Have you ever tried to play a full band arrangement on piano, as a solo? If you have, then you know the types of challenges that present themselves in this scenario. I recently had this experience while playing Weather Report’s “Man In The Green Shirt,” and I’d like to share some methods you can use when playing solo versions of group songs.
Here are some of the questions that arise, along with some solutions:
Question: Do you play the bass line exactly as the bass player did?
Answer: First of all, Weather Report’s bassist at the time, Alphonso Johnson, played a LOT of notes on this tune, as we can hear on this live recording from 1975:
Weather Report: Man In The Green Shirt (Live 1975)
While it would be theoretically possible to play something similar on piano, there’s really no need to do so. Just play something that captures the energy of the bass line, perhaps using the root, 5th, and octave of each chord.
Question: How on earth do you emulate all of the complex rhythmic interplay that the keyboards, bass, and drums play on the recording?
Answer: You don’t. Just come up with a funky, fusion-y groove that seems natural for you, and trust in it.
Question: Do you have to play each section exactly like Weather Report played it?
Answer: No. Feel free to experiment with pianistic textures, and change the mood at will.
Remember, it’s YOUR solo piano rendition of the tune. Keybordist Joe Zawinul had his style, and you have yours. Listen to Weather Report’s version and learn from it. And when the time comes for you to play your own arrangement, go for it!
Here’s my solo piano version, along with some explanation of how to play the tune.
Man In The Green Shirt: Journey Through The Real Book #226
Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”
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