How High the Moon

Originally Performed ByHamilton and Lewis
Original AlbumTwo for the Money Soundtrack (1940)
MusicMorgan Lewis
Lyrics ByNancy Hamilton
VocalsInstrumental
Phish Debut1990-04-21
Last Played2009-08-13
Current Gap311
HistorianEllis Godard

History

Written in the late 1930s and first recorded for the 1940 musical Two for the Money, “How High the Moon” achieved rebirth several times in several styles. Initially a mid-tempo ballad, a waltz in the style of Oscar Peterson, it became a bebop anthem under the attention of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker during the 1940s, then a rockabilly teaser by pioneer Les Paul in the early 1950s, and again a jazz standard by the time Paul Whiteman recorded it in 1956.

The song has also been reborn several times in Phish's own history: as part of a jazz sub-repertoire in 1990, following Gamehenge narration in 1993, and as a tribute to Les Paul in 2009. Each time, they played it as an instrumental, thus emphasizing the composed intricacies of the tune, including rapid block chords and doubling of octaves. And the complexity has fit nicely with Phish’s repertoire, and in those three sets: between “Fluffhead” and “Esther” (4/22/90), opening a set into “Esther” (4/26/90), and between the narration of “Col. Forbin’s” and the majestic ascension of “Fly Famous Mockingbird” (3/8/93).

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