A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Fall” is a tune that tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter wrote for the Miles Davis album Neferiti. Nefertiti was recorded in 1967, released in 1968, and was the final “straight ahead” jazz album that the classic 1960s Miles Davis Quintet recorded before moving in a more “rock” direction with their music.

If you’re getting into Wayne Shorter’s music, learn “Fall” after you’ve already learned some of his more popular tunes, such as “Footprints,” “Witch Hunt,” and “Speak No Evil.” And definitely listen to the version on Nefertiti, which I’ve linked to below. By this time, Shorter and his bandmates in the Miles’ group had been playing together for several years and their chemistry together is stunning. They manage to sound “loose” while being absolutely together, all the while creating new ensemble sounds which were exploratory yet firmly in the jazz tradition.

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: Nefertiti

Michael Urbaniak: Serenade For The City

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Listen to Herbie Hancock’s piano solo on “Fall,” which starts at 2:20 in the Miles Davis recording I’ve linked to above (from the album Nefertiti). Notice how Herbie takes an approach to soloing that’s far removed from the way Swing Era or bebop musicians would play a solo. Instead of beginning with full phrases, he’s settling back into the groove and expressing himself through a short motif, which he then repeats and alters in various ways. He’s not “running the changes” with a string of 8th notes. His phrases do get longer as his solo progresses, but the emphasis is on letting the motifs develop. You can learn a lot by listening to how a solo like this unfolds. Check it out a few times, and then begin applying this concept to your own playing, even on other songs you play.

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

Nefertiti (album): Wikipedia

Fall: Journey Through The Real Book #113

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