A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Days And Nights Waiting” is an early Keith Jarrett composition from the period when he was playing piano in Charles Lloyd’s quartet. The group became famous during the late 1960s which was a time when jazz and rock groups would often play after one another at jazz festivals and even in clubs, like the Fillmore West. While definitely a jazz group, the quartet became with the rock audiences because of their youthful energy and the fact that they included some pop songs in their repertoire, including the Beatles’ “Here, There, And Everywhere.” Also, the jazz and rock at the time shared a common interest in extended solos. Seen in this light and from our historical perspective, the rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix and the jazz saxophonist John Coltrane would appeal to some of the same audience.

Here is arecommended recording/video:
(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.)

Charles Lloyd: Live In The Soviet Union (1970)

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Harmonically, “Days And Nights Waiting” is a combination of traditional jazz writing and the experimentation of the 1960s (which has roots going back further). Jarrett starts out with a straight-ahead ii/V/I in the key of Bb, which could have been written in the 1920s. He then puts in an A7, which, if this were indeed a 1920s standard, would lead us to the key of Dm, at least temporarily. But Jarrett does something surprising here. He doesn’t go where we expect, instead beginning a new harmonic sequence with a seemingly unrelated F#m 7chord, which has nothing in common with the keys of either Bb major or D minor. So where’s he going? As it turns out, he’s setting up a pretty common iii/vi/ii/V/I progression in the key of D major. (The initial A7 can, in retrospect, be seen as a hint of where we’re going.)
So Jarrett is using traditional chord progressions, but in his own way be suddenly “shifting gears” in ways that we don’t really expect, but aren’t totally “outside” either.

The form of “Days And Nights Waiting” is similar. Jarrett uses traditional 8-measure sections, but the structure is only ABA, instead of the common AABA form. Again, it’s non-traditional use of traditional elements.

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

Further links and resources:
The Complete Q & A: Charles Lloyd speaks, dreams
An excellent and extensive interview with saxophonist Charles Lloyd; includes some discussion of his quartet with Keith Jarrett

Days and Nights Waiting: Journey Through The Real Book #83

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