3. Miles Davis (from Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet, Prestige, 1956)
Even for a minimalist melodist like Miles, a straight thematic read of “My Funny Valentine” was never in the cards. Certainly not in the groundbreaking push-and-pull of his great ’50s quintet. After a charming intro from pianist Red Garland, Miles enters on trumpet; like Coleman Hawkins on his epochal version of “Body and Soul,” he adheres to the written melody for only a few bars (five, to be precise), then takes it into a new, sweetly swinging place of its own. Garland steps into double time for his own sprightly sentiments after Miles is done. Paul Chambers’ bass and Philly Joe Jones’ drums stay sensitive. (John Coltrane sits this one out.) On the heels of the Mulligan and Baker versions of the tune, Miles’ serves as a great example of this quintet’s invention, and of why they were perhaps the most revered small group of the decade.