A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Easter Parade” is one of songwriter Irving Berlin’s most famous songs. It wasn’t in the original Real Book, probably because it isn’t widely played by jazz musicians any more (it was composed in 1933). As pianists, though, we can have fun performing it solo, and I especially enjoy playing it as a stride piece.

I remember once, when I was in college, playing a lively, stride version of “Easter Parade” on an upright piano while waiting for a class to begin. I really jazzed it up and before I knew it, everyone on the hallway, including the music department head, had poured out of their offices and classrooms to come join the fun! Seasonal tunes can get a very positive response like this, so be sure to include some in your repertoire.

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.)

Fred Astaire and Judy Garland: from the movie “Easter Parade” (video)

Roy Eldridge

Oscar Peterson: The Complete Songbooks 1951-1955

Bobby Hackett: Live At The Roosevelt Grill Vol. 2

A nice, early-jazz inspired rendition. Dave McKenna’s piano solo begins at 1:20.

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
It’s fun to learn a few holiday songs like “Easter Parade” that sound great when played in a jazz style. Learn to play it with a simple stride pattern in your LH, “jazz up” the RH melody with a few syncopations, and you’ll be all set to liven up the mood in your home if you celebrate Easter. (You can actually do this with songs from just about any holiday, sacred or secular.)

Songs like “Easter Parade” remind us that there wasn’t always a big gap between the worlds of popular music and jazz. Listen to the above recordings to see what I mean. Even in its “straight” version, from the movie of the same name, “Easter Parade” had an underlying swing feel and could have a jazzy sensibility, depending on the style and individual taste of each performer.

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

Further links and resources:
Easter Parade: Wikipedia
I found it interesting to learn that Irving Berlin originally composed the song with different lyrics, and rewrote the words 17 years later

Easter Parade: Journey Through The Real Book #103

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