Soloing like Wayne Shorter and Keith Jarrett

For my video of the 14th tune in the Real Book, “Alright, Okay, You Win,” I took a cue from two of my favorite jazz artists, Wayne Shorter and Keith Jarrett.

It’s an interesting tune to play as an instrumental, since it’s so strongly associated with vocalist Joe Williams and his recording with the Count Basie Orchestra. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever played it as an instrumental before, although I’ve accompanied many vocalists as they sang it. It’s a fun, blues-based tune with a swinging, medium-tempo groove.

In making this “Journey Through The Real Book” video, I wanted to make it more pianistic than I usually do when performing it with vocalists. I echoed the melody with my left hand, evoking counterpoint or “call and response.” And while soloing, I focused more on my left hand walking bass line than I did on my solo. This can be a surprisingly effective technique. We’re usually so focused on what notes to play in our solo, that it sometimes holds us back, creatively. Yes, we want to play well, but if we’re constantly asking ourselves “is this solo good enough?” or “what notes should I play next?” we may actually be stifling the flow of the music. I’ve found that if I sometimes focus mostly on my left hand bass lines, then the right hand solo emerges naturally, from the groove. I hear this in the playing of Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, and others at times and it’s one of the things that makes their playing so great. They’re listening so closely to what the bass player and drummer are playing that their solo phrases literally emerge from the overall groove.

Watch how I do this in the video, then listen to Wayne and Keith with this in mind. And most of all, try it for yourself. Let us know in the comments below how you did!

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