Learning from Jazz Piano/Vocal duets

As pianists, we can learn a lot from listening to piano/vocal duets. The irony is that although most jazz and blues singers have extensively rehearsed and performed with piano-only accompaniment, they usually record with a full band.

But we can find wonderful examples of vocal-piano performances if we seek them out, and our efforts will be rewarded. Listen to the 7 songs I’ve linked to below. Each performance is a masterpiece, and you can hear everything that’s going on in the piano part. Listen to the bass lines, how each pianist plays the chords with their own unique rhythmic approach, and how they improvise melodic fills in between vocal phrases.

This is a musical education in itself:

Frank Sinatra: One For My Baby

Bessie Smith and James P. Johnson: Wasted Life Blues

Bessie Smith and James P. Johnson: Backwater Blues

Ella Fitzgerald and Ellis Larkins

Janis Siegel and Fred Hersch

Carmen McRae and George Shearing: My Gentleman Friend

Carmen McRae and George Shearing: If I Should Lose You

Enjoy, and see how much you can apply to your own playing!


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