A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Bluesette” is a jazz waltz by harmonic virtuoso Toots Thielemans, who also played guitar and whistled. It’s in Bb, and uses elements of a “Parker Blues” chord progression, such as used in Charlie Parker’s “Blues For Alice”. Thielemans wrote “Bluesette” in 1962 and it’s become one of the most-played jazz tunes of all time.

The charming melody consists of ascending scalar passages alternating with large intervallic leaps between 2 separate guide-tone lines.

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.)

Toots Thielemans: The Whistler And His Guitar

Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder (video)

Bill Evans: The Sesjun Radio Shows

Quincy Jones: Mellow Madness

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Since “Bluesette” uses so many ii/V progressions, the tune presents a great opportunity to practice taking a lick through many different keys. You can practice this at 3 levels:

1. Playing the lick exactly the same in each key.
2. Varying the lick as you encounter each new key
3. Freely repeat, vary, and extend the lick as you move through the chord progression.

After that, forget it all and simply improvise, as the great trumpeter Clark Terry said, “with abandon!”

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

Further links and resources:
A transcription of Toots Thielemans’ solo on "Bluesette"

Bluesette: Journey Through The Real Book #42

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

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