Playing bluesy and lyrical on jazz ballads

There are many ways to play jazz piano ballads, and each tune will call for a slightly different approach. And you can play the same tune differently at different times. That’s the beauty of jazz, and solo piano in particular. No limits!

The classic torch song “Angel Eyes” is a good example of this. The melody uses the blues scale at times, and the lyric evokes late nights and loneliness:

“My old heart ain’t gaining no ground
Because my angel eyes ain’t here”

Even though it’s mostly performed by vocalists, the song lends itself well to solo jazz piano. Check out the video below to get some tips on how to solo over “Angel Eyes” and other bluesy ballads. Even though your first thought may be to play blues licks, you’ll see that alternating blues phrases with more lyrical lines can give the song more dimensions and layers of emotion.

I had a lot of fun playing this, and I hope it inspires you in your own jazz piano playing. Enjoy!

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