Playing Steve Swallow’s “Como En Vietnam” on piano

One thing about Steve Swallow’s jazz tunes is that they never go where we think they’re going to go. And this is a good thing, because he takes us on a journey through unexpected harmonic landscapes, full of exciting twists and turns that will both challenge and delight us.

“Come En Vietnam” is a good example of this. Swallow begins the tune with an exciting and somewhat typical Latin montuno over a Bbm chord. Then the melody comes in. But as soon as we start to feel really comfortable with this groove, he surprises us with by going to unexpected chords and keys. Whole vistas of harmonic color open up before us and challenge us to improvise our way through these landscapes.

Remember: all musical growth is the result of facing challenges like this head-on.

Here’s my version of this wonderful and unusual tune:

Como En Vietnam: Journey Through The Real Book #67

Check out how I played it, for inspiration and ideas, and then try it yourself. Above all, be persistent and don‘t give up until you can successfully navigate through the chord progression and express yourself through the tune.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

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