CELEBRATING
50 YEARS

JazzTimes 10: Great Recordings of “My Funny Valentine”

Our favorite renditions of one of jazz’s most-played songs

4. Mal Waldron Trio (from Blood and Guts, Futura, 1970)

Some have called the Mal Waldron of the second half of his career (the one who emerged from a 1963 drug overdose as a changed pianist) “evil Mal.” That’s the Waldron who plays on this 1970 live date in Paris, with a French trio. His basecamp on “My Funny Valentine” is a low left-hand drone, which bassist Patrice Caratini reinforces with monotones that alternate between fingered throbs and bowed glowers. Even when he breaks out of the drone sections, though, Waldron avoids getting too caught up in playing the changes; he quickly states the chord (sometimes just the root) at the top of each bar, then focuses on melody and (especially) rhythm to carry it through, giving slight glances, at best, to the tune as written. (The most harmonically dense passage here, in fact, is an extended quote from “Ol’ Man River.”) If it establishes an idiosyncratic sound for Waldron, it also gives the song a dark, eerie cast that is unlike any other interpretation.

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.