A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Gypsy In My Soul” is a medium/up tempo swinger that’s been performed by countless vocalists and instrumentalists over the years. Like another standard, “East Of The Sun,” it was composed for a college theatrical production. In the case of “Gypsy,” it was written by two graduates of the University of Pennsylvania in 1937 for a show at their alma mater. (“East Of The Sun,” by the way, was written by Princeton University undergraduates for a Princeton Triangle Club production in 1936. I orchestrated eighteen Princeton Triangle shows over the years and am proud to have been part of this great musical tradition.)

Clay Boland composed the music and his former classmate Moe Jaffe wrote the lyric to “Gypsy In My Soul,” and it’s a favorite of both Broadway and jazz vocalists. I don’t know many jazz instrumentalists who play it, but you will find excellent recordings like the one by Oscar Peterson that I’ve linked to below. This is because once-upon-a-time, jazz instrumentalists could still sell a lot of records and get radio airplay if they recorded Broadway 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.)

Ella Fitzgerald: Volume 19

Oscar Peterson: A Night In Stratford

Check out how Peterson harmonizes the melody with block chords

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Gypsy In My Soul” is a pretty easy tune to learn, so it’s a good “beginner/early intermediate” level piece to practice improvising over. The melody is constructed around just two main melodic motifs, so there’s lots of repetition. The chords to the ‘A’ Section consist of the common I vi/ii/V “Heart And Soul” chord progression, in the key of Eb. The bridge is just a repeating ii-V in F and then the same down a whole step in Eb. Easy to learn at first, but then what you do with it is up to you and your imagination!

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

Further links and resources:

Gypsy In My Soul: Journey Through The Real Book #144

How To Learn Jazz Piano
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