A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Follow Your Heart” is by the great jazz/rock guitarist John McLaughlin. McLaughlin is perhaps best known as the leader of the seminal 1970s jazz fusion band The Mahavishnu Orchestra, which combined jazz and rock with an Eastern, specifically Indian, influence. If you haven’t heard them yet, check them out.

Even though McLaughlin has an unbelievable technical ability on guitar and can play lightening-fast licks when he wants to, he can also play very tenderly and with restraint, which he does on “Follow Your Heart.” He’s on both recordings I’ve linked to below, and it’s interesting to compare how the same artist, who in this case is also the composer, is open to different interpretations of the same material. His own recording is acoustic and almost folk-sounding, while he uses an electric guitar in Joe Farrell’s more rock-oriented arrangement.

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.)

John McLaughlin: The 1972 Munich solo concert

Joe Farrell: Joe Farrell Quartet

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Even though “Follow Your Heart” is mainly played by guitarists, it makes a great piano piece. The open chord voicings in the intro, which are notated in The Real Book, fit right under our fingers, and the song has an “open” sound that lends itself to modal piano voicings.

Although it may not be obvious at first, the tune is actually a 12-bar blues, with a deceptive resolution to G at the end of the form. The chords are all dominant sus chords, which give it a slightly harmonically-ambiguous sound as compared to a traditional blues.

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

Further links and resources:
John McLaughlin: Wikipedia

Joe Farrell Quartet (album): Wikipedia

Follow Your Heart: Journey Through The Real Book #120

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