A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
Written and recorded by saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk in 1965, “Black Diamond” has one foot in the “old” and the other foot in the “new.” The 1960s were a time of musical and cultural transition, and this can be seen in the jazz world through recordings like “Black Diamond.” When you listen to the link below, you’ll hear a fairly straight forward jazz waltz with a melody that could have been composed 10 years earlier, in the mid-1950s. But Rahsaan’s solo tells us otherwise. He pushed the musical boundaries in much the same way that fellow saxophonists John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter were also doing. (And, by the way, there’s a parallel to this in the rock world with Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and other musicians who began taking extended solos during the mid-to-late 60s.)

Here is a recommended recording:
(for international readers who may not have access to this YouTube links, you can search for the Roland Kirk recording on music streaming services, etc.)

Roland Kirk Quartet:

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The harmony used in the first 4 measures of “Black Diamond” implied an ascending chromatic line: A – Bb – B – C, with each tone lasting for one measure each. Take advantage of this “built-in” melodic interest and use it in your soloing as a guide tone line. To o this, you don’t have to use those notes exclusively, but you can come back to them in your improvised melody to help give shape to your solo and relate it to the this feature of the underlying harmony. (And for a similar instance of a chromatically-descending inner-voice movement, see the harmony to the tunes “In A Sentimental Mood” and “My Funny Valentine,” both also in The Real Book.)

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

Further links and resources:
Black Diamond playalong track

Black Diamond: Journey Through The Real Book #32

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

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