Steve Swallow’s blending of pop and jazz in his tune “I’m Your Pal”

Hey everyone,

Our Journey Through The Real Book has brought us to #172, which is the wonderful Steve Swallow tune “I’m Your Pal.”

Swallow started out as part of the mid-to-late 1960s Boston jazz scene. It must have been an incredibly vibrant place to play music and share ideas with the other musicians there at the time, which included Chick Corea, Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett. All of these musicians were composing similar music at the time (and through the early 1970s) and my hunch is that Swallow influenced all of these more-famous musicians at least as much as they may have influenced him.

The first time I every played “I’m Your Pal,” it seemed strange and beyond my teenage comprehension. Over the years, however, I’ve become accustomed to how the melody and chords move from measure to measure and now I love playing the tune. If I can do it, you can too!

One of the fun aspects of the tune in how seamlessly Swallow blends jazz and pop. Traditional jazz chord progressions are followed by pure triads, and we can also mix elements of jazz and pop-style improvisation during our solos.

After I made the video, I went through it and listed all the musical topics that are covered. All of these add up to a well-rounded understanding of the tune itself and the pianistic approaches to playing it.

Here’s what you’ll learn about on the video:

Learning jazz standards in a holistic way 0:00
History of Steve Swallow’s “I’m Your Pal” 0:26
“I’m Your Pal” on 1967 Gary Burton’s album Lofty Fake Anagram 0:34
Steve Swallow and the late-1960s Boston jazz scene 1:06
Steve Swallow’s blend of pop and jazz in “I’m All Smiles” 1:22
Pop-influenced jazz as an alternative to the avant garde in the 1960s 1:26
The use of triads in Steve Swallow’s music 2:25
Stepwise bass movement in the music of Steve Swallow, Paul McCartney and Chick Corea 2:32
Making music that appeals to both jazz and pop audiences 2:48
The version of “I’m Your Pal” on the album Lofty Fake Anagram 3:16
The version of “I’m Your Pal” on the album Crystal Silence 3:43
The similarity of music composed by Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Steve Swallow, and Keith Jarrett 4:55
Starting with a “free” intro, beginning with an open-sounding C major voicing 6:18
The melody 6:56
Bringing in some melodic inner-voice motion 7:26
Beginning the improvised solo with a simple repeated note 7:52
Developing a triadic motif 8:02
Coming back to the repeated note idea 8:09
A descending 5th motif 8:14
Using more expansive lines and textures 8:50
Having fun with “broken” chord voicings 9:40
A C2 pop-like voicing 9:43
Block chords 9:45
Joe Zawinul-inspired soloing 10:06
A hint of gospel 10:34
Improvising over a G pedal tone 10:38
Going back to the tune’s chord changes 10:57
Abdullah Ibrahim-inspired tremolos 11:12
Returning to the G pedal tone 11:39
Transitioning to the tune again for the ending 12:03
Getting started with playing Steve Swallow tunes 12:25
Using a wide range of musical influences into our piano playing 13:11
Using pedal points a la Keith Jarrett 13:35
The unique arc of some Wayne Shorter solos 13:58
The benefits of staying with a tune over time 14:33
Finding the unique “door” that will help you personally become a better pianist 14:54

Here’s the video:

Have fun playing this special composition, and “let the music flow!”


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