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  • Writer's pictureSimon Rushby

My Funny Valentine by Rodgers and Hart, played by Miles Davis Quintet

#listeneveryday 18 Feb 2021

I guess I'm four days late with this one, but it is one of my favourite standards and has been recorded by a vast number of major artists, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Bing Crosby and even Elvis Costello.

I love this performance by Miles Davis with pianist Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter on sax, bass player Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. Davis, born in 1926, was enjoying huge success on the back of seminal albums such as Kind of Blue (1959), and his quintet of young, talented musicians (Williams was 19 at the time of this recording, Hancock was 23) toured the world to packed out theatres and concert halls. Earlier in the year they made a live recording in New York which became Davis's 1965 album, My Funny Valentine.

This version of Rodgers and Hart's tune, which first appeared in a show called Babes in Arms, was recorded in Milan in 1964 and goes a long way to explain why a live Miles Davis performance was such a hot ticket. He would rarely engage with his audience, often standing sideways or with his back to them, and his improvisations would not necessarily be perfect in terms of pitch or tone.

It's his command of time and space that really stands out - he senses exactly when, and how much, to play and his band seem to be connected to him with some kind of unseen telepathy. Watching Ron Carter, who is often in shot when we see Davis, tells us a lot about this connection and musical intuition. Hancock and Shorter in particular were strongly influenced by Davis in their own highly successful careers.

More to listen to

Here's Ella Fitzgerald's version of My Funny Valentine, recorded in 1958 (audio only)

So What, taken from arguably Davis's greatest album, Kind of Blue (audio only)

A new #listeneveryday post is published every weekday! Comment below or tweet @SimonRushby with your suggestions for future music.

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