A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
Not to be confused with the 1986 Lionel Ritchie pop song of the same name, this 1930 song was written by Rodgers and Hart for the Broadway musical “Ever Green.” It’s has a lovely melody that’s very representative of the Great American Songbook era and is fun to improvise over in a jazz style.

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.)

Ella Fitzgerald: The Nat King Cole TV Show, 1957 (video)

Chet Baker: It Could Happen To You

George Shearing Quintet: Velvet Carpet

This is a beautiful rendition of the tune from 1956. If it doesn’t sound as “jazzy” as most of Shearing’s other work, keep in mind that in the 1950’s, a jazz artist could still get their music heard on “pop” radio, especially if they added a lush string section a la Frank Sinatra and other popular singers of the day.

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Dancing On The Ceiling” is a wonderful tune to play. It’s fairly typical of a lot of Richard Rodgers’ songs in that the melody is almost entirely diatonic, staying entirely within the F major scale except for only two notes. Rodgers creates interest by using chromatic harmony and by implying a temporary modulation to Bb major during the bridge.

You can play a song like this in many ways, ranging from a lyrical “2-beat” to hard-driving jazz. Listen to the recordings I’ve linked to above and hear how the various artists played the tune in their own ways. You can stay within one approach or combine them, starting lyrically and then “digging in” during your second chorus, for example.

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

Further links and resources:
Dancing On The Ceiling: Wikipedia

Dancing On The Ceiling: Journey Through The Real Book #80

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