A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“All Of You” is one of the jazz standards that comes from what is now called “The Great American Songbook.” These are “pop” songs from the period of around 1915 – 1955, before the rock era. Because many of these songs shared a harmonic vocabulary with jazz, it was natural for jazz musicians to enjoy improvising on them, making their rhythm more jazzy and syncopated as well.

Cole Porter wrote “All Of You” in 1954 in 1954 for the Broadway musical “Silk Stockings.” This was near the end of the era when jazz musicians were still looking towards Broadway as a source of repertoire. It’s important to note that when an audience heard jazz musicians playing these tunes, they had a frame of reference in their imaginations, since most of them would already know the song, from the Broadway stage, the movie version of the musical, or from the radio. Therefore, the jazz version became a sort of variation on the “straight”version, rather than a separate phenomenon like it would be for most listeners today.

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.)

Miles Davis: ‘Round About Midnight

Miles plays an amazing solo on this. I remember transcribing it and marveling at how he starts out by playing the melody, then gradually moves away from the melody and its phrase structure as his solo unfolds. You can use this as a model for your own improvisations too, on any tune you like.

Bill Evans: Sunday At The Village Vanguard

This is the great Bill Evans Trio with Scott Lafaro on bass and Paul Motion on drums. Listen to how all three players are equal partners and how the traditional barrier between “melody” and “accompaniment” disappears at times.

Sarah Vaughan: Live At The London House

Sarah Vaughan combined a beautiful vocal tone with a musician’s ear. She could swing and improvise as well as any jazz instrumentalist.

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“All Of You” has a more traditional structure than many other Cole Porter tunes, such as “Begin The Beguine” and “So In Love.” Even so, notice how the melody peaks just a bit higher every 8 measures or so. This gives the song a more expansive emotional arc than most 32-bar songs in AABA form, where each A section is identical. You can reinforce these melodic high points with expressive phrasing and rich harmonies if you want to emphasize them. You can also be inspired to bring this technique into your solo, playing a higher note during each successive phrase for a while.
Also, check out how effectively Bill Evans uses block chords in the Village Vanguard recording above. This might be a good tune to practice this technique on for yourself.

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

Further links and resources:
All Of You: Wikipedia

All Of You: Journey Through The Real Book #11

Here’s a way to start simply and build your solo piano arrangement.

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

All Of You playalong track

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