Playing Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris” as a jazz piano solo

Our journey through the Real Book has brought us to #162, which is Cole Porter’s great song “I Love Paris.”

Playing a jazz interpretation of a song like “I Love Paris” leads us into fascinating places because the piece itself isn’t mainstream jazz, or even mainstream popular music of the 1950s, when it was composed.

By contrast, if we’re playing a tune like “Confirmation,” we immediately have a kind of style in mind. It’s a bebop tune by Charlie Parker and we’ll almost always play it as a straight-ahead bebop tune. And if we’re playing a typical standard from the swing era, we’ll play it as we each have become accustomed to playing those types of tunes (I’m speaking about how we usually play these tunes in actual practice).

A song such as “I Love Paris” immediately presents us with a wider range of interpretations because of the song’s lyric and its musical implications.

Basically, the song is about the joys of being in Paris, and finding love there. (Perhaps a romanticized version of events, but wonderful nevertheless!) Because of this, many performers and arrangers have brought a traditional French musical sensibility to their interpretations. Let’s begin with Michel Legrand’s arrangement, from his debut album. Listen to how he uses the accordion to evoke the sounds of Paris.

Michel Legrand: I Love Paris

Next, let’s enjoy Ella Fitzgerald’s recording, which stays pretty close to how Cole Porter himself envisioned the song.

Ella Fitzgerald: I Love Paris

Oscar Peterson took a different approach by treating the tune as a straight-up jazz standard. It sounds wonderful like this too!

Oscar Peterson: I Love Paris

So as it turns out, there’s a rich history of musical interpretations that we pianists can draw from as we play a song like “I Love Paris.” Here’s my own version, in which I demonstrate how to combine these various approaches in a highly personal way.

I Love Paris: Journey Through The Real Book #162

Listening to these recordings for inspiration can go a long way towards helping us with our jazz piano playing, as we develop our understanding of both the popular song and jazz traditions.

Enjoy the journey and “let the music flow!”


Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You’ll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration

Leave a Comment

Sign up for Blog Updates