A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano
History and overview:
Although originally more of a legato “crooning” song, “The Song Is You” is usually played in jazz circles as an exciting uptempo “burner.” In other words, it’s usually played fast and with lots of energy.
The song was composed way back in 1932 by songwriter Jerome Kern and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. I wouldn’t say that it’s one of the “must-know” tunes in The Real Book, but it’s definitely one that you’ll enjoy playing and sharing with your musician friends when you want to expand your repertoire a little further!
(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.)
Nancy Wilson: Newport Jazz Festival, 1987 (video)
Keith Jarrett Trio: Still Live
Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Composer Jerome Kern must have liked modulating to the key of E major because he did it in two of his most famous songs: “All The Things You Are” and “The Song Is You!” Both tunes go to this relatively rare key in the bridge (“All The Things You Are” at the end of the section and “The Song Is You” right at the beginning. In either place it’s a very effective contrast to the keys that came before it and can lead us as improvisers to new musical ideas, since we don’t often play jazz in that key.
Aside from that, the chords to “The Song Is You” are pretty straight-forward. The melody is beautiful and the form is expansive, lasting twice the “usual” song length of 32 bars. (It’s AABA in form with each section being 16 bars long.)
Practice it slowly and gradually work your way up to tempo. Stay with this for a few weeks in a row, playing it daily, and you may very well surprising yourself with how speedy you get with it.
Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”
Further links and resources:
The Song Is You (song): Wikipedia
Jerome Kern, 1885-1945: The Father of American Musical Theater
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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