A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart” is from the pop side of Duke Ellington’s output. Ellington used the royalties he got from his songwriting to pay much of his band’s salaries during their constant touring schedule, and he wrote many of these “ditties” for that purpose. During the 1930s, there was a big crossover between pop music and jazz, so a band like Ellington’s could play a pop song like this one moment and a jazz instrumental like “Concerto For Cootie” the next.

Ellington wrote “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart” in 1938, which placed it just before the period when he had his famous band with bassist Jimmy Blanton and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, which was one of his creative peaks. (Indeed, some people consider it to be the best period of his long career.) he song is mostly performed as a medium tempo vocal number but also sounds great when played as an instrumental.

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.)

Duke Ellington Orchestra

Listen to how the trombones “comp” behind the sax melody!

Thelonious Monk: Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington

Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz: Diz & Getz

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
I used to play “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart” with a jazz vocal group when I was in college. Looking back, this was perhaps the best experience I could have ever had for learning these jazz standards. It wasn’t like I just played for an occasional vocalist. I was playing dozens of vocal tunes every night and even though I grew up long after most of these songs had disappeared from the radio, I learned them the way that the older jazz musicians had learned them; as real songs, not just notes on a page.

These days, we all need to create this type of musical environment for ourselves. Whether it’s sitting down and singing lyrics for ourselves, listening to Ella Fitzgerald recordings in the car every day, or working with jazz vocalists, it’s essential that we immerse ourselves in this repertoire for a time. Jazz versions of The Great American Songbook are exactly that: jazz versions. We need to know what we’re interpreting. Then we can “fly!”

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

Further links and resources:
How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively

I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart: Journey Through The Real Book #161

Jazz Piano Video Course
This extensive, well-sequenced video course will get you playing jazz standards with a sense of flow and fluency.

Jazz Piano Lessons via Skype
Personal guidance from an expert, caring teacher. Beginning through Advanced.

Take a Free Jazz Piano Lesson

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