Summertime and The Living is Easy!
Summertime is here! Or at least it sure feels like it in NYC today.
I’m working outside at a Cafe, in the sunshine as I write this. And I find this to be the most perfect song today… very seasonal. This song is a great standard to know for many reasons;
1 It’s cross genre
2 Loved by many, known by most
3 The chord changes are not too heavy, giving lots of space for improvisation, interpretation and ease in learning for those new to jazz.
4 It was originally a lullaby and is wonderful to sing to children. Also a nice way to expose and teach jazz to younger folk.
Two Play Along Versions
I hope you enjoy accompanying my voice, as I interpret Summertime in two versions –
1 One is a ballad with only my singing and a click track.
This one is great for working as a solo pianist accompanying a singer – meaning you play the bassline and establish the full harmonic sound.
2 The 2nd is medium swing, with drums and bass. This simulates the jazz trio setting. You can get into rootless voicings as well as more interpretational melodic lines. With the bass and drums holding down the floor, you might find you have more bandwidth to compliment and interplay with the sung melody.
Dive Right In! The Fish Are Jumpin’ and the Cotton is High…
If you know this tune well, or even a little (mainly the chord changes) then jump right in.
Enjoy these tracks as a simulation of a live experience, either on stage or in rehearsal. You can record your true response to my singing, and listen back to see where you were able to be present and connect.
With out criticism, make note of what needs work.
Summertime Tutorial References
If you are not familiar with the tune, or just want to work more on it before you try the simulation, then here are a few references.
1 – My tutorial on simple voicings is a great place to start. It will run you through the tune building it up from simple triads, to left hand bass. This harmonic structure always stays focused on the pillars of the chords… 1.3.5.then eventually 7’s – which is a great foundation for solo piano accompanyment.
If you 've already done this course, you might remember that it is in Dmin – so you will need to transpose to Amin when you are ready to try accompany my vocal track. This is a GREAT tune to do that, since the chords are not complicated and you’ll be transposing everything up a 5th – which is often easier that other intervals for transposition (Especially when you have been practicing skills in the order of the circle of 5th.)
For more help with transpostiion on this piece, please feel free to contact me here. I’m happy to walk you through it.
Or you can use this tutorial as a reference. Transposition is an important skill to have when working with Singers in particular.
2 – Hayden did a fantastic 3 part tutorial on Summertime. And drum roll… in Amin – same key as my track.
His voicings are full and large and can be used for either version, as a solo pianist or with the trio (you can always leave out notes if you like)
Though the voicings are more complicated, you won’t need to transpose so it’s easier in that way.
The 2nd tutorial of this series goes over walking bass which would only be good for the solo ballad version of the play along.
In both versions, you will get 2 full forms for an improvisation. If you can, stay present and give a completely improvised solo based on where you are after hearing my chorus’. You can try to quote little lines I sang. Or rail against the feel I give and go a total different direction. This is your chance to shine before taking a supporting role again, so go for it!
Then I’m doing a scat form where you can challenge yourself to follow and support what I’m doing through more improvised chords, or return to arranged voicings.
Another direction to go if you are not comfortable doing total improv; the final tutorial of Hayden’s lesson on Summertime is a transcription of a beautiful line that I myself am working over and transposed into all 12 keys. I highly recommend working doing this tutorial if you have not already. It’s a wonderful bluesy line that hints at the melodic minor.
Putting it in the context of this play along can be challenging in itself.
Further more, in that tutorial, you are challenged to write out a solo for the 2nd form. Writing out a solo can be another wonderful exercise to get you closer to improvising the lines you hear in your head. You can try this method for the 2nd form. Or even both.
Practicing Connection in Real Time
Remember - That first time you play along, it will all be new to your ears. So enjoy the challenge of listening to me, and enhancing my performance - all in real time.
I’m always amazed at how Jazz musicians seem to be able to read each other’s minds. When it’s cookin’, they know where each other is headed instantaneously.
See if you can get that experience that first time you listen/play through, even if only for a measure. Musical connection is a skill that must be practiced.
Even if it’s tempting, try not to listen first, then play along – so that you can use these recordings to similute the live experience. Get as prepared as you think you need be, before that first play through. You’ll see that a yellow bar highlights the chords, which is helpful should you loose your place.
Connect from the Center of Your Playing
I’m just offering ideas here, but I hope you’ll use these tracks in whatever way will best benefit your playing at this time. Each musical journey is so individualized, and unique, so it’s important to connect from the center of your playing. That’s how the best music is made.