Summertime – and the Music is Easy….

Summer has arrived in New England. Although we have had a couple of isolated warm days, something about the sudden jump to 90 degrees by Thursday from 45 degrees on Monday got people pulling out summer clothes and air conditioners. We are only a week away from the Memorial Day weekend which actually marks the beginning of summer in this area of the country much more so than June 21st (Summer Solstice-the first day of summer/longest day of the year).

And so it is on that note that today’s featured selection came to mind: George Gershwin’s Summertime. The school year is now winding down; the students of the Mascari Piano Studios are preparing to perform in our Natick Studio Recital, Hudson Studio Recital and Adult Student Recital. People are also making their summer plans.

Many normal activities are put on hold during the summer months. That means that you finally have the window of opportunity for doing something you’ve always wanted to do.

And what do you suppose most of our Adult Piano Students have told me at one time or another? You guessed it! The reason that they are having some much enjoyment learning to play the music they love is because they finally did something they’d always wanted to do: learn to play the piano or get back to playing the piano after many years.

For many, this happened because they took advantage of our unique Flexible Schedule Summer Lesson Program. You can too. More about that later. For now, let’s take a look at one of George Gershwin’s most well known compositions.

Back in 1988, I made a solo piano album called I’m Beginning to See the Light. One of the selections on this recording was a rendition of Summertime within which I quoted Beethoven’s Fur Elise. As I recall, this version included the two most popular styles for performances of this great standard: ballad and swing.

So when my website consultant, David Summer suggested I feature Summertime, I wondered how in the world that I could make my 2017 arrangement fresh. As someone who has been performing for more than 50 years, I’ve played and heard Summertime in many contexts. In fact, in addition to jamming on the 12 bar blues, it seems to me that this song ends up being the other common vehicle for musicians to play when sitting in with a band.

That’s probably for this reason that I did not include Summertime in my 2009 summer blog series. And yet how could I continue to ignore this musical treasure from the Great American Songbook? The answer is that I couldn’t.

So now in 2017, almost 3 decades after my recording, it was high time for me to revisit this classic. However, how I was going to arrange and play Summertime it had to feel fresh? Following the advice I so often give my adult piano students, I put my Spotify play list together and started listening!

Much to my surprise, there were quite a few interpretations done with Latin rhythm. For example, a group called The New York Lounge Quartet (trumpet, piano, bass and drums) plays a very tasteful arrangement in this style. Of course, the quintessential Latin jazz interpreter, flutist Herbie Mann does an extended version of Summertime on his Live at the Village Gate recording.

A third example of a Latin rhythm performance of Summertime really caught me off guard. Pianist Marcus Roberts first came to my attention when he was worked with Wynton Marsalis. Not too long after that, one of my adult piano students introduced me to Roberts’ exceptional solo piano work on his Alone with Three Giants CD. Later I heard of his performances of early jazz piano featuring the music of Jelly Roll Morton.

Thinking that I had a sense of Mr. Roberts’ stylistic expertise, I started listening to his track of Summertime from the CD called Gershwin for Lovers. Beginning with an expressive upright bass bowing the melody of this standard, I naturally expected a ballad to follow. Boy was I surprised when the ensemble launched a highly rhythmic rendition of this old chestnut. It was truly infectious and I continued to give it repeated listenings every time it appeared on my playlist.

How could I possibly play Summertime any other way after hearing Roberts’ rendition? The inspiration from his and several more motivated me to see what I do to create my own Latin rhythm arrangement of Summertime.  Now here’s why playing music is so energizing: I tried applying some of the ideas I used for Stella By Starlight.

So once again I took advantage of the resources contained in my Yamaha P 105 digital piano. Spitting the keyboard allowed me to use the electric bass sound for my left hand bass lines. Rather than use an electronic piano sound for my right hand as I had done for Stella, I kept the regular acoustic piano sound. My instrument’s collections rhythm sounds/styles is limited, so I used the Bossa nova sound that had worked so well for Stella.

Once I had the concept for the arrangement, including the piano sounds, I started practicing. Then low and behold, given to brevity of the song (16 measures), the idea of adding a key change to my rendition. So when you listen to Summertime, you’ll notice the tonality change from the key of A minor to the key of C minor.

Once I got used to playing Summertime in both keys while having lots of fun with the rhythm and keyboard sounds, I felt truly energized. And that’s what I mean by the title of this post. “Summertime-and the Music is Easy.”

How about you?

Would you like to feel so energized by the music you hear that you want to find a way to play a song in the musical style that speaks to you?

Maybe you simply need to get better at playing music with chord symbols or perhaps improve your timing.

That’s where the Mascari Piano Studios come in!

Just ask any of our Adult Piano Students. They’ll tell you about all of the enjoyment they are getting from learning to play the music they love!

When you take piano lessons from one of our patient, knowledgeable and encouraging piano teachers, you’ll get the help you need to learn to play the piano if you are a beginner, refresh your skills if you took lessons in the past or take your playing to the next level if you are more advanced. Whatever your skill level, you can learn to play or return to your favorite piano pieces in the musical style that suits you.

You can even take piano lessons during the summer months. Our unique Flexible Schedule Summer Lesson Program allows you learn to play the piano and still have plenty of time for family outings and vacations.

To find out is taking piano lessons is right for you or your son or daughter, you can schedule a free interview /consultation with me. I will be delighted to meet with you at either our Natick MA piano studio or Hudson MA piano studio locations.

All you need to do to get started is to take 20 seconds to contact us today.

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