A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano
History and overview:
“Hot Toddy” was composed by the pianist/composer/bandleader Ralph Flanagan who recorded the song in 1953 (see video below). It’s has a catchy melody and is relatively easy to solo over, which makes is a good choice for beginning improvisers.
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.)
Ralph Flanagan and His Orchestra
Julie London: The Best Of The Best
Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Hot Toddy” has an interesting and slightly unusual harmonic characteristic. The tune is composed of repeating pairs of chords with one pair per measure. Furthermore, many of the pairs consist of a major chord followed by a minor chord that’s a 5th higher: C – Gm, F7 – Cm.
The harmonic movement down a perfect 5th is known in traditional harmony as a “retrogression,” and has a relaxing sound. These particular minor chords also give each pair a distinctly modal sound, so that, for instance, you can solo with the C Mixolydian mode over the C – Gm chords in measures 1-2. Once you’ve identified the main tonal centers in this way, “Hot Toddy” becomes easy to play and gives you a lot of freedom.
Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”
Further links and resources:
Ralph Flanagan: Wikipedia
Hot Toddy: Journey Through The Real Book #151
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