Improvising a jazz piano intro in the style of Chick Corea

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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