A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Forest Flower” is an exciting tune which appeared on the Charles Lloyd group’s 1966 live album from the Monterey Jazz Festival in California. Lloyd primarily played tenor sax and his quartet included Keith Jarrett on piano, Cecil McBee on bass and John Dejohnette on drums. Jarrett and Dejohnette would later become two-thirds of The Keith Jarrett Standards Trio so it’s fascinating to hear their younger selves play together here.

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.)

Charles Lloyd: Forest Flower: Charles Lloyd At Monterey

Featuring a young Keith Jarrett on piano

Chico Hamilton: Man From Two Worlds

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Rhythmically, “Forest Flower” goes back and forth from Latin to Swing. This isn’t as unusual as it may sound. Tunes such as “Green Dolphin Street” and “I’ll Remember April” are famous for being played like this. (And by the way, whatever happened to “Green Dolphin Street” in The Real Book??? It was one of the most popular tunes in the original editions! Maybe they couldn’t get the publisher’s approval to publish it anymore, but it’s sorely missed. If you don’t know the tune yet, track down a copy and learn it. It’s an “essential” jazz standard.)

Alternating between Latin and Swing grooves like this can keep a tune energized during your solos. There’s an influx of fresh energy every time we make the transition from straight 8ths to swing 8ths, and back again. See if you can let this influence your solos as you “ride the groove!”

It’s interesting to see how well the chord progression in “Forest Flower” corresponds to the different rhythmic “feels.” Major 7th chords that roam around between different keys are used during the Latin sections and then, when it shifts to the swing feel, the chords move in a more traditional jazz way, with a Dbm7 giving way to a straight ahead ii/V/I in the key of C major. (The Latin section immediately after this continues with a ii/bII/I, which kind of combines the two styles established throughout the tune. (The bII chord functions as a “tritone substitution” for the expected V chord; B7 instead of F7 in the key of Bb.)

“Forest Flower” reflects the cultural energy of the 1960s, when Charles Lloyd, Keith Jarrett, and others brought the worlds of jazz and rock very close together in a highly creative way that tapped into the youthful spirit of the time. Bring it to a jam session and share it with your musical friends!

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

NEA Jazz Masters: Tribute To Charles Lloyd (video)

Forest Flower: Journey Through The Real Book #125

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