Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely: Analysis of Jazz Covers

Photo of Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder‘s “Isn’t She Lovely” is more than a song – it’s a timeless celebration of fatherhood and the boundless joy a new life brings.

Its tender melody and heartfelt lyrics have made it a beloved standard, but the world of jazz offers a whole new lens through which to experience this classic.

From Sonny Rollins‘ breezy saxophone explorations to Arturo Sandoval‘s fiery trumpet virtuosity, jazz masters have reimagined Wonder’s song with their own unique voices.

Get ready to delve into four captivating jazz covers of “Isn’t She Lovely”, each offering a fresh perspective on this enduring masterpiece.

Read Our ‘Marvin Gaye’s 18 Most Popular Songs’ Article!

Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely”, Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

While its familiar melody might now evoke grocery store aisles, “Isn’t She Lovely” first graced the world as part of Stevie Wonder‘s iconic 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life.

Yes, it exudes a certain ’70s charm, but Wonder’s soulful vocals and surprisingly nuanced composition make it a timeless gem.

The song’s upbeat bounce masks a complexity that sets it apart from typical pop radio fare.

Wonder weaves a harmonica solo that largely mirrors the verse melody, yet upon closer listening, reveals a tapestry of intricate layers – a steady drumbeat, a tambourine’s shimmer, and intertwining synth lines behind the main keyboard.

Wonder’s original reveals a masterful balance; a deceptively simple surface and a depth that rewards attentive listening.

Sonny Rollins’ “Isn’t She Lovely”, Easy Living (1977)

Sonny Rollins tackled “Isn’t She Lovely” a mere year after its debut, featuring it on his 1977 album Easy Living.

Joined by George Duke on keys, Tony Williams on drums, and a full band, this version embodies the album’s title to a T.

With a breezy, laid-back feel, it evokes images of cruise ships, cocktails, and casual sophistication.

Rollins’ smooth saxophone leads the way, at times playful and at others a tad predictable.

While his improvisations showcase his skill, the overall vibe leans a bit too heavily into smooth jazz territory, ultimately falling short of the captivating complexity found in other Rollins works.

Arturo Sandoval’s “Isn’t She Lovely”, Americana (1999)

Arturo Sandoval‘s 1999 album Americana features his own take on “Isn’t She Lovely”.

His fiery trumpet leads the charge, backed by a full ensemble and a wash of synthesizers.

While a testament to Sandoval’s technical brilliance, this rendition might strike some as a bit over-the-top.

However, don’t despair – promising covers lie ahead with Eric Harland on drums, suggesting a more nuanced and exciting exploration of this classic song.

Jacky Terrasson’s “Isn’t She Lovely”, Smile (2002)

Jacky Terrasson‘s “Isn’t She Lovely” appears on his 2002 album Smile, featuring his dynamic piano work alongside Eric Harland on drums and Remi Vignolo on bass.

This version kicks off with Harland’s propulsive, drum-and-bass style rhythms before Terrasson introduces the melody with a touch of dissonance, creating a delightfully off-kilter interpretation.

Terrasson shifts seamlessly between lush, consonant melodies and daringly dissonant passages, all anchored by Harland’s driving drums and Vignolo’s well-placed bass.

This trio offers a thrillingly fresh take on the song, showcasing their virtuosity and proving that “Isn’t She Lovely” can indeed be a vibrant platform for jazz exploration.

Aaron Goldberg’s “Isn’t She Lovely”, Home (2010)

Aaron Goldberg‘s 2010 album Home features a captivating piano trio rendition of “Isn’t She Lovely”.

Joined by the powerhouse drumming of Eric Harland and the solid bass work of Reuben Rogers, this version opens with a mesmerizing dance between Goldberg’s piano arpeggios and Harland’s nuanced percussion.

Throughout, Goldberg weaves intricate improvisations that honor the original melody while venturing into fresh, exciting territory.

The piece alternates between lush interpretations of the familiar theme and fiery, dynamic solos.

Harland’s propulsive rhythms provide a thrilling backbone, driving the trio towards a dazzling crescendo before its sudden, dramatic end.

This take highlights the trio’s remarkable interplay, showcasing their exceptional musicianship and their ability to breathe new life into a beloved classic.


Stevie Wonder‘s compositions possess an enduring depth that lends them beautifully to interpretation.

“Isn’t She Lovely” has inspired a wide range of approaches – some truly exceptional, others…well, let’s just say they exist.

The piano trio interpretations by Jacky Terrasson and Aaron Goldberg (the latter with Eric Harland on drums and Mark Turner on sax) stand out as exceptional examples.

Both showcase vibrant musicality and distinct improvisational styles.

While there might be other versions worth exploring, these offer a phenomenal starting point for appreciating the true potential of this classic tune within the world of jazz.

Read Our ‘Marvin Gaye’s 18 Most Popular Songs’ Article!

“Isn’t She Lovely” FAQ

What album is Stevie Wonder’s Isnt She Lovely on?

“Isn’t She Lovely” was origianlly released on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life album in 1976.

What instrument is being played in Isn’t She Lovely?

The main instrument heard in the original version of Isn’t She Lovely is Stevie Wonder’s harmonica although Wonder also sings and plays percussions, RMI Electra Piano, Fender Rhodes, bass synth, and drums on the track. Greg Phillinganes also features on the song on keyboards.

What is Isn’t She Lovely about?

Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” was written for his daughter Aisha Morris and a recording of Morris bathing as a toddler can be heard during the final section of the song.

What key is Isn’t She Lovely in?

Isn’t She Lovely is written in the key of E Major

What song form is Isn’t She Lovely?

“Isn’t She Lovely” is in AB form, but preceded by an intro section.

What tempo is Isn’t She Lovely?

The original “Isn’t She Lovely” from Stevie Wonder’s 1976 Songs in the Key of Life has a tempo of 119 BPM.

When did Stevie Wonder write Isn’t She Lovely?

Stevie Wonder wrote “Isn’t She Lovely” in 1976 and it was first released on his Songs in the Key of Life that same year.