Music: Jozsef Kozma / Lyrics: Johnny Mercer
Sometimes a popular American song doesn’t originate in America. That’s the case with this week’s selection, which was widely recorded in the United States, both in instrumental and vocal versions and by more musicians than you can count. Certainly over one thousand commercial recordings of the song were made, and I’ve heard that it is the eighth-most-recorded song of all time among jazz musicians and singers.
If the season and this week’s word and poem suggest to you that I’m talking about “Autumn Leaves,” you are right. This sadly beautiful tune was written at the very end of World War II, in occupied France. It’s composer was the classically trained Jozsef Kozma, who studied at the Lizst Academy in his native Hungary before eventually emigrating to Paris, by way of Berlin, where he continued his musical training. Kozma was primarily known for his film scores, but in the 1930’s and early 1940’s he set some of the poems of Jacque Prevert to music, and the result was a series of h…
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