A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
Like the previous tune, “Alice In Wonderland” is a movie theme song whose jazz version is strongly associated with pianist Bill Evans. As with many jazz standards, it was originally a slow ballad, even though it’s most commonly played with a jazz waltz feel.

Because so many pianists sound like Bill Evans clones when playing this tune, I’ve included an Oscar Peterson recording in the section below to give you a broader perspective on possible interpretations.

Here are some 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.)

Bill Evans: Sunday At The Village Vanguard

Oscar Peterson: J.A.T.P In Japan

Title sequence from the 1951 Disney movie

We jazz musicians can benefit from knowing the original versions of the standards we play, even though we may play them differently. They may help us play more lyrically, or at least be aware of how our interpretation departs from the original.

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Jazz waltzes such as “Alice In Wonderland” offer a lot of rhythmic possibilities. Some pianists take a subdued approach while others emphasize the “and” of beat 2 which brings out the “jazziness” more prominently. Try both for yourself and see which you like. Or you can incorporate both styles into the same performance.

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

Further links and resources:
Alice In Wonderland: Journey Through The Real Book #7

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

Alice In Wonderland playalong track

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