A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“It’s Easy To Remember” is one of the all-time great ballads in what’s now called The Great American Songbook. This means that it was a popular song from the pre-rock era (roughly 1920 – 1955).

The songwriting team of Rodgers and Hart composed the song in 1935, and it was featured in a movie called Mississippi. I didn’t know “It’s Easy To Remember” while was growing up, and discovered it through Keith Jarrett’s beautiful rendition. When I did hear Jarrett play it, though, I immediately learned it! It’s an absolutely gorgeous tune, and I hope you have fun playing it on solo piano and with your musical friends.

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.)

The John Coltrane Quartet: Ballads

Keith Jarrett Trio: Standards (video)

Joe Lovano & Metropole Orkest: North Sea Jazz Festival, 2013 (video)

Frank Sinatra: Close To You

Sinatra’s Close To You album, from 1957, features smaller, more intimate orchestrations than most of his other work. Listen in particular to the beautiful writing for the string quartet.

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Richard Rodgers was lucky. He was one of those composers who could use the same chord progression in many songs and it somehow sounds fresh in each one! (Jerry Herman, who wrote “Hello Dolly,” was another one. Taylor Swift too, in pop music.)

“Rodgers loved to use the standard I vi/ii V progression in the A Sections of his tunes. It always sounds great and this chord sequence serves to establish the tonic in an interesting way without ever actually going anywhere else. (It’s like swimming in circles. This is fine, provided you enjoy where you are!)

In the case of “It’s Easy To Remember,” Rodgers mixes things up a bit by starting on the ii chord, so the progression is actually ii V/I vi. He uses this for 4 bars before taking us to Ab as a temporary tonic key before the beautiful bVII7 chord (Db7). The bridge is a series of ii V/I’s in Ab and Gb before returning to the “home” key of Eb.

“It’s Easy To Remember” is a lovely ballad to “float” on while playing. Listen to a couple of the recordings I’ve linked to above and pay particular attention to the “cushion” that the rhythm section provides. If you can learn how to do this yourself, you’ll always be in demand as an accompanist!

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

Further links and resources:
Rodgers and Hart: Wikipedia

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