A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
While writing this, I was surprised to learn that “I’ll Remember April” was written in 1942. (I’ve always associated it with the 1950s, since the recordings I’ve known are all from that decade.) And, believe it or not, the song was first introduced in an Abbot and Costello movie comedy! (No, they didn’t sing it themselves.)

But that’s the way it was back then. The public loved ballads, and songwriters produced wonderful songs every week, for movies, the Broadway stage, and for radio play. This was the popular music of the pre-rock era and “I’ll Remember April” was typical of its time. It’s a lush, beautiful ballad in the tradition of “Stardust” and “Over The Rainbow.”

These songs were covered by pop singers and jazz musicians alike. And when the jazzers arranged them, they sometimes sped up the tempos and added rhythmic syncopations. That’s why we usually think of “I’ll Remember April” as an uptempo jazz number these days, since we don’t hear the older pop ballad recordings of the song much anymore. It’s left its pop roots behind and become a true “jazz standard.”

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.)

Clifford Brown - Max Roach Quintet

Charles Mingus Sextet with Bud Powell: Juan-les-Pins, France (1961)

Keith Jarrett Trio: Tokyo ‘96

Jarrett plays a spectacular first chorus on solo piano before the rest of the trio comes in. Listen to how he adapts his signature ostinato style to each chord as he moves through the progression.

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“I’ll Remember April” has a slightly unusual form. It’s ABA with each section containing 16 measures. This makes it 48 measures long instead the “usual” 32 measures in a more typical AABA standard song.

As a pop song, the melody was often sung over a ballad feel with 2 beats per measure. Jazz musicians often play it at a medium/up tempo with a Latin rhythm during the ‘A’ Sections and a swing feel for the bridge. Changing musical styles between Latin and swing like this is a great way to continually breathe fresh energy into a tune, both while playing the melody and while soloing.

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

Further links and resources:
Keith Jarrett piano solo transcription

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