CELEBRATING
50 YEARS

JazzTimes 10: Great Recordings of “My Funny Valentine”

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

6. Ella Fitzgerald (from Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers and Hart Song Book, Verve, 1956)

Of course Ella’s version was going to be flawless. Part of the second entry in her celebrated Song Book series, “My Funny Valentine” places her in front of a truly treacly studio orchestra (arranged by Buddy Bregman) that seems ready at first to steamroll the invention out of Fitzgerald. It doesn’t: She’s already taking melodic liberties by the second line. Come the bridge, she shows her mastery of the melodrama Bregman has put behind her; come its repeat, she is bending it to her will. Fitzgerald’s version is highly unusual in a technical sense. “My Funny Valentine” is pretty much always recorded in either C minor or B minor, but she sings it in G minor. It’s a blessing in its distinction, but that also keeps hers from being the definitive interpretation.

Originally Published

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.