A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
One of the great “location” songs, “Autumn In New York” paints a picture of New York City that goes way beyond the visual landscape. Composed by Vernon Duke in 1934, for the Broadway musical Thumbs Up!, it quickly became a favorite of jazz musicians.

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.)

Billie Holiday

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Listen to how well vocalist Billie Holiday evokes the beauty, joy and pathos that’s expressed by the lyric. She does this with her sensitivity to phrasing, by varying the tonal quality of her voice, and by changing the melody at will to highlight different aspects of the lyric. This type of singing can teach us how to reach deeper musical and emotional levels in how we play melodies on piano, particularly on ballads like this.

Structurally, “Autumn In New York” is a little harder to memorize than most other standard songs because the sections don’t repeat. Each 8-bar section brings us something new, just like every neighborhood in a big city like New York. When you’re practicing the tune, make sure that you spend a good amount of time practicing each section individually, and then go back and string them together for a complete performance.

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

Further links and resources:
Autumn In New York: Journey Through The Real Book #24

Autumn In New York playalong track

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

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