A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“But Beautiful” is a song that’s very close to my heart, having played it every night on the Broadway stage in the musical “Swinging On A Star.” Composed in 1947 by the great songwriting team Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, it was sung by Bing Crosby in the movie Road To Rio.

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.)

Bing Crosby: from the movie Road To Rio (video)

Tony Bennett and Bill Evans:The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album

Stan Getz with the Bill Evans Trio

Chet Baker: September Song

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The melody to “But Beautiful” makes extensive use of motifs, which are repeated and developed on various scale-steps throughout the chord progression. Study these very carefully, and practice making up your own short melodic phrases and developing them in your solos, using the melody to “But Beautiful” as a model.

The song also features a wonderful chord progression which is fun to improvise on. You can also spend a lot of time embellishing and improvising off the melody.

Structurally, the song consists of a series of melodic arcs, or “waves,” each one getting higher and more expressive until the high point is reached 6 measures from the end.

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

Further links and resources:
How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively

But Beautiful: Journey Through The Real Book #48

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

Jazz Piano Video Course
This extensive, well-sequenced video course will get you playing jazz standards with a sense of flow and fluency.

Jazz Piano Lessons via Skype
Personal guidance from an expert, caring teacher. Beginning through Advanced.

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