When I sat down to play Irving Berlin's classic song "Easter Parade" for my Journey Through The Real Book video series, I naturally assumed that I would begin by launching into a lively left hand stride pattern. After all, Berlin wrote the song in 1933 (based on an earlier melody of his) and indeed, most if not all of the jazz pianists of that time would play it stride-style. I usually play "Easter Parade" that way too.
But as I sat down that fine day at my 1906 Mason and Hamlin piano, I began envisioning the annual Easter Parade down New York City's Fifth Avenue, where men in top hats and Easter bonnet-attired ladies stroll down the lane even to this day.
This picture gave way to a somewhat different musical feel for the song, one that was a little subtler and evoked the kind of playful, soft-shoe tap dancing that once permeated vaudeville and the Broadway stage. I once had the chance to stand right next to the legendary tap dancer Bunny Briggs as he performed an incredibly beautiful tap dance of this kind, and I got to play piano for several great tappers in the Broadway musical Swinging On A Star. It's a wonderful style of dancing!
So my version of "Easter Parade" began to take on a life of it's own. As you'll hear in this video, I began with a light, playful pianistic texture that evokes that type of dancing, and strolling, and only later in the arrangement did the music evolve into full-out stride.
Overall, it's a way to explore a classic tune like "Easter Parade" in a way that's not-so-obvious at first, but then includes all the liveliness and joy that stride can bring to our piano playing.
You can check it out here, and then try it for yourself at home:
Easter Parade: Journey Through The Real Book #103
Enjoy the journey, and "let the music flow!"
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