Combining bossa novas and bebop jazz piano

Although bebop is a pretty pure musical style, it’s surprising versatile when combined with other styles of music.

Charlie Parker played bebop over Afro-Cuban rhythms and on gentle ballads. Billy Taylor and Thelonious Monk played bebop over stride left hand patterns. And bebop sounds great over hip hop beats as well!

One style that merges very well with bebop is bossa nova, the light, Brazilian genre that surfaced during the late-1950s/early 1960s. While we often think of jazz musicians playing simple, lyrical solos like Stan Getz did on The Girl From Ipanema, the style is flexible enough to incorporate bebop rhythms and improvised lines without losing its stylistic integrity.

Lee Morgan illustrated this bebop/bossa nova blending brilliantly with his tune “Ceora.” Ceora, which Morgan recorded on his album Cornbread in 1967,features a beautiful bossa beat, along with jazz harmonies and a rhythmically complex, bebop-like melody. We can take Morgan’s cue and improvise bebop lines during our solos, mixing them up with more traditionally bossa nova lyrical phrases as well, if we like.

Here’s Lee Morgan’s recording of Ceora with Herbie Hancock on piano, along with a solo piano version I played on my Journey Through The Real Book video series.

Spend a few minutes listening to both versions, and then give it a try yourself. Have fun!

Lee Morgan: Ceora

Ceora: JourneyThrough The Real Book #57

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