A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Grow Your Own” was the opening track on the album that Keith Jarrett and vibraphonist Gary Burton made together in 1970 (it was released the next year, in 1971). Like the other Jarrett tunes on the album, “Grow Your Own” uses a straight 8th-note groove that perfectly fits into the “jazz meets rock” feel of the recording session.

“Gary Burton & Keith Jarrett” was the 2nd Keith Jarrett recording I ever heard (The Köln Concert was the first), and the music still sounds great, decades later. These jazz-rock tunes can be a lot of fun to play, especially if you’re used to only playing with a swing feel.

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.)

Gary Burton & Keith Jarrett: Gary Burton & Keith Jarrett

Gary Burton: Gary Burton’s Bootleg Series 1975a

Grow Your Own: Journey Through The Real Book #142

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
As a jazz pianist, one of the first things you’ll notice about “Grow Your Own” is that the chords are mostly triads. “Pop” chords. These harmonies, which would be at home in a pop or rock song from the time, combine with the pop/rock beat of the song to create a very pleasant-sounding springboard for our improvisations.

Generally speaking, it’s often best to solo on this type of tune as you would in a pop or rock style, instead of pulling out all your Charlie Parker licks right from the start. Pentatonic scales, “major” blues scales, and diatonic melodies will instantly fit the song well. And if they eventually lead into some “jazziness,” then yes, play what you “hear.” But I’ve found that when jazz musicians don’t meet this type of music “half way,” and treat it like they would a bebop tune, it usually doesn’t sound very good.

But then again, there are no rules in music, only principles. Try everything and see what works for you as an individual.

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

Further links and resources:
Gary Burton & Keith Jarrett (album): Wikipedia

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