A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano
History and overview:
I personally have a soft spot for “Here’s That Rainy Day,” because I had the good fortune to sit next the wonderful pianist Barry Levitt when he played it on the Broadway stage every night for the 1995 musical, Swinging On A Star. (I was Barry’s assistant music director and played keyboards most evenings.) Barry Levitt can accompany a vocalist on a rubato ballad like no one else!
“Here’s That Rainy Day” can also be played in tempo, of course, and is one of the all-time great ballads from what’s now considered The Great American Songbook. Composed in 1953 by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Johnny Burke (who also wrote the words to “Swinging On A Star”), it’s one of those jazz ballads that is great to play and also goes over well with audiences because of it’s lyrical melody and emotional arc.
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.)
Bill Evans: Alone
Singers Unlimited and Oscar Peterson Trio
Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The leadsheet for “Here’s That Rainy Day” has received a long-needed overhaul in the newer editions of The Real Book. For years, The Real Book included some nice chord substitutions but had inexplicably put the song in a minor key! Happily, this has been corrected in the current 6th edition, which is closer to both the original sheet music and to how jazz musicians have always played the tune.
There’s a direct but subtle relationship between the song’s music and lyrics that’s highlighted by the use of the major key. The words speak of regret and acceptance of lost love. With a minor key, the effect would be tragic. But the songwriter’s wanted the emotional tone of the song to be multi-layered. The major tonality may lend a touch of optimism that “maybe things will get better.” Or perhaps it evokes a pleasant memory of the sweetness of the love that was “good while it lasted.” There are probably many ways to interpret this that can bring richness to our musical interpretations, in both vocal and instrumental performances.
Along these same lines, there’s also a beautiful contrast between the C minor chord at the 1st ending and the C major chord at the 2nd ending. Each is like a separate chapter in a developing story. Recognizing this parallel yet different relationship can greatly help shape our performance of the tune, both while playing the melody and during our improvised solos.
Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”
Further links and resources:
Here’s That Rainy Day: Wikipedia
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