A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Blue Bossa” is one of the essential jazz tunes to learn. It’s one of the easier tunes in the Real Book and is a big jam session favorite.

Composed by trumpeter Kenny Durham in 1961, “Blue Bossa” is what I call a “jazz bossa,” since it was composed specifically as a jazz vehicle. In other words, it isn’t a Brazilian song like “The Girl From Ipanema” that was adapted by jazz musicians.

Here are some recommended recordings/videos:
(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.)

Joe Henderson: Page One

Featuring the tune's composer, Kenny Durham, on trumpet

Dexter Gordon: Biting The Apple

Chick Corea/ Bobby McFerrin

Tommy Flanagan (video)

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Blue Bossa” has two main tonal centers. The main part of the tune moves through the basic chords in the key of C minor, with a brief excursion to Db Major. It’s a short tune, only 16 bars long, and the ii/V/I in Db functions as a kind of short bridge, providing a brief phrase of harmonic contrast. Practice the Ebm7/Ab7/Dbmaj7 chord progression until it becomes easy for you, then incorporate it back into the tune as a whole.

Check out the link below to “Blue Bossa: What You Don’t Know About The Standard” to learn about the tune’s original bass line, which is not in The Real Book. You can create a exciting solo piano arrangement by playing this bass line under the melody and chords.

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

Further links and resources:
Blue Bossa: “Let’s Jam Together” video playalong

Blue Bossa: What You Don’t Know About The Standard
An insightful discussion about the original version of the tune

Blue Bossa: Journey Through The Real Book #36

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

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