A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Desafinado” was one of the first bossas to become famous in jazz circles, due to the 1962 Jazz Samba album by tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd. If you’re just getting into playing bossas, learn “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Blue Bossa,” and “Corcovado” first. Then come back to more complex but equally beautiful tunes like “Desafinado.”

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.)

Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd: Jazz Samba

Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto: Getz/Gilberto

Joao Gilberto (video)

Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joe Henderson: Carnegie Hall Salutes The Jazz Masters, 1994 (video)

Gilberto Gil and Stevie Wonder

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
At 68 measures in length, “Desafinado” is definitely a “long-form” bossa nova! Songs like this are fun to play because they seem to “take their time” and unfold gradually. (Cole Porter was also a master at writing this type of tune. If you’re looking to expand your repertoire beyond The Real Book, check out his tunes “Begin The Beguine and “So In Love.”)

In this spirit, you’ll probably want take your time while soloing on “Desafinado” as well. If you come charging out of the gate and play a million notes right at the beginning, you may find that you run out of steam and have nowhere to go by the time you get to the bridge. Stay relaxed and let your improvised phrases unfold as you pay attention to where you are in the form. (But at the same time, realize that even this isn’t a “rule.” The saxophonist Wayne Shorter, for instance, often starts his jazz solos out by playing very fast and then hits a peaceful note later on in the form. We each have to find out “own way.”)

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

Further links and resources:
Jazz Piano Tip #22: Desafinado

How to make your jazz piano solos more interesting

Desafinado: Journey Through The Real Book #89

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

Bossa Nova: Wikipedia

Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd: Give The Drummer Some
JazzTimes article about the groundbreaking Jazz Samba album

Desafinado: playalong track

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