A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
The song “Broadway” was written in 1940 with words and music by Billy Byrd, Teddy McRae and Henri Woode. It’s not a hugely popular jam session tune, mainly because it wasn’t in the original Real Book. But I’m glad they’ve now included it in recent editions because it’s a great tune and fun to play. Be sure to listen to the Charlie Parker version I’ve linked to below.

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

Al Cohn: Broadway

Scott Hamilton: From The Beginning

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The melody to “Broadway” is melodic, catchy, and pretty easy to play. It has a definite “Swing Era” feel to it but was also a favorite of the beboppers. The musical form is AABA, where each ‘A’ Section is an 8-bar blues. The bridge consists of two 4-bar phrases where each is a ii/V/I progression, the first in Ab and the second in Gb. (It’s good practice for playing in Gb major!)

You’ll see that the melody in the bridge consists of a 4-bar phrase which is then repeated down a whole step, as a melodic sequence. See if you can improvise something similar during that section. When I was the saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s assistant, I heard him improvise sequences like this every night. They sound very tuneful and logical and can help an audience “stay with” your solos.

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

Further links and resources:
How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively

Broadway: Journey Through The Real Book #47

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

Jazz Piano Video Course
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