A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Gemini” was written and arranged by tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath for his 1962 album Triple Threat. Even though it seems like it was composed with a full orchestration in mind, the tune also works well with smaller jazz groups, as we can hear on the Cannonball Adderley recording I’ve lined to below. Even on that sextet recording, however, you’ll hear the same rhythmic background figure being played that Heath used in his original arrangement. This type of figure is very effective in that it enhances the long notes in the tune’s melody.

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.)

Jimmy Heath: Triple Threat

Cannonball Adderley: Cannonball In Europe

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Gemini” is kind of a “disguised blues.” When you first look at the leadsheet, it doesn’t appear to be a blues at all. It’s in ¾ time, which in itself is unusual for a blues. Furthermore, there are lot more chords than we usually see in a blues. But when we take a closer look, we begin to notice some interesting things.

To begin with, the first 8 measures simply alternate Eb with Db/Eb. And is another name for Db/Eb? Eb9 sus! So measures 1-8 and all an Eb chord, with subtle shifts in coloration, which in this case make it sound more modal than a straight Eb7 would be. I know that the I chord in a blues usually lasts for four measures and we’ve had eight, but this is in a fast ¾ meter and maybe Heath has simply doubled the number of measures in the form. Let’s find out.

Now, in a normal blues we’d expect to see a move to the IV chord after this; Ab7. At first glance, no, it’s an Ebm chord. But wait! It’s immediately followed by the "expected Ab7," with a Gb in the bass. Going through the whole chord progression, we see that it does indeed follow the contours and proportions of a traditional blues tune. It's just a little stretched out and disguised!

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

Further links and resources:
Jimmy Heath's website

Jimmy Heath: Wikipedia

Gemini: Journey Through The Real Book #132

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