A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
Even though Frank Sinatra sang in large concert halls, he always said that he considered himself to be a “saloon singer.” By this, meant that he sang songs, especially ballads, as if he was in a bar or saloon, late at night, talking to one or two other people. “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” is a classic example of this. The song’s lyrics speak of lost love and feeling devastated. Sinatra had known these emotions from first-hand experience, and sought to convey them through songs like this and “Angel Eyes.”

The song was composed in 1955 by David Mann and Bob Hilliard. And yes, it was composed after midnight, during “The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning!”

Recommended videos/recordings:
(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.)

Frank Sinatra: In The Wee Small Hours

Oscar Peterson: The Trio

Keith Jarrett Trio: At The Blue Note

John Mayer: TV appearance (video)

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
If you look at the first 6 chords to “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning,” you’ll see that they imply an inner-voice countermelody of B-Bb-A-G#-G-G#. (Major 7th, dominant 7th, etc.) Try taking this a step further and continue the line throughout the whole piece, using chord tomes to form a stepwise alto or tenor part. You’ll hear this type of linear motion in the music of Duke Ellington, Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Billy Strayhorn, Clare Fischer, and many others.

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

Further links and resources:
In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning: Wikipedia
Includes an account of how the song was composed, believe it or not, “In the wee small hours of the morning!”

The Most Heartbreaking Album Ever Recorded
An article about Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours” album

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.

Jazz Piano Lessons via Skype
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