My Funny Valentine in Milan

The first time I heard a recording of Miles Davis playing “My Funny Valentine” – off the great album My Funny Valentine: Miles Davis in Concert (1965) – was on a car ride in the Upper Penisula of Michigan. A friend of mine and I were on a camping trip. We were sophomores in college, and it was fall break (a wonderful thing, about this time of year). One of the few radio stations we could get in the beautiful barrenness of the UP was a public station that happened to be playing jazz. We were both Miles Davis fans, but we knew just a few of his albums (mostly Kind of Blue). Tuning in toward the beginning of “My Funny Valentine,” we both knew immediately it was the kingly, aloof trumpeter. We were mesmerized by the album, which the station in its freedom played in its entirety, to our great delight.

Something about the color of the leaves made me think of it. Here’s a live version in Milan, with the more regular Wayne Shorter on tenor (on the album it’s George Coleman). Shorter, in fact, is what makes this version so fascinating. I’m not the biggest fan of his, but in some of these early 60s recordings he’s on fire. Here he comes in with a haunting echo of Miles’ exit and plays an ingenius solo, blending a kind of arpeggio attack with a strange melodic understanding. Herbie Hancock – a former student at my alma mater – does some nice work too.

I love that you can see so many of these out-of-the-way performances . . .

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