A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“April In Paris” is one of the great Broadway songs that’s become a jazz standard. It was composed by Vernon Duke in 1932 with lyrics by E. Y. Harburg. The song works well in many different formats, from solo piano and trio to larger groups including big band.

Here are some recommended recordings/videos:
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album names wherever possible so you can listen to them on music streaming services, etc.)

Count Basie: April In Paris

Charlie Parker: Charlie Parker With Strings. The Master Takes

Listen to how wonderfully Bird embellishes the melody.

Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Himself

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
One thing I especially love about “April In Paris” is how the chords unfold. The tune starts off with some relatively standard ii/V/I’s, but there’s a catch: some of the chords come in a beat “early” (on he 4th beat of the previous measure, instead of waiting until the next downbeat). When you encounter this, you need to make a decision: either play the chord underneath the melody note on beat 4, or play the melody note on beat 4 and wait one more beat to play the new chord. Play the tune once or twice and you’ll immediately see what I mean. (When you’re soloing, you don’t need to anticipate the chords like this.)

Later on in the tune, the chords begin unfolding in a series of beautiful, descending sequences, beginning on different starting notes and only lasting 2 beats each, as opposed to 4 at the beginning. This change in harmonic rhythm gives the tune a sense of development which can help you as an improviser. You’ll naturally play different lines over these contrasting sections which will automatically give your solo some variety and interest, which is different from a tune like “Take The ‘A’ Train,” for example.

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

Further links and resources:
April In Paris: Journey Through The Real Book #19

This medium/slow stride style, although common during the swing era, is relatively rare these days. It’s definitely worth learning, though, it’s fun to play and so many jazz standards sound great in this style!

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

April In Paris: Wikipedia

April In Paris playalong track

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