Ideas for playing Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” on piano

Have you ever played Duke Ellington’s tune “Come Sunday?” It’s in The Real Book, so you can easily find a leadsheet, but that’s only the beginning of a wonderful musical exploration.

The song was originally written for Ellington’s extended piece “Black, Brown, and Beige,” and was intended to represent a church service and perhaps also the religious or spiritual element of people’s lives. This is probably why it sounds like the combination of a jazz ballad and a hymn or spiritual.

We can bring all of these elements into our piano interpretations.

“Come Sunday” can be played as a straight jazz ballad. Or we can treat it as a hymn, with lush jazz harmonies. We can even go further, and bring in the general vibe of Ellington’s music, which often included very extended harmonies and overtone-like sounds. And, since “Come Sunday” evokes a church hymn, we can even do a little “text painting” and play bell-like chord voicings, which stay true to Ellington’s sound while being specific to the nature of the song itself.

I enjoy using all of these ideas when I play “Come Sunday.” Here’s my solo piano versions, which I hope will inspire you to explore this great piece of Ellingtonia yourself:

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

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