A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano
History and overview:
“Standing On The Corner” was composed by Frank Loesser for his 1956 Broadway show, The Most Happy Fella. It wasn’t in the original Real Book and honestly, I’m not sure why it’s now included in the book. (It’s not as if jazz musicians have been playing it much!)
Despite this, it’s a wonderful show tune and can sound great when played with in a jazz context. See my comments below to get started creating your own jazz interpretation of this classic from the world of musical theater.
(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 Most Happy Fella!: Original London Cast Recording
The Mills Brothers (1956)
Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
When you play a Broadway tune like “Standing On The Corner,” you have 2 choices: you can either find a groove that lends itself to jazz while retaining some of the original version’s charm, or you decide to “let that go” and find something else.
I myself usually prefer the first way. Using a medium tempo stride LH pattern or playing the bass “in 2” will generally keep things within the musical realm that composer Frank Loesser intended, while still giving you lots of options for improvisation. This is the way most jazz pianists “back in the day” would have played the song.
On the other hand, it could be a lot of fun to discard that entirely, play a walking bass line, and improvise a solo using, say, pentatonic scales like the 1960s Miles Davis group might play. After all, they did this very successfully on Loesser’s “If I Were A Bell” on their “Plugged Nickel” live album!
It’s all up to you and your musical tastes. The main thing, though, is to be so aware of the various options available to you that you can choose your favorite interpretation instead of merely playing it the only way you know how. Learn as much as you can and then you’ll enjoy having more options. “Standing On The Corner” is a fun tune to play.
Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”
Further links and resources:
Standing On The Corner (show tune): Wikipedia
A biography of composer Frank Loesser
The Best Way To Use The Real Book
How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively
Mastering The Real Book: A 10-week Skype Intensive for Jazz Pianists
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