A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Easy Living” was composed in 1937 by Ralph Rainer with lyrics by Leo Robin. To put this in perspective, this is in the Swing Era about nine years before the first bebop recordings were made. It’s a wonderful tune that’s frequently played y both instrumentalists and vocalists. Learning a few of the lyrics will help you play the melody with a feeling that’s rooted in the song’s tradition.

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

From 1937, featuring the great Swing Era pianist Teddy Wilson

Bill Evans: New Jazz Conceptions

Dexter Gordon: Bouncin' with Dex

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
What a great song! I first heard “Easy Living’ in the Billie Holiday version linked to below and I’ve been in love with it ever since. There’s something about how Holiday sings a song that makes me believe that everything she’s saying is what she really feels. Not many vocalists have this ability, but Holiday did. She sang each song as if it was the only thing that existed in that moment, and we can all learn from this. The great piano players are the ones who give 150% percent and truly “live” the music.

“Easy Living” begins with a classic chromatically-ascending chord progression that gives us many possibilities for improvisation. The bridge features beautiful modulation to the key of the flatted-sixth, just like the song “Dream A Little Dream” does. Recognizing connections between songs like this is helpful because we’re not “reinventing the wheel” all the time. Once we a chord progression from one song, we already know it when we see it in another tune.

A relaxed left hand stride pattern works especially well with a song like “Easy Living.” This is how it was played for decades “back in the day” and it still sounds great today!

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

Further links and resources:
Easy Living: Wikipedia

Easy Living: Journey Through The Real Book #104

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