Playing Wayne Shorter’s “Beauty And The Beast” on solo piano

When you come across something that’s difficult to play at first, do you see it as a “positive” or a “negative?” I mean, do you feel it’s a challenge to be “slogged through” or do you get excited at the opportunity it presents? An opportunity to grow as a musician and experience new pianistic possibilities firsthand?

Wayne Shorter’s classic tune “Beauty And The Beast” is one of these tunes. The composition presents musical challenges as well as opportunities as it moves between funk and lyrical grooves. Part of this is because Shorter is often In fact, although I’ve never heard Shorter discuss this particular tune, I suspect that the lyrical, melodic sections represent “Beauty” and the hard-edged funk groove portrays “The Beast.”

“Beauty And The Beast” first appeared on Shorter’s Brazilian-influenced album Native Dancer, with Herbie Hancock on piano. The group played the melody, and then Shorter played a soprano sax solo over the F7 vamp.

I used to play it like this too, only soloing over the funk part. But the tune’s chord progression is gorgeous, and lately I’ve enjoyed improvising over the changes as well. Try it yourself: start your solo over the F7 chord, and then at some point, go into the chord progression. You can alternate between the two sections as long as you wish.

I’ve made a video to show you what this sounds like. As you’ll hear, moving between the two sections like this provides a nice degree of musical interest and contrast, and it takes us on a more varied musical journey as we move through our solo. (And if you want to learn more about the tune itself, HERE‘s some more info.)

After you watch the video, open your Real Book and enjoy playing the tune for yourself. Good luck and have fun with this amazing Wayne Shorter composition!

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