Jazz Songs and Jazz Singers

William P. Gottlieb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

William P. Gottlieb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 Composer, arranger, and educator, William Russo wrote in his textbook on Jazz Orchestration:
The four principal elements of music are melody, harmony, rhythm, and orchestration. Of these four, melody is indisputably the most important. It is the essence, the soul of music. And, as I shall show later…melody is connected with the human voice, from which it stems.

Maxine Sullivan, Village Vanguard 1947. William P. Gottlieb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Maxine Sullivan, Village Vanguard 1947. William P. Gottlieb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Maxine Sullivan was one of those singers who had all the hallmarks of a jazz singer – perfect pitch, impeccable sense of rhythm, easy and relaxed manner, an ability to float effortlessly over the chord changes of a song. Listen to her renditions of Blue Skies (Berlin), Easy to Love (Porter), and Folks on the Hill (Kern, Hammerstein III). The jazz singer fits a jazz group like a hand in a glove. She surrounded herself with great musicians who brought out the best in her singing, and she complimented them just as much with her melodious, beautiful interpretations of well-crafted songs. In the setting of the Claude Thornhill Orchestra or the Thornhill small band her voice was another instrument, and to a great extent, the most important voice in the band. George Gershwin died just as the swing era, and Maxine Sullivan’s career was getting underway, and so he never got a chance to hear Maxine Sullivan sing Nice Work If You Can Get It recorded in New York in 1937 with Charlie Shavers (trumpet) and Buster Bailey (clarinet). He would have appreciated it!
Because jazz singers possess perfect pitch and an impeccable sense of rhythm they can initiate a song with only the outline of the harmony being played. All the pianist has to do is hit the first note and the singer is off. Sometimes the singer actually sets the rhythm for the combo and the musicians follow her lead. This is certainly true in Lee Wiley’s rendition of Manhattan (Rodgers-Hart). The singer is the soloist just as when a saxophone player is backed by a combo. Unlike the instrumentalist, however, the singer conveys the meaning of the song by being able to sing the actual words. Great instrumentalists convey feeling through their playing, but the jazz singer is able to do this as well and, in addition, to sing the lyric (which is often as well-crafted as the melody of the song.) Lee Wiley’s versions of I’ve Got a Crush on You (G.Gershwin-I.Gershwin), (I Don’t Stand a) Ghost of a Chance (with You)(Crosby-Washington-Young) and so many other classics are among the best renditions ever recorded. Her vocalizations blend seamlessly with the instrumentalists: Joe Bushkin (piano), Bobby Hackett (muted trumpet).
A big band era singer who made a successful transition to the recording studio after the end of Big Band Era was Al Hibbler. Although he had only one hit single with Duke Ellington’s band (Don’t Get Around Anymore), he had several big successes in the 1950’s with studio bands. His baritone voice is immediately recognizable and his inflections and use of pauses and idiosyncratic phrasing resembled the characteristics of big band horn players. He recorded for both Verve and Decca, big labels, and he always had great studio bands to accompany him. His version of the Les Brown classic ‘Tis Autumn (Henry Nemo) is perhaps more memorable than the original because his vocal solo is the perfect match for tenor sax soloist (likely Al Klink). This is a jazz singer’s version of the song. The strength and full range of his voice opens up the song as effectively as the featured soloist of the band.

Frank Sinatra. William P. Gottlieb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Frank Sinatra. William P. Gottlieb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the big band era, on occasion, the featured soloist of the band was the singer. Tommy Dorsey was one of the greatest trombone artists of all time, but when he completed the opening section of the Jimmy van Heusen song Imagination, Frank Sinatra took over the vocal. His vocal is the perfect match for the perfect trombone solo. It is a continuation of the sonority and shimmering beauty of the band leader’s trombone solo. One of the hallmarks of Sinatra’s style of singing, as both Will Friedwald and and Pete Welding have pointed out, is Sinatra’s hornlike phrasing wherein the singer creates elongated phrases much as a stellar trombonist , saxophone player, or trumpeter plays with a band. His voice becomes another soloist – and, as such, he compels us to be spellbound by his creations. Other big band singers who merely stepped up to the mike and sang the lyrics straight were fine and acceptable, but their delivery wasn’t memorable or compelling. The singers with the vocal uniqueness, undisputed command of technique, instrumental sophistication quickly rose to the level of being a major jazz soloist.

Billie Holiday. circa 1946-47. William P. Gottlieb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The first female vocalist to demonstrate these qualities was, of course, Billie Holiday. It was her singing that created the template for all jazz singers to follow and exemplify. Small classics such as These Foolish Things, Them There Eyes, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, When You’re Smiling, If Dreams Come True displayed the chief characteristics of a singer who wants to interpret a popular song with a jazz sensibility – utilizing rhythmic displacement, subtle changes in intonation, vocal shading, and respectful acknowledgement of a song’s lyric and the meaning of the words. Whether she sang with a big band such as Count Basie’s, Artie Shaw’s, or Teddy Wilson’s or a small ensemble (the classic 1952-55 Verve Recordings) she made her vocals shine with fresh originality, swing, and gentle shadings of harmony, melody and rhythm. Billie Holiday always acknowledged Louis Armstrong as the source of her inspiration in singing and how to interpret a lyric, and all of her work is essentially a tribute to her mentor. Because she had such a good ear for melody and harmony, and such a keen sense of rhythmic subtlety, she fit in with all the great jazz soloists of her era and sang “in the pocket” of each arrangement. The world of popular song interpretation and jazz vocals owes Billie Holiday a debt that can never be repaid, but the best jazz singers try every time they stand before the microphone. Singers such as Billie Holiday, Maxine Sullivan, and Lee Wiley could vary each performance of a song because they knew precisely where they were and where they were going in a song. They can enter a refrain a half-step away from the chord tone or enter a chorus just ahead or behind the beat because, with complete assurance, they will soon be exactly on the beat and hitting all the melody notes perfectly. Pop singers can’t do this, and opera singers when they attempt to sing jazz fail miserably. Because the jazz singer can vary each nuance of a song she can keep a song fresh each time it is performed. And the audience loves this and welcomes it. The jazz singer also keeps the music fresh for the musicians she is playing with as well. The bass player and the drummer don’t have to hear the same song sang the same way each night – how boring that would be! The singer is, in fact, doing what any good accompanist (usually piano, sometimes guitar) also does by freshening up the harmony and rhythm as she sings. Arguments that Billie Holiday was ‘past her prime’ in the 1950s are defeated by what may be the single finest recording of her entire career, her rendition of You Go To My Head (Gilespie-Coots) accompanied by the great Oscar Peterson Quartet (Peterson, piano; Barney Kessel (guitar); Ray Brown (bass); Alvin Stoller (drums) and the addition of the melodic tenor saxophone stylist, Flip Phillips, and the sensitive, always creative trumpeter, Charlie Shavers. Billie’s smoky voice is as intoxicating as the lyrics. Her timing and phrasing are unforgettable – she makes this single song a classic of cabaret singing. It is the standard that very few artists were ever to reach. Recorded in Los Angeles in 1952 You Go To My Head and other classic song interpretations by Billie Holiday for the Norman Granz Verve Label astonished many female singers of the era, and inspired so many established and yet-to-be-established female artists. Two singers, in particular, soon released albums that were deeply indebted to Billie’s Verve recordings: Anita O’Day and Peggy Lee. They recorded these albums using very small combos backing them, and they chose smaller, less well known songs to sing in the manner of Lady Day. In the years that followed, their careers took them to much bigger projects, but both Anita and Peggy felt that their own finest work was when they went into the studio determined to record small, intimate renditions of memorable songs with sensitive and melodic accompaniment. And the critics have agreed.

 [Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald, New York, N.Y., ca. Nov. 1946] William P. Gottlieb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

[Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald, New York, N.Y., ca. Nov. 1946]
William P. Gottlieb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ella Fitzgerald is renowned for her up tempo vocal excursions of swing songs, but her ability to sing jazz also served her well for being able to convey a lyric with conviction and subtlety. Her performances of the various Song Books for Verve (Harold Alden, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter) have set a very high standard for vocal and lyrical perfection. Whether it is Gershwin’s immortal Embraceable You or the Rodgers and Hart classics My Romance and There’s a Small Hotel, her intonation, sense of phrasing, and total commitment to the meaning of the lyrics melds all the elements of vocal artistry. Ella Fitzgerald is one of a small number of singers who is able to sing the verse introduction to a standard with any skill and conviction. She makes these introductions shine.  And then, of course, there is the magnificent Duke Ellington Song Books (also part of the series) and this is where her jazz sensibilities put her interpretations apart from all the rest. The Ellington Band had many legendary singers to record the band’s popular songs, but Ella Fitzgerald and the band created classic interpretations for all time. Ella doesn’t sing as someone extra added to the band as a vocalist. She is another, integral, part of the band the vocal expression of the Ellington Orchestra and a soloist on a par with the other acclaimed members of the band.  Lastly, one only needs to hear Ella Fitzgerald singing It’s Only a Paper Moon (Harold Arlen) with the Billy May Orchestra to understand how great a jazz singer she is on an up tempo jazz standard. Her Harold Arlen Songbook with Billy May is the equivalent of Frank Sinatra’s best work on Capitol – roughly recorded at the same time. On It’s Only a Paper Moon, Ella displays all the earmarks of a quality jazz performance. She is totally in sync with the rhythm section throughout the entire piece, and this allows her to play with the melody and harmonies of the song at her discretion. When she returns to the song after the tenor saxophone solo, she creates all the right tonal colors from the melody and plays with the rhythm in the manner of a true jazz soloist.

Sometimes, because the jazz singer is so skillful, the conductor/arranger writes and conducts charts that offer the singer/soloist little or no harmonic/melodic support.  Listening to Anita O’Day sing Love for Sale and I Get a Kick Out of You from the album Anita O’Day Swings Cole Porter with Billy May (Verve) is like watching a tightrope walker crossing between two skyscrapers without a net.  On Love May has charted a rhythmic riff for the band which supplies virtually no harmony;  perhaps his feeling was ‘you’re a jazz singer…figure it out.’  On the second song, the tune proceeds at an insanely fast pace which leaves the singer no places to catch her breath.  Billy May conducted many of the great singing legends of the period, people like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, and his band had top notch soloists so he basically threw caution to the wind and left the singer to fare on her own.  Anita O’Day describes quite honestly some of her difficulties working in the recording studio in her autobiography.   She is also frank about arrangers and conductors who wrote impossibly difficult charts.  Nevertheless, her Verve recordings are legendary and contain marvelous interpretations of jazz standards.  The singer did have the ability to sing under stressful circumstances and she shows a lot of grit for being part of these fabulous recordings.  The O’Day Verve records demonstrate another characteristic of great jazz singers – the ability to be a major soloist in the context of awesome talent.  The jazz singer must be able to solo like any other member of a stellar ensemble – no excuses, you either cut it or you don’t.  No special treatment for the singer.  It’s a sink or swim situation!

Singer, Chris Connor, exemplifies another essential characteristic of the jazz singer.  In her rendition of A Foggy Day (Gershwin) she uses her voice like a tenor saxophone.  She produces a full, round, resonate and breathy tone as she sings the words to Gershwin’s beautiful ballad.  If she were a saxophone soloist she would be in the school of Lester Young and Ben Webster or Stan Getz.  These soloists played with little or no vibrato and the sound they produced through their horn was exquisite, especially on ballads.  The other quality Chris Connor exemplifies is that type of saxophone phrasing where the length of the notes and the anticipation of each phrase are delicately sculpted to fit the melody.  Popular song singers just don’t think this way, but jazz musicians do.

As we have discussed, in some of the examples above, it is possible to begin to catalog some of the most essential characteristics of all good jazz singers:

  1. Perfect Pitch
  2. Precise Rhythm.
  3. Effortless ensemble singing with stellar musicians.
  4. Recognizable voice and unique sense of phrasing.
  5. Ability to use the voice as an instrument.
  6. Ability to sing the lyrics of a song in a completely heartfelt way.
  7. Ability to vary the characteristics of tone, again, much as a jazz musician is able to do with his horn.

The purpose of this essay has been to stimulate a discussion and challenge some assumptions people may have about what is Jazz Singing.  This essay is not intended to be a list of the top jazz singers of all time (that list would be too large), and everyone has their own personal preferences.  Rather, this discussion has tried to elucidate what are some of the basic and essential characteristics of jazz singing as demonstrated in a few select song choices.  Now, what are your preferences and choices?  Enjoy!



Russo, William: Jazz Composition and Orchestration. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago and London, 1968 and 1974 (Phoenix Edition), p. 2.
Maxine Sullivan: It’s Wonderful. Affinity: The Swingtime CD Collection, Charly Records Limited.
Pittsburgh Music History: One of the Great Singers of the 20th Century who put the “Ing” in Swing. (1999). Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/pittsburghmusichistory/pittsburgh-music-story/jazz/jazz—early-years/maxine-sullivan.
Lee Wiley: Night in Manhattan with Lee Wiley. Sony Music Special Products, KW75010.
Al Hibbler Remembers The Big Songs of the Big Bands. Arrangements by Jack Pleis. Decca Records DL 78862.
Friedwald, Will. The Legend by Will Friedwald (liner notes to “The Best of Frank Sinatra – The Capitol Years”) Capitol Masters Box Set C2/C4-94317.
Welding, Pete. Sinatra’s Swinging Session!!! and more. (liner notes) Capitol Records CD – CDP7 465732.

O’Day, Anita with Eells, George.  High Times Hard Times.  New York:  Limelight Editions (Hal Leonard Corp), 1981, pages 228-232.

Chris Connor Sings The George Gershwin Almanac of Song.  Atlantic Records 2-601.  (Chris is accompanied by Ralph Sharon, piano; Oscar Pettiford, bass; Osie Johnson, drums.)


Concert Jazz

Author's Photo

Author’s Photo

There have been many attempts over the years to write and perform concert jazz. Some attempts more successful than others. Many critics and fans of jazz have decried these attempts, but nevertheless, jazz musicians as well as jazz conductors and arrangers have proceeded to try. What does one mean by ‘concert jazz’? A serviceable definition might be an arrangement of music which features a mixture of traditional jazz instruments (piano, saxophone, trumpet, etc.) with instruments more normally found in the concert orchestra. The composition features both written parts and improvised sections for solo instruments. The presentation of such concert music would utilize rhythms more often found in jazz such as swing eighths and sixteenth notes as well as syncopation.

Many classical composers of the twentieth century such as Charles Ives, Stravinsky, Ravel, Darius Milhaud, Shostakovich and others have made attempts – more or less successful depending upon tastes.  Jazz artists such as Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, and Stan Kenton have commissioned and performed works that one would consider to be concert jazz.  Jazz arrangers and composers (again Ellington is a key example) but also people such as Eddie Sauter, Ralph Burns, George Russell, George Handy, William Russo, Pete Rugolo have made significant contributions to this endeavor.  American composers like Gershwin, Copland, David Diamond, and Leonard Bernstein have championed such efforts and been more or less successful in this field.

Author's Photo

Author’s Photo

Depending upon your definition of concert jazz, one might consider Rhapsody in Blue to be primogenitor of the entire field.  Historians point out that the written piano sections were originally improvised by Gershwin and then later written down.  Some artists today proceed with the idea and intention of improvising the piano parts but concert goers pretty much want to hear the familiar piano cadenzas played as Gershwin played and wrote them…and who can blame them since it’s hard to come up with anything that sounds better.  Dave Brubeck commissioned his brother, Howard, to write the symphony orchestra parts to his composition Brandenburg Gate (featured on the album Brandenburg Gate Revised.)  John Lewis developed compositions that he performed with members of the Stuttgard Symphony Orchestra along with the Modern Jazz Quartet.  Composer and educator, Gunther Schuller, championed the development of what he termed “The Third Stream(blending classical and jazz) and he performed and recorded many examples of this type of music.  Many of the arrangements of Gil Evans would meet the definition of concert jazz in particular his arrangement of Porgy and Bess with Miles Davis as soloist.  Evan’s other major work Sketches of Spain (also with Davis as soloist) is considered one of the best and most successful works in this endeavor.  Attempts to blend classical and jazz influenced almost the entire catalogue of Creed Taylor’s CTI record label and the arranger Don Sebesky contributed symphonic arrangements  that supported the improvisations of major jazz artists such as Hubert Laws, George Benson, Milt Jackson and a host of others.

Verve MG V-2026

Verve MG V-2026

Two of the finest examples of concert jazz were created by the composer, arranger and pianist Billy Strayhorn.  Billy Strayhorn wrote and composed music for Duke Ellington’s band from 1939 until 1967.  He also helped to arrange performances for members of the Ellington orchestra when these members went out on their own to record independently from the Duke.  The Billy Strayhorn composition Chelsea Bridge is acclaimed as one of the greatest jazz ballads of all time.  It has been recorded by dozens of major jazz artists, but perhaps the finest rendition of the song is to be found on an album by Ben Webster recorded for Verve Records.  It is known as Ben Webster with Strings “Music for Loving” and it originally was made on three 10 inch long-playing vinyl records for Mercury/Clef or Verve Records.  Billy Strayhorn did the arrangement for the string section that surrounds the beautiful tenor saxophone solo.  Strayhorn briefly takes a solo on the piano as well.  It is a gorgeous arrangement!  Every aspect of this arrangement is in the service of showcasing the marvelous velvety tone of Webster’s saxophone.

Columbia CS 8053

Columbia CS 8053

As a companion piece to Ben Webster’s masterful performance with strings, another stellar arrangement by Billy Strayhorn is his setting of Solitude featuring Duke Ellington at the solo piano.  One can easily imagine a recording studio with the lights dimmed.  It is after hours, all the musicians are relaxed and tired from a long day of recording.  They could easily pack up and go home.  But one last masterpiece needs to be played.   Duke sits down at the piano and begins the first tentative notes of the Ellington classic Solitude. The beauty of this arrangement is its apparent simplicity…its easy, relaxed unfolding.  The band enters behind Duke very softly caressing the chord changes.  The center piece of the arrangement is Ellington alone at the piano playing one of the great jazz compositions of all time.  Very few people in the world can create this kind of magic.  The piano, the orchestra, and ultimately the arrangement are complete perfection.  This is concert jazz!

Author's Photo

Author’s Photo

When Billy Strayhorn joined the Ellington Orchestra his first assignments were to arrange and rehearse the small band recordings (which often featured altoist Johnny Hodges) and to create arrangements for the male and female singers with the band. (Hajdu, 1996, pp. 60,80) (van de Leur, 2002 , p. 34) Singers who worked with Billy Strayhorn initially and over the years commented on how much he provided them the professional help that allowed them to sing at their best.  He collaborated with them in selecting the most appropriate keys to sing in and he took great pains to make arrangements which demonstrated how much attention he could give to even the smallest detail. (Hajdu, 1996, pp. 97-99) These early assignments with the Ellington Orchestra no doubt served him well in these arrangements of Solitude and Chelsea Bridge.


Sources and References:

Ben Webster with Strings Music for Loving (Verve Records 527 774-2) Two CD format

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra Ellington Indigos (Columbia LP – CS 8053)

Hajdu, David.  Lush Life:  A Biography of Billy Strayhorn.  New York:  Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996.

van de Leur, Walter.  Something to Live For:  The Music of Billy Strayhorn.  Oxford University Press, 2002.




An Ellington – Strayhorn Garden


Author's Own Garden

Author’s Own Garden

Because the music of Duke Ellington is so much associated with colors, and especially the colors of flowers, it becomes a natural and easy task to incorporate the Ellington color scheme into one’s own floral landscape. The composer, arranger, and pianist Billy Strayhorn also penned many compositions of his own with the names of flowers. For this reason, an Ellington-Strayhorn Garden can have interesting floral choices as well as a wide palette of variegated shades and hues. From the time he joined the Ellington Orchestra in the late 1930s until his death in the late 1960s, Billy Strayhorn contributed memorable compositions based upon familiar and exotic flowers. Between Duke Ellington’s own compositions and those of Billy Strayhorn, the gardener and flower enthusiast has wonderful colors to choose from and can arrange both indoor and outdoor plants to reflect the music of the great Ellington Orchestra. Here is but a few examples:

Morning Glory (Ellington & Stewart)
Fleurette Afrique (Ellington)
Azalea (Ellington)
Blue Bells of Harlem (Ellington)
Lotus Blossom (Strayhorn)

Passion Flower (Strayhorn)
Lotus Blossom (Strayhorn)

Lady of Lavender Mist (Ellington)

A Single Petal of a Rose (Duke Ellington)

Bird of Paradise (Ellington)

Black Beauty (Rose) Duke Ellington
White & Pink Azalea Duke Ellington Roulette LP Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong

Red & White
Morning Glory (Duke Ellington & Rex Stewart)

Author's Own Garden

Author’s Own Garden

Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn celebrated the inspiration of flowers by recording a piano duet of their composition “In a Blue Summer Garden” for the Mercer Label in 1950.  It featured two pianos and bassist, Joel Shulman.  It was released on a 10 inch 78 with another song on the ‘B’ side.

These two great American composers wrote hundreds of songs.  A modest estimate of the size of the Ellington song list would literally be in the thousands.  Flowers have always been the source of inspiration for many classical composers – Tchaikovsky, Schubert, and Schumann to name but a few.  Among the classical composers the rose gets the lion’s share of the honors.  Ellington and Strayhorn wrote some of these compositions in an impressionist mode much in the style and tradition of Debussy, Faure, and Delibes.  Many of their titles reflect this use of impressionism.

Author's Own Garden

Author’s Own Garden

Just as Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington ‘painted’ a rich orchestral landscape of tones and colors with the inspiration of flower shades, so everyone can easily enjoy creating their own arrangements of Ellington/Strayhorn flower compositions in their home as well as out of doors.  Choosing flowers based upon their compositions will surprise the flower enthusiast with the richness of hues and subtle shades of all the many different types of blue, magenta, rose, pink, violet, lavender, and many,  many others.  And fortunately, many if not all the flowers, mentioned in their songs and compositions are readily available at local nurseries or by mail order.

Peach Rose (author's collection)

Peach Rose (author’s collection)

The rose is the subject of many classical compositions and has always been a favorite theme:

Gabrielle Fauré (Les Roses d’Ispahan), Franz Schubert (Little Rose of the Field), Robert Schumann (The Rose, The Lily, The Dove).  Duke Ellington pursued this theme in several compositions for solo piano as well as for big band:

Single Petal of a Rose – solo piano

Rose of the Rio Grande – vocal by Ivie Anderson with Duke Ellington Orchestra (composition not by Ellington)

Blue Rose – vocalize by Rosemary Clooney with Duke Ellington Orchestra

Black Beauty – Duke Ellington.  Originally written as a composition for solo piano (dedicated to Florence Mills) and later arranged for his orchestra.  Although not written with the rose in mind, one might wish to choose the Black Rose for one’s garden to celebrate Duke Ellington’s famous composition.  Black roses are in fact a very, very deep purple or red rose but which appears to be black.  They are true favorites of rose lovers everywhere.

Dark Rose Group (author's collection)

Dark Rose Group (author’s collection)

Some of Billy Strayhorn’s compositions featuring flowers may prove too much of a challenge for persons living in northern climates or for areas suffering from a prolonged drought such as the current state in California.  Such songs as Passion Flower, Lotus Blossom, and Bird of Paradise (by Duke Ellington) represent flowers which thrive in lush tropical areas which receive equal parts of rain, humidity, and lots and lots of sun.

In developing one’s Ellington-Strayhorn Garden the architect of such a garden may be pleasantly surprised by the appearance of hummingbirds and butterflies.  Hopefully, such a gardener may enjoy the presence of a Black Butterfly (which is also the name of a Duke Ellington composition, circa 1936).

The Duke Ellington composition Azalea written specifically for Louis Armstrong (the two played it together on their Roulette recording) signifies a flower well-known to attract butterflies.  The bright, lush colors of the Azalea is what attracts the butterfly.  Butterflies are especially drawn to the colors pink, orange, purple,  yellow and red.  Even if you do not see the Black Butterfly, many of the Ellington and Strayhorn composition flowers will attract a wide variety of butterflies to your garden.  And don’t be surprised to see hummingbirds as well!

Blue "Morning Glory" (author's photo)

Blue “Morning Glory” (author’s photo)

The “Morning Glory” (Ipomoea) is a beautiful climbing vine plant which has trumpet-shaped flowers that open during the morning or on overcast days.  How appropriate that Ellington’s composition Morning Glory was co-written by his famous trumpeter, Rex Stewart, whose characteristic ‘half-valve’ style of playing, added so much coloration to the Duke Ellington Orchestra during the time he was a member.



  1. Allen Smith. Colors for the Garden: Creating Compelling Color Themes.  Clarkson Potter, Publisher.  2006
  2. Nevin Smith. Native Treasures: Gardening with the Plants of California. University of California Press.  2006.

3. Better Homes and Gardens.  Quick Color Gardening.  John Wiley & Sons.  2012.

4. Lambert, Eddie.  Duke Ellington – A Listener’s guide.  Studies in Jazz Series, No. 26.                 Lamham, Maryland, and London:  Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers – The State                         University of New Jersey, 1999.  Scarecrow Press, Inc.

5.  Clarke, Graham.  Success With Alkaline-Loving Plants.  Lewes, East Sussex:  Guild of Master Craftsman   Publications Ltd.  2008.