It’s getting dark, and it’s almost time for dinner, and it’s Friday, and it’s Valentine’s Day. So put on these jazz tunes and be one with your libido.
1. ETTA JONES, ‘Till There Was You’
No, not Etta James. (“At Last” will not be on this list.) Here Etta Jones takes us, in ballad tempo, through Meredith Wilson’s classic 1957 composition, written for The Music Man.
2. JOHNNY HARTMAN, ‘They Say It’s Wonderful’
Johnny Hartman was underappreciated in his lifetime, but his astoundingly deep baritone makes him the ultimate balladeer. (No wonder Clint Eastwood featured Hartman’s voice in the romantic drama The Bridges of Madison County.)
3. RED GARLAND, ‘The Very Thought of You’
Best known as the pianist in Miles Davis’s excellent 1950s quintet, Red Garland nevertheless had a fruitful career as a solo artist. His chord voicings, rich and colorful, are sui generis.
4. MICHELLE PFEIFFER, ‘Makin’ Whoopee’/’My Funny Valentine’
If you haven’t seen the part from The Fabulous Baker Boys (the most underrated movie of 1989) in which Michelle Pfeiffer lies down on a piano and croons “Makin’ Whoopee” in a red dress as Jeff Bridges accompanies her at the keyboard, do so now.
5. ELLA FITZGERALD AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG, ‘The Nearness of You’
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong were never romantically involved, but their musical bond on this record is extraordinary.
6. ERROLL GARNER, ‘Exactly Like You’
Erroll Garner’s popular ballad, “Misty,” could very well have been on this list, but here’s a tune you may not have heard before.
7. DINAH WASHINGTON, ‘Cold Cold Heart’
Originally composed and performed by the country music singer Hank Williams, Dinah Washington brings her own form of bluesy expression to this sad but romantic song.
8. BILLIE HOLIDAY, ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’
“This one’s my favorite,” the writer Teju Cole said on Twitter today, “because oh my heart God Almighty won’t someone please do something.”
9. HOUSTON PERSON, ‘My Romance’
Houston Person is the king of the sexy ballad. (Oh, the breathiness of that saxophone!)
10. BLOSSOM DEARIE, ‘They Say It’s Spring’
“Everything about Blossom Dearie,” the late New Yorker jazz critic Whitney Balliett once wrote, “is just right.”