“Hey jazz pianists! Let’s play the great song from the new hit movie!”

Let’s imagine for a moment that we go see a new movie at the local theater. The movie is a big hit and everyone we know has seen it too. There’s a melodic, emotional song in the movie’s soundtrack during a climactic scene, and within a few days we begin hearing this song on the radio, in many different versions by many different singers and instrumentalists.

Does this scenario sound crazy? Unrealistic?

Well, it may be difficult to believe these days, but once upon a time, this scenario was commonplace. It happened all the time and I’m especially thinking of the 1937 movie “Easy Living,” which featured the hit song of the same name.

Yep, during the music era which produced what’s now known as The Great American Songbook, this happened all the time. People flocked to the movie theater to see a big film like Easy Living (homes didn’t have TVs yet) and came away humming a song or two from the soundtrack. This part of the story sometimes still exists, like with the song “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic.

Back then, however, the musical excitement would be just beginning! After the movie hit the theaters, all types of musical artists would rush to record their own interpretations of the song, capitalizing on the song’s popularity.

Here’s the great jazz vocalist Billie Holiday singing “Easy Living,” with Teddy Wilson on piano and her musical alter-ego Lester Young on tenor saxophone:

Billie Holiday: Easy Living (1937)

Many of the popular songs from that era have become jazz standards over the years, and are still widely played by jazz musicians today. They serve as wonderful vehicles for self-expression through improvisation. Here’s my own solo piano rendition of “Easy Living.” It features the slow stride LH pattern which I find so relaxing to play. This style is both reminiscent of the 1930s and timeless in its own way.

Easy Living: Journey Through The Real Book #104

Stay positive, keep your music fresh, and “let the music flow!”


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