Friday, August 22, 2014

“My Funny Valentine” – Jazz on Nylon #3

Music for today: one of my favorite songs from the Great American Songbook, the lovely “My Funny Valentine” from Roger & Hart, as played on classical guitar by French virtuoso Roland Dyens.

Rogers & Hart composed “My Funny Valentine” for the 1937 musical, Babes in Arms, & it was sung in the original production by Mitzi Green. The song was also featured in the 1957 film adaptation of Pal Joey (it was not part of the Broadway play on which the film is based). Interestingly, the song was not included in the 1939 film version of Babes in Arms directed by Busby Berkeley & starring Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland. There have been a number of notable versions of the song by jazz greats such as Miles Davis, Anita O’Day, Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughn & many more.

In addition to featuring one of Hart’s best lyrics, the song features a haunting minor key melody with an underlying harmonic structure built on a descending chromatic bass line leading from the tonic to the dominant chord. This particular chord structure comes up in any number of popular songs (just for example among very many, it’s also in the verse of “The Hotel California”!) but it works with particular effectiveness in this tune. “My Funny Valentine” was originally composed in C minor. It moves to Eb (the corresponding major key) in the bridge & also features a final resolution to Eb major in the tag, usually in some form of major 7 or 6 chord.

Roland Dyens is not only an accomplished classical guitar player; he’s also a composer of some note, as well as a skilled improviser, so it makes sense he’s able to make a jazz standard come alive on the classical guitar.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
The guitarist Roland Dyens in concert, Munich 8.April 2000. Image is by Wiki Commons user Hans Bernhard (Schnobby), & is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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