Have you ever sat down at your piano and specifically tried to play in the style of one of your favorite jazz pianists? This can be a lot of fun, especially if it’s during a rubato, out-of-tempo section where we can take our time and think of what comes next.

I recently did this while playing Cole Porter’s “I Love You.” The opening melodic interval is a descending major 7th, and this is exactly the type of angular melodic shape that Chick Corea likes to use, particularly while playing rubato. So I decided to use that motif as the basis for an improvised, rubato introduction in the style of Chick Corea, who I’ve enjoyed listening to since I was about 15 years old. I didn’t over-analyze it while playing. Instead, I just got a kind of “Chick Corea vibe” going and let the music unfold from there. After a while, I just let the music go where it wanted to go and eventually went into a swing groove with a walking bass line.

You can watch it here:

I Love You: Journey Through The Real Book 163

And here’s a play-by-play I put together to help you understand what’s going on in the improvised arrangement:

Learning the “context” behind the great jazz standards 0:00
Viewing Cole Porter’s songs as an overall “body of work” 1:08
Discovering the musical similarities between Cole Porter’s songs 1:38
Cole Porter’s approach to musical form 2:33
The use of large-scale “wave shapes” in Cole Porter’s music 3:11
The similarity between Cole Porter and Beethoven 3:37
Creating a musical approach to playing Cole Porter’s “I Love You” in a solo jazz piano context 4:37
Emphasizing the angularity of Cole Porter’s “I Love You” melody 4:53
Improvising rubato, using a repeated motif in the style of Chick Corea 5:01
An improvised introduction to the tune, out of tempo 5:23
Playing the melody to “I Love You,” while continuing the pianistic texture from the improvised intro 5:46
Using chromatic neighboring chords 6:08
A descending, legato, countermelody 6:17
Melodic embellishment 6:30
Evoking the intro again 6:37
Chromatic harmonic substitutions 6:44
The Art Tatum influence comes through here! 6:46
Starting the moderate swing tempo, with a 2-bar solo break 6:50
Improvising around the main melody 6:54
Using a 2-note motif 7:02
Harmonizing Cole Porter’s melody with block chords, a la George Shearing 7:38
Adding a walking bass line in the left hand 7:44
Using a C pedal tone during the turnaround 8:34
Bebop-style soloing over a walking bass line 8:37
Paraphrasing the melody during the solo section 9:26
Melodic development 9:36
Improvising with block chords 9:46
Returning to Cole Porter’s melody, with a more legato pianistic texture 10:26
Becoming more rhythmic again 10:34
An improvised left hand melodic phrase 10:49
Chromatic inner-voice motion 11:03
Extending the melody with a tag 11:14
Ending with a chromatically-descending harmonic sequence 11:24
Bringing back the opening motif at the very end of the tune 11:28
Getting beyond the “notes on a page” with our jazz piano playing 12:00

Have fun seeing what I did, and then applying these concepts to your own playing.

Enjoy the journey, and "let the music flow!"


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