A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
Based on a Swedish folk tune, “Dear Old Stockholm” first came to the attention of the jazz world via the 1956 Miles Davis album “’Round About Midnight.” Miles enjoyed looking to folk sources for jazz material, as he later did again with arranger Gil Evans for their “Sketches Of Spain” recording. The original recording was by Miles’ classic 1950s quintet, with Davis on trumpet, John Coltrane playing tenor sax, and a rhythm section of Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. You could spend a few productive months listening to all their recordings (that’s a hint!!!).

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.)

Miles Davis: ‘Round About Midnight

Manhattan Jazz Quintet

Kenny Clarke – Francy Boland Big Band: Out Of The Folk Bag

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Surprisingly, “Dear Old Stockholm” has many of the same musical elements that a contemporary pop song might have, even though the two would sound nothing alike. It begins with a catchy harmonic/ rhythmic pattern, proceeds to the song itself, and, unlike most jazz pieces, has a catchy melodic hook that repeats at the end.

This gives us jazz pianists “more than the usual” choices in terms of material use for improvisation. You can simply play it straight through, as you would any other jazz tune. Or, you could improvise over the Dm introduction only. Or, you could choose to extend the C7sus chord at the end of your solo, playing modally using the C Mixolydian mode. Try all three approaches and see which you like best.

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

Further links and resources:
A Horizontal Search
An analysis of John Coltrane’s “Dear Old Stockholm solo, by Kevin Sun

Spotlight tune: Dear Old Stockholm
A discussion of the tune, from a jazz perspective

Dear Old Stockholm: Journey Through The Real Book #84

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

How To Learn Jazz Piano
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