A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
Although “I Love Paris” is one of Cole Porter’s songwriting gems, I’m a little surprised they’ve included it in the new edition of The Real Book. (It wasn’t in the original versions.) Porter wrote it for his 1953 musical Can-Can and although there have in fact been some great jazz recordings of the song (see below) it’s not really played by jazz musicians anymore.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn it, however. “Love Paris” is one of Cole Porter’s best songs and whether you play it jazzy, semi-classical, or whatever, it’s well worth the effort!

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

Coleman Hawkins

Charlie Parker: Plays Cole Porter

Michel Legrand: I Love Paris

A stunning orchestral arrangement from 1954, arranged by Michel Legrand at the young age of 22!

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
To learn “I Love Paris,” start by listening to the 4 recordings I’ve linked to above. Just reading off the leadsheet in The Real Book won’t give you the flavor of the song, which combines charm and passion.

These recordings will also show you the wide range of possible interpretations you can take with it on piano. For example, do you want to play bebop lick over the changes, like Charlie Parker did? Or do you want to mimic the Parisian accordion playing that Michel Legrand used in his orchestration? Or perhaps Ella Fitzgerald’s interpretation of the lyric inspires you to come up with your own way of playing the song?

In addition to these ideas, I also like to sometimes play big arpeggios in my left hand on this tune, kind of like Chopin wrote in his Revolutionary Etude. “I Love Paris” isn’t a typical jazz tune, and we can use this to our advantage by exploring lots of varied musical possibilities and approaches on the piano

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

Further links and resources:
Michel Legrand interview
The legendary arranger recalls making his I Love Paris album (see recording above) and his collaborations with Miles Davis

I Love Paris: Journey Through The Real Book #162

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