A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Isn’t It Romantic” is one of several Rodgers and Hart songs in The Real Book (“My Funny Valentine” is probably the most famous of these). It’s a true “standard” and works equally well with vocals or as an instrumental.

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote the song for the 1932 movie Love Me Tonight. It’s ironic that long after most of these classic movies have been (largely) forgotten, their songs are still widely performed!

You can play “Isn’t It Romantic” at either as a ballad or at a medium swing tempo.

Recommended videos/recordings:
(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.)

Mel Tormé: Lana Turner Tribute

Gigi Gryce and Donald Byrd: Jazz Lab

Bill Evans Trio: Live at Shelly’s Manne-Hole

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Like many Rodgers and Hart songs, “Isn’t It Romantic” is based around a standard I vi/ii/V chord pattern. (“Blue Moon” is another of their classics to do the same thing.) This makes it easy to learn, since when you learn this progression in one tune, you already know it.

Have you ever noticed how Richard Rodgers wrote a lot of his greatest melodies using only the major scale, with chromaticism? Check out the melody to “Isn’t It Romantic.” The only accidentals you’ll see are the two Bb’s. Other than that, it’s all in pure Eb major. A diatonic melody. Same with “My Romance,” for instance. This gives his songs an instant “singability” and melodicism. It’s the sophisticated harmony that makes the song sound harmonically rich. Keep this in mind as you play it, and try improvising both ways: first by staying primarily within the Eb major scale, and then by using a lot of chromaticism in the form of passing notes, neighbor notes, and upper chord extensions and alterations. It’s a great tune!

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

Further links and resources:
Isn’t It Romantic: Wikipedia

Shirley Horn on Piano Jazz
Radio interview with the great pianist/vocalist Shirley Horn my host Marian McPartland. Includes a performance of “Isn’t It Romantic”

How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively

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

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