MTH-V: “Stars Fell On Alabama”

Somewhat piggybacking on my last post, sometimes you just can’t predict how you’ll get from point A to point B, or what styles and/or artists will leave a mark. An example of this is 1934’s “Stars Fell On Alabama,” one of my favorite standards.

Aside from it being a preferred tune to play at jazz gigs (including one just this past weekend), I enjoy renditions by Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz, Keith Jarrett, oldies by Louis Armstrong, and more. But, to be honest, the first time I remember hearing and committing the song to memory was as a little boy listening to my mom’s Jimmy Buffett CDs. Yes, Mr. Parrothead himself recorded a semi-popular version of the iconic standard with Toots Thielemans. Imagine my surprise when, years later, I heard a version by Louis Armstrong performed decades earlier. I immediately thought of Buffett’s version that I carried from childhood and my mind was mildly blown. The Great American Songbook had burrowed deep into my brain as a child and I didn’t even know it. Buffett’s version is no longer my preferred interpretation, but I must say that I still have a soft spot for it.

So I thought it’d be both interesting and entertaining to post two starkly different versions of the tune. Nothing like a learning experience for both jazzers and parrotheads alike…

This first version is by Louis Armstrong & His All Stars featuring Jack Teagarden on trombone and vocals. It’s a live performance from Boston in 1947:

And now Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band live on the short-lived Fridays (note Mark Hamill on the dance floor…). The song definitely suffers without studio magic and overdubbing, but here it is nevertheless. Kudos to Jimmy for including the verse:

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