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My One and Only Love (1953)

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Origin and Chart Information
“...tenor saxophonist Bennie Wallace seems able to reference a panoply of jazz legends in his playing ... This is a fantastic, underrecognized album.”

- Andrew Bartlett

AKAMusic from Beyond the Moon
Rank 97
Words and Music Guy Wood
Robert Mellin

In the liner notes for Ella Swings Gently with Nelson, jazz critic Benny Green comments, “’My One and Only Love’ is one of the most finely wrought ballads to be written in the postwar period.” While many would agree with Green now, the song was far from an instant hit.

The song originated in 1947 as “Music from Beyond the Moon,” with music by Guy B. Wood and lyrics by Jack Lawrence. In 1948 Vic Damone recorded the song as did Tony Martin the following year, but neither could generate a hit.


More on Guy Wood at JazzBiographies.com

More on Jack Lawrence at JazzBiographies.com

And then Robert Mellin appeared on the scene. Mellin fit the ballad with a new set of lyrics, and the public took notice. The song was included on the flip side of Frank Sinatra’s 1953 recording of “I’ve Got the World on a String” and rose to number 28 on the charts.


More on Robert Mellin at JazzBiographies.com

More on Frank Sinatra at JazzBiographies.com

Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

- Jeremy Wilson

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Following the song’s A1-A2-B-A3 format, Lawrence’s lyrics for the first A section start and end with, “You came along and filled my empty arms … Music from beyond the moon.” Robert Mellin matches that with “The very thought of you makes my heart sing … My one and only love.” Lawrence’s lyrics have seven syllables as opposed to the six in Mellin’s “My One and Only Love.” Lawrence fits in his extra syllable by shoehorning “from” into the same space as the “be” part of “beyond.” For those who would like to hear the original “Music from Beyond the Moon,” it can be found on Vic Damone’s CD’s Again, Young Vic and Cocktail Hour.


Musical analysis of “My One and Only Love”

Original Key C Major; false key change to E minor during the bridge
Form A1 - A2 – B – A3
Tonality “A” is primarily major; “B” is minor
Movement Generally upward by steps, occasional skips, and an occasional leap; descent is by step, skip and leap. It’s a fairly busy melody with few sustained or long pitches.

Comments     (assumed background)

Descending bass makes for a nice contrast with the ascending melodic line and creates interesting chord inversions. Initial chord progression is common, I – II7 – V7, but the descending bass and embellishing chords give it a sophisticated sound.

Generally, the “A” is extremely active both melodically (mainly eighth notes jumping everywhere) and harmonically (a chord change every two beats and sometimes on every beat due to the bass movement.) After this, the relative simplicity of “B” with its repetition and repeated motivic figures is a relief giving the performer a chance to catch his/her breath before returning to “A”.

K. J. McElrath - Musicologist for JazzStandards.com

Check out K. J. McElrath’s book of Jazz Standards Guide Tone Lines at his web site (www.bardicle.com).
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Soundtrack information
“My One and Only Love” was included in these films:
  • They All Laughed (1981, Art Tatum and Ben Webster)
  • Let’s Get Lost (1988, Chet Baker) documentary of Baker
  • Leaving Las Vegas (1995, Sting)
Also on This Page...

Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments

Jazz History Notes
Getting Started
CD Recommendations
Listen and Compare
By the Same Writers...

Jazz History Notes

Tenor saxophonist Charlie Ventura came to prominence with Gene Krupa’s Orchestra. His 1953 recording of “My One and Only Love” is a marvelous treatment of the tune and the first instrumental jazz treatment.

A year later, Benny Carter, the multi-talented Swing-era icon, recorded a beautiful, lyrical version on alto saxophone. Carter was an amazing musician who weathered the stylistic changes in jazz, and his career continued unabated until his death in 2003 at age 94.

In 1955, ex-Lionel Hampton trombonist Jimmy Cleveland’s first album as leader contained a first-rate rendition of the number, plus wonderful tenor saxophone by Lucky Thompson.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

benny carter
3, 4, 5: the verve small group sessions
polygram records

Charlie Ventura
Classics 1363

Jimmy Cleveland
Introducing Jimmy Cleveland
Polygram Records 543752

Getting Started
This section suggests definitive or otherwise significant recordings that will help jazz students get acquainted with “My One and Only Love.” These recordings have been selected from the Jazz History and CD Recommendations sections.

The discussion of definitive versions of “My One and Only Love” (John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman) begins and ends with John Coltrane’s version featuring the vocals of Johnny Hartman. We get to hear both vocal and instrumental renditions of the melody in this performance, and both the singing and playing are masterful and widely influential.

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
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Grant Green
Born to Be Blue
1990 Blue Note 84432
Original recording 1961
Tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec enjoyed a fruitful relationship with the much younger guitarist Grant Green, and this performance was one of their last together, as Quebec was at this point nearing the end of his short life. Both Quebec and Green show considerable soul and tenderness as they interpret “My One and Only Love.”
Chick Corea
Now He Sings Now He Sobs
2002 Blue Note 38265
Original recording 1968
When this landmark trio album by Chick Corea was reissued on CD, it came with a number of previously unreleased bonus tracks. Among them is his rendition of “My One and Only Love,” a rare glimpse of Corea’s approach to standards at the time. He takes the song at a brisk tempo and plays the melody very elusively, displaying his flow, creativity and interaction with his trio-mates, bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Roy Haynes.

- Noah Baerman

John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman
John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman
1995, GRP157
Original recording, 1963, Impulse!
This is considered by many to be the definitive version of the song. Reviewer Richard S. Ginell comments "... Coltrane's eloquence and the warm, masculine baritone of Hartman can still break your heart."'
Horace Silver
Stylings of Silver
2002, Blue Note
Original recording, 1957
Pianist Silver gives the ballad some color without straying too far. Saxophonist Hank Mobley and trumpeter Art Farmer paint the background, allowing Silver to stay in the forefront.
Carmen McRae
Here to Stay
Original recording 1955
McRae sings “My One and Only Love” with characteristic reverence and subtlety. Her backing band here is led by Dutch accordionist Mat Matthews and features the great drummer Kenny Clarke and a young Herbie Mann on flute.
Cassandra Wilson
Blue Skies
2002 Winter & Winter 919018
Original recording 1988
Vocalist Wilson’s brightly swinging performance of “My One and Only Love” showcases her command over phrasing and expression. She begins in a duet with bassist Lonnie Plaxico before pianist Mulgrew Miller and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington join in and bring the energy up several notches.
McCoy Tyner
Things Ain't What They Used To Be
1990 Blue Note 93598

Pianist Tyner performs a duet here with the great, underrated tenor saxophonist George Adams, making one of his last recorded appearances. Both players find a remarkable balance between intimate lyricism and muscular passion.
Ranee Lee
Seasons of Love
1997, Justin Time 103

Vocalist Ranee Lee delivers a smoldering rendition of the song that is high on emotion and elegantly arranged.
Jimmy Rowles/Red Mitchell/Donald Bailey
1994, Capri 74009
Original recording, 1998
Three masters investigate this standard, handling it very gently.
Bennie Wallace
Old Songs
1993, Audioquest 1017

There’s a certain sense of irreverence about the tenor saxophonist whose octave leaps can shake you out of the doldrums, but “My One and Only Love” gets the full romantic treatment here.

- Ben Maycock

Written by the Same Composer(s)...
This section shows the jazz standards written by the same writing team.

Robert Mellin and Guy Wood

Year Rank Title
1953 97 My One and Only Love

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