Top 50 JAzz Blog

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gershwin's durable "Summertime" by Steve Provizer

Here we have one of the most durable tunes ever written. Originally written as a recurring aria for "Porgy and Bess," It has been re-harmonized in the some pretty radical ways and been taken in a wide variety of tempos. Yet, probably because of the strength of the melody, it retains its, well, Summertime-i-tude.

There is a widespread notion about Gershwin having been influenced by a Ukranian song. To quote WIkipedia "The Ukrainian-Canadian composer and singer Alexis Kochan has suggested that he based the tune on a Ukrainian lullaby, Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon (A Dream Passes By The Windows)."

I've had my research squad out searching for a copy of that song to see what resemblance it actually bears to Summertime, but so far, the samizdat has failed me.

In any case, herein are a few examples of the song. My criteria for choosing them was (1) how far away it ranges from the original and (2) how much I like it. Let's start off with a version of the original, performed by Harolyn Blackwell:

Billie Holiday had a popular success with her version:

Ella and Louis, of course:

Gil Evans arrangement with Miles Davis:

Janis Joplin live:



I Witness said...

Even if this is one of the weirdest and most disappointing Summertimes in the history of the nation... well, there's no gainsaying the power and beauty of George's tuneful aria, whether from the unknown Ukraine or the local U-Haul-It. There was a time when I collected maybe a hundred different Jazz or Pop recordings of Porgy and Bess. Many of them were well nigh hopeless, but "Summertime" was always impossibly immaculate and impervious. Thanks for the memories.

Steve Provizer said...

WHat are your top 5 versions?

Anton said...

I don't if you came across this in your research about " Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon" but here is the link (hope you will able to see it):,r:16,s:41&tx=99&ty=79&biw=1680&bih=913

Steve Provizer said...

Thank you, Anton, for posting that link. It's possible that's the whole song, but it seems like just a section, as the first bar is in Aflat and then it goes to Eflat. The 4 bars there don't bear any striking resemblance to Summertime, so the myth-mystery continues.

Anton said...

You are welcome Steve. I could e-mail you an mp3 if you want to check it out, it's a version performed by Nina Matviyenko. The sheet that I sent a link of is not accurate, really.
I'm not saying that Nina Matviyenko's version sounds the same like Summertime though

Steve Provizer said...

Thanks, Anton, I'd love to have that mp3 and to post it on the blog. Will you post it online and get a url or do you want to email it to me?

Harvey said...

What, no Billy Stewart?

Steve Provizer said...

My bad!

Anton said...

it would be easier for me to e-mail the track to you

Steve Provizer said...

Anton-You can send the audio file to Thanks. Steve

brewlitesjazztales said...

Hi there, Steve --

Independently of you have I also started a little series with "Summertime's", and linked it with yours.

I would be very much interested in hearing Anton's track. -- This was new to me, 'cause I always thought "Summertime" was a song, Gershwin heard while he did some local research for "Porgy & Bess".



Steve Provizer said...

Thanks very much to Anton for sending me the Ukranian lullaby that may have inspired Gershwin to write "Summertime": Nina Matvienko-

edclusa said...

I'm a member of The Summertime Connection, a small international group of collectors of recordings of Summertime. Although a lot of people don't believe us we now have more than 30,000 full recordings of the song, collected in a period of over 10 years.
Anton if you could send me a copy of Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon, I would be much obliged (

Steve Provizer said...

Ed-Who knew? Do you have a repository online?

I have the music file and will send it to you via email.



Anonymous said...

where can i hear original? Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon (A Dream Passes By The Windows)?

Steve Provizer said...


As noted in a previous comment, you can hear it at