Swanee, by George Gershwin, lyrics by Irving Caesar, was composed in 1919 when Gershwin was 20 years old. It was his first “hit” and the biggest seller of his career. Al Jolson popularized the song when he sang it in the stage show Sinbad in 1919 and then recorded it for Columbia in 1920 (#2884).
The piece was recorded in an instrumental version (HMV Canada #216090) by the Van Eps Quartet with Gershwin himself on piano, Fred Van Eps on banjo, Nathan Glantz on tenor saxophone, and George Hamilton Green on xylophone. George Green also recorded the song with the All Star Trio, including F. Wheeler Wadsworth on tenor saxophone and Victor Arden on piano, in 1920 (Victor #18651).
This arrangement is based on transcriptions of the above recordings, along with reference to the original sheet music, published in 1919 by T. B. Harms & Francis, Day & Hunter, NY. Because of the matching chord progression in the Trio, many versions of Swanee quoted Richard Wilburn’s famous melody from the song Listen to the Mocking Bird (1855). George Green used this charming effect on the Van Eps Quartet recording, and it has been included in this arrangement as well.