I know I am in the middle of a series of posts on Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8, but today is Valentine’s Day. So much music has been written, played and inspired by the emotions of love and love lost, I couldn’t let February 14th go by without some acknowledgment.
One of the best albums to play late in the evening, with the lights down low, is “Ballads” from the John Coltrane Quartet. This classic record was released in 1963, and features John Coltrane on tenor sax, Elvin Jones on drums, McCoy Tyner on piano and Jimmy Garrison on bass. (Reggie Workman plays bass on “It’s Easy to Remember”)
The story goes that the group had never actually played these tunes together before, although this quartet worked together over 250 nights a year and could read each other’s musical mind. It almost reaches the level of telepathy when master musicians like these four men can work together as a unit. The four of them, with Coltrane as leader, had sheet music they brought in, sort of rehearsed a bit, then recorded each tune in one take. (With the exception of “All or Nothing at All”) I never get tired of this album.
Murray Horowitz on NPR said of this recording, “We’re not talking about just “make out” music here. That’s too good. This is “falling in love” music”. Isn’t that what the mythology of Valentine’s Day is supposed to be all about? Here is the entire 33 minute album. If you don’t know what to do with this, you need more help than I can give you on my blog.
Of course not everyone’s Valentine’s Day can go the way they want. One of my favorite recordings of the endlessly recorded standard “My Funny Valentine” is from 1964. This is a live version recorded by the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring a young Herbie Hancock and a very young Tony Williams. The cool, vibrato-less tone that Miles plays the trumpet with is just perfect for this ballad. As I said the last time I put this Davis performance on the blog, his tone embodies the pleading, yearning, longing, pining, tortured and bittersweet emotion of a lover just out of reach. Stay little Valentine, stay. The moment when the band comes in at about 2:56 in the track just floors me every time.
So there you have it, a selection for if your Valentine’s day is going well, and one for if it is not. There is Good Music for every occasion.