Stella By Starlight
Victor Young’s Versatile Vehicle for Variation

As time has gone on, my blog “series” featuring composer Victor Young has continued to expand. In past years, I had selected one composer, looked at many of his songs, explored some biographical information and then created a series of posts with accompanying recordings meant to be enjoyable and educational.

Somehow, when it came to the masterful songwriter Victor Young, this never happened. For some reason, it didn’t seem like there would be enough compositions to create a series. Boy was I wrong. Fortunately, both the Always Learning and Revisiting My Favorite Tunes blogs allowed the music of Victor Young to surface a little at a time.

As my knowledge of this composer’s body of work has increased, so has my admiration for it. Ironically, in addition to When I Fall in Love, today’s featured selection, Stella By Starlight, was the standard with which I was most familiar.

Back in 1988 when I had first begun my graduate studies at New England Conservatory of Music, my composition teacher and mentor, William Thomas McKinley, recommended that I start listening to pianist Keith Jarrett. As a result, I went out right away and bought the Keith Jarrett Trio’s 1985 recording called Standards Live. (It was the cassette tape version of the album to play in my car).

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Victor Young’s Versatile Vehicle for Variation

You Are Too Beautiful
Revisiting the Rodgers and Hart Classic

I must confess to you that I had absolutely no recollection of arranging, playing, recording and writing about the Rodgers and Hart beautiful standard called You Are Too Beautiful exactly five and a half years ago today. That said, I refuse to accept the fact that my slip of memory is a “senior moment”. After all, my long-time adult piano students often marvel at how well I remember situations and people in their lives that they’ve mentioned at a lesson several years before.

So let me tell you why I became excited about playing You Are Too Beautiful for today’s post.

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Revisiting the Rodgers and Hart Classic

But Not For Me Part 2
Swing is the Thing When It Comes to Gershwin

As I was writing my article featuring George Gershwin’s But Not for Me a couple of weeks ago, I found myself anxious to explore the possibility of doing a swing arrangement of this wonderful standard as soon as I could. There were so many terrific swing style tracks on my Spotify playlist that listening to them created the impetus for me to give it a whirl.

There was also another reason behind doing this. It’s something that I often demonstrate for my adolescent and adult piano students. When playing songs found in fake book, the pianist has the flexibility to create a variety of accompaniment styles of the same tune. More about that in a minute.

Years ago, Pulitzer Prize winning Boston composer John Harbison made a rather astute observation. He said that when it comes to the standards from the Great American Songbook, the song is the song i.e. each tune is recognizable in whatever style it is plays. On the other hand, today’s popular songs are the “record” i.e. the recorded performance of a song that is heard on a CD, mp3, LP or any other digital music file. Here’s an example of what I mean.

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Swing is the Thing When It Comes to Gershwin

But Not For Me – George Gershwin Joins
Conversations at the Piano after 9 Years

It may be difficult to believe, but in 9 years of publishing this Conversations at the Piano blog, composer George Gershwin has never once been featured. There were several reasons for this. One of these is to give many other slightly less popular composers the well-deserved attention that is due them.

That said, rather than waiting to schedule a George Gershwin series (which I may do at one point), I recently became excited about playing one of his well-known standards But Not for Me. In all honesty, it is difficult for me to decide whether it falls under the Revisiting My Favorite Tunes series or the Always Learning one. The reason for this is that my relationship with But Not for Me includes both categories.

Interestingly enough, when it came to working on But Not for Me, I found myself in the same situation that several of my Adult Piano Students have experienced. What these students have found, is that over the years they have accumulated a long list of songs that they had learned. Unfortunately, time constraints often cause pianists like you to stop playing the songs that you have learned in the past. That is UNLESS you have a good system in place for repertoire review.

Even so, there are far more songs than any professional or amateur pianist has learned over the years that could possibly be reviewed on a regular basis. As a result, many tunes end up falling by the wayside. Believe it or not, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Here’s why…….

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Conversations at the Piano after 9 Years