A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
This is a GREAT Wayne Shorter tune!
This is a GREAT Wayne Shorter tune!
This is a GREAT Wayne Shorter tune!

I’ll say it again:
This is a GREAT Wayne Shorter tune!

“Fee Fi Fo Fum” is one of the tunes on Shorter’s great 1966 album “Speak No Evil.” If you haven’t heard the whole album yet, get it now and listen to it every day for a year. The group’s sound is representative of how a lot of post-bop is played, yet it’s not so “out” that it’s unapproachable. Everything you hear on the “Speak No Evil” album can be applied to the older jazz standards you play, such as “Autumn Leaves.”

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.)

Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil

Kirk Lightsey

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
There’s something wonderful about how the melody of “Fee Fi Fo Fum” kind of winds its way through the chord changes. The chord progression itself is a step beyond that of traditional jazz standards, in the same way that the music of Debussy and Ravel is a step beyond that of Mozart and Chopin. Instead of thinking in terms of functional harmony, the French Impressionists, along with the jazz musicians of Shorter’s generation, began relating chords by thirds and other intervals, both diatonic and chromatic. They were more interested in the movement of energy and change of color between chords than in how any given chord related to the overall tonic key. When you’re playing “Fee Fi Fo Fum,” listen to and experience how the chords and melody work together!

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

Further links and resources:
A phrase from Herbie Hancock’s “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” piano solo

An analysis of “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” and some other tunes, by Peter Spitzer

Ron Carter’s Bassline on “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” (video and transcription)

Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum: Journey Through The Real Book #116

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