A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
I got to play this one in a Broadway show. In 1995, I helped create the musical “Swinging On A Star” which was based on songs that Johnny Burke wrote the lyrics for. It was a wonderful show and we received a Tony-award nomination for Best Musical. As the Associate Music Director, I played keyboards and some piano, and wrote a few orchestrations and arrangements.

Every night, I smiled when we got to “Like Someone In Love.” The song made me feel good, and it always remained fresh. It’s just that type of tune!

Jimmy Van Heusen composed the song in 1944, with lyrics by Johnny Burke. It’s a wonderful tune that should be on your list of jazz standards to learn.

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.)

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers: At The Cafe Bohemia, Vol. 1

Barry Harris: Live In Japan (video)

Esperanza Spaulding: Bing Lounge (video)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: The Great Concerts

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Like Someone In Love” is an excellent example of how a composer can write a clear and logical melodic line through a fairly complex set of chord changes. Even though the chords by themselves aren’t that hard, then move quickly and include more inversions and bass line motion than we normally see in jazz standards.

Play the chords and melody a few times, and simply listen to how the melody flows through the changes. It’s as if composer Jimmy Van Heusen found the most clear and logical path possible through this twisting and turning harmonic path. The melody is simple and singable.

Now, try to improvise your own melody through the chord changes, and try to make it as singable and logical-sounding as Van Heusen’s is. Even though a composer has the advantage of working out their melody slowly and revising it, we can take inspiration from them while we’re improvising and try to do the same. This is one of Herbie Hancock’s strong points, by the way. Hancock has the ability to find a purely melodic pathway through even the most complex series of chords. And if he developed this ability, we can too. All it takes in some consistent and persistent practice on our part. It’s “effort,” sure, but it’s also “interest.” The more interested we become in something, the more energy we’ll devote to practicing it!

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

Further links and resources:
The Best Way To Use The Real Book

Bill Evans: Recording and Transcription

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