A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
When I was first starting to play professionally, in the mid-1980s, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” was one of the Real Book songs that the general listening public would still recognize when I played it on gigs. Decades later, this isn’t necessarily the case anymore, as “standards” albums by pop vocalists have brought back dozens of other tunes from The Great American Songbook into the public consciousness, mostly slower ballads. But it’s catchy and still works to enliven a roomful of listeners at a cocktail party or similar event.

In 1940, Duke Ellington composed an instrumental piece called “Never No Lament” for his big band. You can listen to that recording in the “further links and resources” section below. “Never No Lament” was basically a catchy, 8-bar section that repeated, without any contrasting section other than what was built into the orchestration. Two years later, a lyric was added by Bob Russell, along with a newly-composed bridge by Ellington, and the song became “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Ironically, this is what’s now also played instrumentally, and “Never No Lament” really only exists as a great recording. Everybody plays the piece with the “new” bridge now.

There were a few wrong chords during the bridge in the original Real Book, but they’ve happily been corrected in the present edition.

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.)

Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington

Oscar Peterson: The Complete Songbooks 1951-1955

Harry Connick Jr. (video)

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The first thing to notice about “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” is that the initial, descending melodic phrase is immediately answered by an upward melodic line implied by the chords. Voice the chords so the top voice plays a melody: E –F –F# -G. This creates a catchy “call and response” that is reminiscent of gospel music and blues. (Later you can vary it by playing different voicings, but these are the traditional ones.)

The melody during the ‘A’ Sections is often played with these “stop time” rhythms as accompaniment, and then with a steady walking bass or stride LH during the bridge. Keep the steady rhythm going during solos. Repeating quarter-note chords also sound great during the bridge, a la pianist Erroll Garner or guitarist Freddie Green.

There were a few wrong chords during the bridge in the original Real Book, but they’ve happily been corrected in the present edition.

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

Further links and resources:
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore playalong track

Duke Ellington: “Never No Lament
This is the instrumental that “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” was based on.

Don’t Get Around Much Anymore: Journey Through The Real Book #99

How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively

Jazz Piano Video Course
This extensive, well-sequenced video course will get you playing jazz standards with a sense of flow and fluency.

Jazz Piano Lessons via Skype
Personal guidance from an expert, caring teacher. Beginning through Advanced.

Take a Free Jazz Piano Lesson

Previous Song           Table of Contents           Next Song

Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You'll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration