford, Pennsylvania one rainy night. It was June 26, 1956 and he was on his way to a gig in Chicago after playing in Philadelphia, at a club on Chestnut Street. He was just 25 years old.

9. “April In Paris” Vernon Duke, music; Yip Harburg, lyrics

This tune was the sole lasting hit from the 1932 Broadway musical Walk a Little Faster, a production that enjoyed only moderate success. But the song inspired a movie. Along the way, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Dawn Upshaw and many more jazz artists have performed and recorded versions of “April in Paris.” This one features Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Listen and “never miss a warm embrace.”

10. “Spring Is Here” Dave Brubeck, from the song by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart lyrics

Rodgers and Hart reworked an earlier song and wrote “Spring is Here” for the 1938 musical I Married an Angel. In it, an angel, who marries a wealthy banker, adjusts to life on earth. It’s a lonely spring, with remembrances of lost love: “Spring is here/ Why doesn't my heart go dancing?/ Spring is here/ Why isn't the waltz entrancing?” The jazz master Dave Brubeck recorded an instrumental version, as did John Coltrane.

Let music reflect the fullness of spring.