Four Renditions of “Autumn Leaves”

It is finally autumn. One of my favorite ways of celebrating the start of the fall season is to listen to some of the many, many renditions of “Autumn Leaves”.

“Autumn Leaves” is a jazz standard, originally made in 1945 by Joseph Kosma with lyrics by Jacques Prévert in French. There are an unbelievable amount of recordings of this song, with each artist adding their own unique flair to it.

This song is the perfect template, allowing artists to build and add to it to make it truly unique. The song can span from two to over ten minutes long.

I have a great appreciation for genre standards such as “Autumn Leaves”. Songs like this one bring artists together in a way not much else can. I wanted to share a few renditions of this staple by some of my favorite jazz artists.

Chet Baker

Chet Baker’s “Autumn Leaves” was the very first version of the song I ever heard. It took me quite a long time to realize that this wasn’t just his song and is definitely the landmark for how this song should sound to me.

The highlight of this song, besides Baker on the trumpet, is Bob James on the electric keyboard. Each note on the keyboard creates perfect imagery of fall-colored leaves falling to the ground.

Ryo Fukui

“Autumn Leaves” was a great pick for Ryo Fukui’s 1976 album, “Scenery”. Not only does it match the vibe of the album perfectly, Fukui renders the song expertly.

This version highlights how incredibly the piano leads “Autumn Leaves”, more so than any other instrument. The piano can perfectly capture the frenzied beauty of falling leaves in a way that no other instrument can.

Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole’s rendition is the only one on this list that has vocals. As it should be, as no other version of “Autumn Leaves” with vocals tops this one.

Even though his version is the shortest on this list, King Cole slows down the song, highly emphasizing the original composition with brass instruments to support his vocals. This version of the song is very short and sweet and perfectly captures the autumn feeling.

Vince Guaraldi

Everyone knows Vince Guaraldi, he’s the Peanuts guy. The first jazz vinyl I ever bought was one of his. His rendition of “Autumn Leaves” is spectacular, with his piano playing at the forefront.

His version of the song is ten minutes long, utilizing the basic composition to create a truly fall-inspired sound. Guaraldi can evoke the feelings of a season better than any other artist I have heard.

By Hüttemeister

Howdy, I'm Hüttemeister. I write blogs and co-host a country, bluegrass, and folk show on Friday mornings from 8 a.m.-10 a.m. called Saloon Tunes.