A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Conception” is a bebop composition written by the English-born jazz pianist George Shearing. Shearing is perhaps best known for two things: 1. His composition “Lullaby Of Birdland” and 2. His “block chords” style of playing which he adapted from the jazz organ playing of Milt Buckner. Bill Evans, in particular, was highly influenced by Shearing in the way he improvised using block chords, although Evans sometimes used more open voicings than Shearing’s close harmonies.

Although “Conception” isn’t one of the more common jam session tunes, it’s a great tune to play and might be a welcome change if you find yourself in need of more variety in your repertoire.

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.)

George Shearing Quintet

Bud Powell Trio: Piano Interpretations By Bud Powell

Chet Baker: Conception

(There’s a great version by Keith Jarrett too, if you can find it. It’s on his live album “Whisper Not.”)

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Conception” is a great bebop melody, but the low register of the melody can get in the way of the chord voicings you usually play. When this happens, you have two choices:

1. Play something lower with your left hand (or leave it out entirely), or

2. Move the melody up an octave. Experiment with both these approaches and see which you prefer. Or, you can avoid the issue entirely by playing the melody in each hand, an octave or two apart. Whichever approach you take, “Conception” has an interesting set of chord changes that makes it fun to improvise on!

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

Further links and resources:
Conception playalong track

Conception: Journey Through The Real Book #69

10 Ways To Learn Bebop Piano

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