A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Some Other Spring is a beautiful ballad from 1939. The lyrics are by Irene Kitchings and the music by Arthur Herzog Jr. When you’re learning a ballad like this, you’ll want to listen to a vocal rendition to get some sense of the lyric. Particularly the emotional quality of the lyric. Start with the Billie Holiday recording I’ve linked to below and let it influence how you play the tune on piano.

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.)

Billie Holiday: The Unforgettable

Zoot Sims: For Lady Day

A tribute to Billie Holiday

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Harmonically, “Some Other Spring” is really interesting. It’s as if composer Arthur Herzog Jr. said to himself in 1939, “So many songs use the same chord progressions, so let’s see how different I can make this one!”

Things begin pretty conventionally, which makes it all the more surprising when the harmonic twists and turns start happening. Indeed, the first 2 or 3 measures could have been written by anybody. They firmly establish the key of C major and sound nice. Nothing wrong with that, right? But Herzog has other plans, and we get a glimpse of this in measures 4-5 with all the chromatic motion. This is the kind of thing that Duke Ellington and George Gershwin enjoyed doing too. But then something very unusual happens. Most songwriters would have followed the Bb7 in m.5 by continuing he downward movement to an A7, which would function as the VI7 in C in order to set up a typical ii/V/I (Dm7/G7/CMaj7) resolution in the tonic key. Instead, Herzog surprises us by treating this Bb7 as the dominant (V7) chord in the key of Eb, and immediately resolves to that key. So the song begins firmly in C but modulates to the harmonically distant key of Eb in just a few measures. Wonderful! Herzog doesn’t stay here for long, though. He keeps the chords moving in unexpected ways until he finally arrives, briefly, on the G7 at the end of the first ending, which leads us back the top of the song and the home key of C major.

Take a few minutes and read through this again, while playing the chords from The Real Book on the piano. Listen to how the harmonies move from one to the next, and “hear” the modulations as they occur. Then go on to the bridge and see how Herzog keeps surprising us throughout the tune. You’ll learn a lot and discover a great deal about jazz harmony at the same time!

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

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

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

Take a Free Jazz Piano Lesson

Mastering The Real Book: A 10-week Skype Intensive for Jazz Pianists

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