Tag: Piano

Ascending Fourth on Jordu

Duke Jordan’s “Jordu” (or Jor-du) is an excellent tune for memorizing the sound of the ascending perfect fourth interval. The first three phrases of the A section all start with the same perfect fourth, so if you listen to the entire head (AABA) you will hear it nine times.

Here is the first phrase:

  • Clifford Brown and Max Roach, Clifford Brown & Max Roach, 1954
  • Duke Jordan, Flight To Denmark, 1974
  • Mulgrew Miller, Solo, 2010

Oscar Peterson Intro on The Nearness of You

Today’s intro comes from the classic album Ella and Louis (1956). The rhythm section on the album is Oscar Peterson’s quartet from that era with Ray Brown on bass, Herb Ellis on guitar, and Buddy Rich on drums.

When I think of Oscar, I often think of his astonishing technique or his bluesy vocabulary. This intro showcases another of his strengths: deep swinging lyricism.

I love that you can hear his foot tapping out the quarter note as he plays. The quiet quarter note pulse set against Peterson’s triplet syncopation makes this a textbook example of a medium-slow swing feel.

Oscar Peterson Intro on The Nearness Of You

Ellis Marsalis Diminished Line in Two Minutes or Less

A few years ago I transcribed Ellis Marsalis’ Duke In Blue from the album of the same name (1999). From time to time I like to review this transcription and each time I return to it something new grabs my attention.

This time it was the ascending diminished scale he plays over the sixth bar of the Bb blues chorus. I recorded a wave using Anchor.fm to demonstrate.

Kenny Drew Solo Break In Two Minutes Or Less

Some cool things are brewing here at thejazzlanguage.com. I recently heard about a new app called Anchor that is designed around sharing mini podcast-like “waves” of audio and thought it could be an interesting platform to share some ideas about music.

Here is me, trying to explain Kenny Drew’s solo break on Moment’s Notice (from John Coltrane’s Blue Train, 1957) in less than 2 minutes.


Vince Guaraldi’s Intro to “Softly as In A Morning Sunrise”

Guaraldi Intro to Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise

Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise by Sigmund Romberg is a jazz standard commonly played in C minor.

The Vince Guaraldi Trio offers up this tidy intro on the album A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing from 1957.

This would work well as an intro to almost any minor tune with a similar groove, and could also be used as an ending (on the recording there is a studio fade, so we don’t know if this group used it).


Mulgrew Miller on listening deeply

“The greatest musicians are the greatest listeners”

I recently listened to the 2002 interview with Mulgrew Miller on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz. The entire show is worth a listen, but one anecdote stuck out to me about the importance of listening deeply.

About halfway through the show, Marian asks about Mulgrew’s private teaching practice and what he tells students in a private lesson. Mulgrew replies:

I tell them I think the most important thing to their development is to learn how to listen.

It turns out that Mulgrew had to learn this lesson the hard way on the bandstand. He recounts a learning experience he had playing the tune Four on a gig with Clifford Jordan:

After I cam to New York, I was on a gig once and I was playing the tune Four. This was with one of the veteran musicians in New York, Clifford Jordan.

I was playing some changes that I had learned from a fake book, and they were not the original changes. Although I had been listening to recordings of Miles playing Four and they were playing the original changes, I just didn’t listen beyond what was on the surface, you know?

Clifford came over to me that night and said, “you know you’re playing the wrong changes on Four”

I said “really?”

And he said “yeah, they’re this…” and he showed me.

I said “wow, that’s amazing. I’ve been listening to that record for years and I hadn’t noticed that.”

I went back home and I put the record on, and there it was, as plain as day, the changes that he was showing me.

What I learned from that is that I had not been listening deep enough—in enough detail—to get all the proper things.

This anecdote has inspired me to increase the amount of practice time that I spend with recordings. To me, listening deeply can mean literally transcribing melodies or harmonies I hear. It can also mean trying to feel the groove on a deep level, or hear specific phrasing or dynamics. Sometimes I will put a record on and simply play along with it, beginning to end. Each time I do, I find that I hear something in a new way, and get inspired to go even deeper.


Hank Jones on Confirmation

Lots of great vocabulary in this short excerpt from Hank Jones over the A section of Charlie Parker’s tune Confirmation. Major ii-V, minor ii-V, chromatic approach tones, and more! (Listen to Hank Jones play it on the album Bop Redux)

A great tune to learn, and a great pianist to study. Enjoy!

Update: A previous version of this post included a link to the video in instagram. The video is now hosted on Vimeo

Video Teaser: Jazz Modes

Here is a short teaser for the video content that will be coming to TheJazzLanguage.com later this year.

The video is a demonstration of the modes of the major scale, with each mode transposed to start on C. The modes are ordered by sound, brightest to darkest:

  • Lydian
  • Ionian (major scale)
  • Mixolydian
  • Dorian
  • Aeolian (natural minor)
  • Phrygian
  • Locrian

By listening to and playing these modes back to back in this manner, your ear will become accustomed to the unique sound color of each mode. Notice that only one note changes between each mode.

Oscar Peterson Ending on Night Train

We’re starting a new series here at TheJazzLanguage.com: Intros & Endings. Up until now, the majority of the posts have been solo transcriptions that represent the language of jazz improvisation.

Another important characteristic of the jazz language is the way tunes are arranged. Listening for how artists begin and end their arrangements gives you a sense for how their musical vocabulary relates to the broader jazz idiom.

To begin the series, here is the ending Oscar Peterson’s Trio plays on Night Train from the album of the same name.


You may recognize this as the “Count Basie Ending” featured on classic Basie band tunes like Splanky and Broadway.

For Oscar Peterson’s version, the sound is created by the combination of Ray Brown’s bass in the low end and Peterson’s two-note voicings in the upper range of the piano.

Oscar Peterson Ending on Night Train

This sound is a great contrast to the “typical” Basie ending that is played solely by the piano and represents the complementary relationship between the bass and piano in this trio.

Using The sound

To apply this in your own arrangements, pay attention to the relationships between the notes played and the key of the tune.

In this case, the tune night train is in the key of G major, and you’ll notice that the bass in playing G in three different octaves.

The essence of the piano part is the top line that starts on C (a fourth above G) and moves up by half steps to C#, then D. Combined with the bass part, this has the effect of providing tension-resolution to the home key of G.

The lower note of the piano part, an E, fills out the harmony. Combined with the upper note, it implies the chords C major, C# diminished, and G major 6, respectively.


Duke Ellington on Duke’s Place

The tune Duke’s Place is the opening track from the 1961 LP Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington: Together For The First Time. The melody is probably better known as “C Jam Blues,” which is the original title of the instrumental version recorded by the Ellington band in 1942. (The track is currently available on the album The Great Summit which also includes material recorded at the same time but originally released separately.)

I have heard that Thelonious Monk’s unique piano style was influenced by Duke Ellington, and listening to this solo I can hear the connection. In particular, I enjoy Ellington’s use of motivic development and use of space.

He begins each chorus with a short, sparse idea and that grows and changes bit by bit. Notice the use of the half-step motive in the first twelve bars and the repeated use of the F sharp – G pattern in the second twelve.

Looking at the notated version, it seems like there are at least as many rests as there are notes, and you can hear the spaciousness in the recording. The melody really breathes in a way that is foreign to most piano players.


Duke Ellington on Duke's Place