A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
OK! Now let’s get into one of the most beloved tunes in the Real Book! “All The Things You Are” (often abbreviated as ATTYA) was one of Jerome Kern’s later compositions for musical theater (1939). The combination of Kern’s music and Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics are musical perfection. Charlie Parker reportedly loved the words so much that he nicknamed his wife “Yatag,” taking the first letter of each word from the beginning of the song’s bridge: “You are the angel glow…” You can really hear this in how warmly Parker played the bridge in the Dizzy Gillespie recording below.

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.)

Thelonious Monk:

ATTYA is one of the few songs that beboppers like Thelonious Monk recorded with a vocalist on their own recording sessions.

Art Tatum and Ben Webster: The Art Tatum Group Masterpieces

My piano teacher Billy Taylor, who had studied with Tatum and also played piano with Webster, loved this recording. When I once remarked that I didn't think Tatum was a "good accompanist," Billy told me, "He could be when he wanted to. Listen to him play with Ben Webster." I hope you enjoy this wonderful recording!

Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker:

The fact that Gillespie recorded the tune at his very first recording session as a leader shows us how important it was to the creators of bebop.

Sonny Rollins: Sonny Meets Hawk!

Coleman Hawkins his childhood idol. Paul Bley’s piano solo was hugely influential in the way that his phrases crossed barlines and developed motifs in a way that is seemingly independent of the underlying structure. It almost sounds as if sax player Ornette Coleman was playing one of his “free” improvisations while the rhythm section was independently playing ATTYA!

Keith Jarrett: Tribute

The way Jarrett plays the first verse as a piano solo must be heard to be believed. It’s like space-age Bach!

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“All The Things You Are” has a chord progression that goes around the circle of fourths in a very logical way. Despite this, the tune is challenging because it moves through several different keys, including E Major at the end of the bridge! There is also a 4-bar extension during the last A section which results in a 36-measure form, instead of the “usual” 23-bar songs that are more common.

Start by playing through the tune a few times to get an overall sense of the structure. Then focus on one section at a time. This will help you stay in the correct key at the right places when you put the whole tune together again. Also, be sure to practice the ii/V/I in E major for an extended period of time. Your goal is to become as fluent in E major as you are in the more common keys, so that you play the end of the bridge as well as you do the rest of the tune.

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

Further links and resources:
All The Things You Are: Journey Through The Real Book #12

Here’s a way to play the tune with your left hand that my teacher Billy Taylor showed me. Enjoy!

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

All The Things You Are: “Let’s Jam Together” video playalong

All The Things You Are: Wikipedia

How to create a jazz piano arrangement (using “All The Things You Are” as an example)

What to do when “All The Things You Are” is a huge struggle for you

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