A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“A Man And A Woman” is in the soundtrack to the 1966 French film of the same name. It’s a beautiful song that’s very much in the pop/bossa style that was so popular during the mid-late 1960s. (Burt Bacharach’s “Say A Little Prayer” uses a similar beat, and the two songs also share an occasional 2/4 measure, which give’s each song a catchy yet irregular rhythmic feel.)

The tune wasn’t in the original Real Book, and it’s a nice addition to the new edition. Besides being fun to play, this type of light pop/ bossa groove sounds great both in concert and when you’re playing background music at a restaurant or party.

Recommended videos/recordings:
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album names wherever possible so you can listen to them on music streaming services, etc.)

Janet Seidel: Comme ci comme ca

Paul Mauriat: Cent Mille Chansons

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The melody to “A Man And A Woman” begins with three held notes with fermatas, and this comes back in the first ending which leads into the 2nd ‘A’ Section. This gives a nice dramatic effect during the melody, but just play steady time through these measures when you’re soloing.

As for the groove, The Real Book just indicates “Med. Even 8ths.” Since this could mean anything from Latin music to heavy metal, listen to the recordings I’ve lined to below to hear the original beat. It’s basically in the bossa nova style but could also lean a little towards pop as well.

The chords in the song are beautiful, and I love how the melody lingers on the major 7th with those repeated rhythms. It’s charming! Even though “A Man And A Woman” was written to appeal to pop audiences of the time, the chord progression is pure jazz. That’s why it’s such a great tune to improvise on in a jazz style.

Rhythmically, the time signature changes now and again, with measures of 2/4 inserted into the ‘A’ Sections and a coda that’s in 3/4. This can be a little tricky to navigate through at first but after a while it becomes fun. It adds a subtle rhythmic touch to the song and keeps it interesting for the musicians. Just remember to keep an absolutely steady beat throughout.

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

Further links and resources:
The Best Way To Use The Real Book

How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively

Jazz Piano Video Course
This extensive, well-sequenced video course will get you playing jazz standards with a sense of flow and fluency.

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