Summer in Central Park Brings Memories of Great Music

Many of us have people in our lives who have given us a special gift that keeps on giving. When I was about 16 and had just become an avid jazz fan, a friend of my parents took note of my interest. Although he sold cleaning systems to corporations by profession and was the father of three boys, he was unique among the adults I knew at the time. The reality was that I had not seen any suburban family men who were such passionate listeners to this wonderful style of music. And so it was with Richard Smith that I attended two concerts, both of which relate directly to the subject of today’s post.

The first occasion has to do with the composer of Summer in Central Park, Horace Silver. I chuckle today when I think of listening to the Horace Silver Quintet at Carnegie Hall and thinking that the jazz they played was “far out”. It just goes to show that familiarity and knowledge of music helps it become much more comprehensible. Listening to Horace Silver‘s many “cookin” compositions today; I find them bluesy, swinging and optimistic. You can’t help but tap your foot to pieces like Song for My Father or Sister Sadie.

However, despite being familiar with many Horace Silver tunes, Summer in Central Park was brand new to me. So when my website consultant and engineer David Summer, who is also an excellent and versatile musician, suggested that I start the summer blog series with Summer in Central Park I jumped at the chance to explore a new (at least to me) Horace Silver tune.

The fact that Summer in Central Park is a jazz waltz makes it a wonderful segue from the jazz waltz blog post series to the current Summer series. However, there is another connection with my older jazz aficionado.

About 3 years after my NYC encounter with Horace Silver’s music, Richard Smith took me to the Summer in Central Park jazz series. It was there, that I was able to enjoy a fabulous concert by Ray Charles. Here we were outside on a summer evening in Central Park listening to and watching the incomparable Ray Charles complete with this fabulous big band, guest soloists and the Raelettes (his backup singers). While I’ve attended other terrific outdoor summer jazz concerts, the Central Park summer concerts stand head and shoulders above the rest. Perhaps you have a special memory of a summer concert that you attended. Please share your story with your fellow readers in the comments box below.

Needless to say, of all the songs I have researched on Rhapsody Music Service Summer in Central Park had the fewest number of available tracks. Here’s another area where I must confess my lack of awareness. Of the seven recordings I listened to, only the name of Boston pianist Maggie Scott was familiar to me. Nevertheless, in addition to enjoying the performances by pianists Dan Cray and Alan Simon, trombonist Rick Simerly and vibist Rusty Burge, I have found that learning to play as well as exploring the music of Summer in Central Park has been an enlightening experience.

If you are, or have been, one of my students, you will have realized by now when I focus on figuring out the musical form of a piece, characterizing its chord patterns and identifying its unifying melodic motives, I become inspired and enthusiastic learning to play a piece on the piano. You can too…..

If you’re feeling stuck in your playing because you can’t make sense of a song, please do contact us. The Mascari Piano Studios instructors all want to help you understand what you play so you can better learn how to play your favorite pieces on the piano.

That being said, here are a few of my observations about the music of Summer in Central Park.

  • Musical Form: There is enough repetition to provide familiarity. This is because there are basically two sections of musical material which each contain literal repeats and variation of thematic and harmonic elements.
  • Characterizing the Chord Patterns: Since most of the songs I select for my blog posts are standards, the chord progressions tend to stay within a couple of keys. Summer in Central Park however, is filled with surprising shifts of tonal centers. If you are caught a bit off guard while listening, it’s to be expected.
    • Starting off in the song’s tonic (home) key of F Major, a Db6 – Gb6 chord pattern quickly appears (measures 5 & 6). In the B section, the composer alternates between DMajor 9 and its parallel minor Dminor 9 (which also happens to be in vi in the key of F.
    • The next time the Db6 – Gb6 chord pattern appears (in the A1 section) it continues with A6 – D6 – Db6.
    • The BII section concludes by interrupting the ii – V – I progression (Gminor 7 – C7 – Fmajor 7) with the insertion of Ab6 – Gb6.
  • Identifying Unifying Melodic Motives: One of the nice things about Summer in Central Park is that you can easily see the similarity of the melodic motives regardless of the actual notes.
    • The half note – 8th note – 8th note tied to the next half note is so often used that it doesn’t matter what pitch is played. The number of times that this is used is so frequent that the composer’s use of different note combinations is a necessity for musical interest and variety.
    • The BI section offers a new but related motive: quarter rest – dotted quarter note – two 16th notes. This is followed each time with the half note – 8th note – 8th note tied to the next half note which was in the A section.

Needless to say, navigating through this series of shifting sounds kept me on my toes while recording Summer in Central Park to share with you for this post. And yet this Silver jazz standard is well crafted, beautifully tonal and reflective of its title. I hope you’ll take the time to become more familiar with it.

In the meantime, if you have a favorite Horace Silver song and/or a particularly seasonal summer selection, please do share that with your fellow readers in the comments box below.

Summer has finally arrived. If you’re like my piano students (and parents of the younger students as well) you are ready for the season’s more relaxing pace. This may be exactly the time for you to brush up your keyboard skills, to explore new musical territory or simply to spend some leisure time playing the piano.

Our unique Mascari Piano Studios Flexible Schedule Summer Piano Lessons approach makes it possible for you to renew and refresh your skills while still having plenty of time for vacations, trips, family visits or just relaxing with a good book.

As always, we’re here to help you learn to play the music you love!

2 thoughts on “Summer in Central Park Brings Memories of Great Music

  1. In Silver’s “Summer in Central Park”, tbe repeated theme from Disney’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” makes me think he was lying on his back, looking up from C.P. into the night sky.

  2. My all-time favorite is Nat King Cole’s “That Sunday, That Summer”. As a kid we had his album “Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer”, that had this tune, the title tune, and other ones, like “In the Good Old Summertime”. It was a right of passage to play this album (one of the few that we had), when the warm weather hit. To this day, when I hear one of those songs, I get a flood of childhood memories.

    I’ve been looking for a chart of “That Sunday, That Summer” forever, and have never found it. It can be played as a really nice jazz ballad. If anyone knows where this can be found, I’d love for you to respond back….

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