Vocal phrasing of a melody - My Funny Valentine (part 2)

This is really a continuation of my previous post about rhythmically worked-out backphrasing.  I thought it might be interesting to take some of my favourite singers' versions of My Funny Valentine and see exactly what they are doing. 

Here is Chet Baker from "The Best of Chet Baker Sings" - one of my first vocal jazz records.  On it are simple and beautiful versions of 20 songs every jazz musician should know.  Chet's phrasing leans towards triplet-type figures.  The exact rhythm in measure 5 is hard to notate- it's looser rhythmically so triplets like a good approximation.  And this is the simplest of the three versions I chose to look at.  Here is the original clip.

Next I chose the version by Sarah Vaughan from "In The City of Lights".  It's one of my all time favourite live vocal jazz records.  Sarah is super adventurous in this double live album, recorded later in her life (1985).  The whole track is an intense interaction between her and her pianist, Frank Collett.  Consider how much she puts into these first eight bars, and it only escalates from there for over eight minutes.  After they finish she demonstrates how much the two of them are feeding off of each other by revisiting the ending, really going over the top to show they are creating something new for the audience every night.  Here are the first eight bars.

Finally, here is Carmen McRae.  Although this version is the one I am more familiar with from a standards compilation, this transcription is from a later live recording someone initially gave me on a mixtape, which makes it harder to track down.  Carmen is probably my favourite interpreter of standards because she always surprises me, even though sometimes it seems like it might not work out-- to me, it always does.  Here is the audio clip.

This feels like a three-parter, I'll have to look at instrumentalists playing these eight measures their own way--  stay tuned.  Meanwhile a 1980's version of Carmen is available on YouTube if these 8 bar snippets whetted your appetite.


Leave a comment

Add comment