Miles Davis

Summertime

Song Review by

"Summertime" is the centerpiece of Porgy & Bess, one of the greatest and best-known works of George Gershwin. Porgy & Bess was filled with timeless music, but "Summertime" earned a life outside of the musical, becoming one of the most-recorded songs of the 20th century. Hundreds of different versions of the song have been recorded, and since the ballad's melody is so sweet and strong, it sounds good even in pedestrian arrangements. What's remarkable about the song is that it always sounds fresh, whether it's delivered as a straight show tune or as ersatz R&B, as on Billy Stewart's stuttering surprise Top Ten hit from 1966. Stewart's rendition is perhaps the most extreme reworking of the ballad, and the most controversial, since it strays a bit from the basic song. Still, "Summertime" is such a well-constructed song that even when an artist takes liberties with the song, it retains its basic character. Perhaps a better example of this is Miles Davis and Gil Evans' elegant reading from 1958, which emphasized both the song's dual origins as folk song and symphony, all within a distinctly jazz setting. Indeed, "Summertime" is a favorite of jazz musicians, whether it's a vocalist like Ella Fitzgerald or a Clarinet player like Sidney Bechet, because its melody is so indelible and its chords so complex, it lends itself to an endless amount of interpretations. Some of those are certainly lesser than others, but even the poorest renditions of "Summertime" do nothing to diminish its greatness.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Porgy and Bess 1959 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:17
No Image 1973 TriStar Music
No Image 1985 Sony Music Distribution / Columbia 3:19
Miles Davis: The Columbia Years 1955-1985 1988 Columbia 3:20
The Jazz Masters: 27 Classic Performances 1990
Various Artists
Columbia 3:17
This Is Jazz, Vol. 8: Miles Davis Acoustic 1996 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:22
The Very Best of Miles Davis [Australia] 1998 Columbia / Legacy 3:17
Super Hits 2001 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:20
The Essential Miles Davis [Columbia/Legacy] 2001 Legacy 3:19
Blue Moods: Music for You 2002 Legacy / Columbia 3:20
The Best of Miles Davis [Columbia/Legacy] 2002 Legacy / Columbia 0:00
Jazz Moods: Cool 2004 Legacy / Columbia 3:18
No Image 2004 Columbia 3:20
Playlist: The Very Best of Miles Davis 2008
No Image 2008 Must Have Records
Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology 2011
Various Artists
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 3:18
The Original Mono Recordings 2013 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Legacy 3:20
The Last Word: The Warner Bros. Years 2015 Rhino / Warner Bros. 2:53
No Image Sony Music 3:20