A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“D Natural Blues” was composed by guitarist Wes Montgomery and included on his 1960 album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery. D major is more of a “guitar key” than a “piano key,” but that’s no reason not to learn it on piano! We pianists need to become comfortable playing in all keys and this tune will help broaden your musicianship in many ways.

One big “plus” that comes from learning blues in D, for example, is that you can’t just let your fingers move habitually. While this may be difficult at first, it will eventually force you to clearly “hear’ what you want to lay and then let if come out on the piano keyboard. Them when you go back to the more common jazz-blues keys of F and Bb, you’ll have a better ear than you did before and you’ll be able to play better in those keys as well. Transposing is a “win-win” situation as far as your musicality is concerned!!!

Here are some recommended recordings/videos:
(for international readers who may not have access to this YouTube link, I’ve indicated the original album name so you can listen to the recording on music streaming services, etc.)
Wes Montgomery: The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
When you play “D Natural Blues,” notice how the melody uses the ‘blue note’ of F natural at times and the chord tone of F# at other times. The use of the F natural and the F# represent the various approaches to improvising on the blues. Sometimes the F natural is used as part of the D blues scale. It’s also the 7th of the G7 chord. The F#, on the other hand, is part of the D major scale and is the 3rd of the D7 chord. It’s used when a more chord-based approach is taken, which is for most of jazz. In this case, the F natural is often used as a neighbor or approach tone to the F#, as we see in “D Natural Blues.”

Study these concepts thoroughly in relation to the melody, and then use them as you improvise your solos over the D blues chord progression.

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

Further links and resources:
The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery: Wikipedia

Transcription of Wes Montgomery’s guitar solo on “D Natural Blues”
Note how Wes plays the melody in octaves

D Natural Blues: Journey Through The Real Book #78

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