Miles Davis, My Funny Valentine [Re-release]

There are very few people in the world who would disagree that jazz chameleon Miles Davis did not so much play standards as infuse them with a sparkling brilliance in a style that was entirely his own. My Funny Valentine presents a beautifully recorded 1964 concert with tenor saxophonist George Coleman and a rhythm section made up of younger players who have long since made their own marks on the jazz world: Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums, the latter just 18 years old at the time (a point nobody seems to be able to resist making).

Each of the five tracks repackaged here is executed with precision and grace and somehow made to sound effortless in spite of the level of constant, concentrated attention to detail the group evinces. Davis’s tone is, as usual, mellow in the midrange and intense without being harsh in the upper levels, and he uses a Harmon mute (something of a trademark sound for Davis) for a good portion of the album, as well. This recording is an example of how great a group of musicians can sound together on a really good night: everything fits together, they feed off of each others’ ideas, and the parts all mesh together, weaving in and out of grooves and chord changes.

Of four standards included here, my personal favorite on this album is a caffeinated version of one of Davis’s own compositions: the perennial classic “All Blues,” which has itself become a staple of the jazz repertoire. Other highlights include Hancock’s introspective introductions to “Stella by Starlight” and the title track, Coleman’s alternately playful and impassioned solo on “All Of You,” as well as the shifts in tone color and rhythm occurring throughout the album that are brought about through Carter’s and Williams’ interaction. If jazz is primarily a conversation, the five players here are having a lively one and enjoying every minute of it.

The album itself is a one-disc remastered re-release of a 40-year-old LP double record of the same name, and this is its first time appearing on CD as it was on vinyl (there has also been a CD release of this recording that includes bonus material). It includes new liner notes by bassist Ron Carter in addition to the original ones by jazz writer Nat Hentoff. The album is most definitely worth listening to but if you already have another version, this one is not necessary.

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