A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Crescent” is the title piece from John Coltrane’s great 1964 album. This was recorded by his classic quartet, consisting of Coltrane on tenor sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. Even though they were all incredible soloists, I think the main reason they produced such great music is that the rhythm section weaved together a unique harmonic and rhythmic tapestry under Coltrane’s saxophone playing. Both the quartal harmony and use of polyrhythms gave the music a “floating” feel, at the same time that it “swung” as part of the jazz tradition.

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.)

John Coltrane: Crescent

John Coltrane: Concert In Japan

SF Jazz Collective

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Crescent” is interesting in that it has three different sets of chord changes, at different times. In a way, it’s like a big band arrangement in this way. You can solo during the introduction, playing G7sus4(b9) and then D7sus4(b9). Then, the melody itself is harmonized with various ii/V/I’s, and there is also a different set of changes for the solos. This serves to give the tune more harmonic variety than most jazz tunes. I think the concept of having a separate set of chord changes for improvisation has a lot of potential for our own songwriting!

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

Further links and resources:

Crescent: Journey Through The Real Book #76

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