The benefits of playing with other musicians

Hey Improvisers,

Do you ever play with other musicians?

If you do, you know the joys of shared music-making. One player inspires another, and everyone benefits. But if you haven’t yet made that leap, it may feel terrifying.

We receive many benefits from jamming with our musical peers, and they go way beyond what I’ve hinted at above. And they may be different for each of us. One thing is for sure: if you find the right person or people to make music with, you’ll have fun, improve much more than you otherwise would, and become part of a cultural lineage that goes back thousands of years.

It’s difficult to predict how real, in-person interaction with our fellow human beings can affect us. Here’s a wonderful blog post that my online piano student, Cindy, wrote this week about an unexpected experience she had while watching the Independence Day parade in her town. (I’m mentioned in the article.)

A small-town America 4th of July

Post-pandemic, I’ve been getting out and playing in public again, and loving every moment! I recently met a wonderful vocalist named Juliet Ewing through one of my sons, who is friends with her son. Juliet has extensive Broadway experience and while helping her learn jazz, I suggested that we go to a local open mic each week so she can get some experience performing jazz and so we can both meet the other musicians. I’ve been having lots of fun hanging out at the club and trying my arrangements of Gershwin songs.

The club, by the way, is Maureen’s Jazz Cellar in Nyack, NY. It’s a wonderful performing space and the owner, house rhythm section, and audiences are friendly and supportive. You can check out their website here:

Here’s a video of our recent performance of “Summertime.” This, incidentally, is the first time that Juliet had tried scat singing in public, and she sounded great. Also, I’ve been trusting the use of space in my solos more than ever, and you can hear the audience yell “yeah” a couple of times when I let the music breath during my piano solo. The two big takeaways from this are: 1. Try new things, and 2. Be like Miles Davis and let the music breathe.


I hope these thoughts and performances inspire you to get out there and jam with other musicians. The key is to find a musician, or a group of musicians, at your level and start with easy material. Support one another and grow together musically.

Above all, enjoy the journey and let the music flow!


PS – After months of painting my living room, rearranging all the furniture, and getting a lot of amazing work done on my 1906 Mason and Hamlin grand piano, I’ve finally begun making my Journey Through the Real Book videos again. Look for #255, which is Wayne Shorter’s notoriously difficult “Nefertiti,” on the KeyboardImprov YouTube within the next week or so.

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