A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” is a great, bluesy tune that was composed by Don Redman in 1929, with lyrics by Andy Razaf. It’s most often played as a ballad but can also work well at more or a medium swing tempo.

Don Redman was one of the most important arrangers in early jazz and the development of the big band. I’ve included a link about Redman below so you can become more familiar with him and his music. He wrote and arranged music for everyone from Louis Armstrong to Fletcher Henderson, as well as leading his own groups. Much of our modern concept of jazz comes from Redman and his approaches to harmonizing melodies in an ensemble.

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.)

Don Redman

Roy Eldridge

Sonny Clark Trio: The Art Of The Trio

Nancy Wilson: Sings The Great Blues Ballads

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
For me, “Gee Baby” is the ultimate “blues that’s not really a blues” tune! By that, I mean that even though its chord progression doesn’t follow a 12-bar blues form, the tune is permeated throughout with “blues feeling” and it can be played like a blues.

The song is in an AABA form, but each section is only 4 bars long instead of the usual 16, which makes the whole song only 16 bars long. The slow tempo and the perfection of the melody make it seem satisfying as a song, though. Pay particular attention to the chord progression in the first two measures of the bridge, beginning with the IV chord. This harmonic sequence is very dramatic and was also used to great effect in the bridge to “Stormy Weather.”

See how much of your blues vocabulary you can bring to “Gee Baby.” It’s a lot of fun to play and one of the great standard ballads.

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

Further links and resources:
Don Redman: Setting The Template
A wonderful overview of Don Redman and his music, by Jim Gerard

Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You: Wikipedia

Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You: Journey Through The Real Book #130

How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively

Jazz Piano Video Course
This extensive, well-sequenced video course will get you playing jazz standards with a sense of flow and fluency.

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