A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Full House” is a jazz waltz by guitarist Wes Montgomery. Montgomery came to prominence in the 1960s and was a big influence on almost every jazz guitarist who came after him, notably George Benson. His playing is distinguished by his use of octaves when soloing and in the way in which he combined blues and jazz in much the same way that the pianist Wynton Kelly did (see the tune “Freddie Freeloader” for more on Wynton Kelly).

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.)

Wes Montgomery: Full House

David Sanborn: Newport Jazz Festival (video)

Hear how Sanborn and his group play the tune with a funk beat

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The ‘A’ Sections of “Full House” are a good example of the type of tune that sounds “bluesy” but isn’t a strict 12-bar blues. There are in fact 16 measures in each ‘A’ Section but they use the i, IV, and V chords in much the same way that they’re used in a blues tune.

After the introduction, “Full House” begins on an Fm chord, just like a Minor Blues would. But instead of staying on the Fm chord for 4 measures, it immediately begins alternating Fm and Bb7, for only one bar each. The F blues scale fits this like a glove, and indeed, most jazz players would use this scale to good effect here. The 2-bar sequence continues, with an occasional C7 (V7) chord used to remind us that this is in “song form,” and not merely an open-ended vamp. In the middle of the tune there’s a, 8 measure bridge that uses more traditionally “jazz” chords, with ii/V/I’s in the keys of Ab major, B major, and then leading back to the “home” key of F minor.

Tunes like “Full House” are great opportunities to develop our blues-based playing on song forms other than the standard 12-bar blues. This type of bluesy playing can also be used on older standards like “Black Coffee” and “In A Sentimental Mood.”

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

Further links and resources:
Wes Montgomery: Wikipedia

Full House: Journey Through The Real Book #131

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