A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Blues For Alice” is one of the classic blues tunes of the bebop era. Composed in 1951 by Charlie Parker, this was from the middle period of Parker’s all-too-short career.

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.)

Charlie Parker

Roland Kirk: We Free Kings

Mark Whitfield: True Blue

features Kenny Kirkland on piano

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The chord progression used in “Blues For Alice” is known as a “Parker Blues.” It still has 12 measures, but it begins with a Major 7th chord (instead of the usual dominant 7th). And in m.5, after the move to Bb7 (the IV chord), Parker inserts a chromatically-descending sequence of ii/V’s, which eventually bring us to the final cadence. The challenge in improvising over a Parker blues is becoming so comfortable with each key that you can move between them very quickly, since you only stay in each tonal center for one measure!

Since “Blues For Alice” contains so many sets of ii/V progressions, you can use it for practicing ii/V licks in various keys. Just pick a short lick that you can play over a ii/V and take it through the tune, moving from key to key as the tune indicates.

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

Further links and resources:
Blues For Alice: “Let’s Jam Together” video playalong

Blues For Alice: Journey Through The Real Book #41

Jazz Piano Tip #23: Blues For Alice

Here's a way to get accustomed to playing a "Parker Blues"

“Blues For Alice” progression analysis

Understanding advanced blues harmony

10 Ways To Learn Bebop Piano

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

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