A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Indian Lady” is a tune by the trumpeter/composer Don Ellis, who wrote it in 1967. It’s probably the fastest tune in 5/4 time that I know of! Ellis was influenced by Eastern music, and used different rhythms and time signatures in his music to reflect this interest.

You’re probably not going to encounter “Indian Lady” at a jam session, but if you enjoy challenging yourself with different time signatures, then you might want to make it one of your “showpieces.”

If you do choose to perform it in a group setting, be sure to give the other musicians plenty of time to learn it themselves. When I played with Chris Brubeck, he gave us a lot of practice time on his father Dave’s tunes with unusual time signatures, to help us feel comfortable on them. Once you learn how to improvise in 5/4, 7/4 and so one, it’s tempting to think that everyone else can too. But no, it takes time and persistence. Good luck, and “may the force be with you!”

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.)

The Don Ellis Orchestra: Electric Bath

Great name for an album!

Don Ellis: Live at Tanglewood, 1968 (video)

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Indian Lady” isn’t particularly challenging in terms of its chords and melody. Rather, the main stumbling block for most players is the 5/4 time signature, especially since the tempo is so fast.

If you want to become comfortable improvising in 5/4, my advice is to start practicing at slower tempos. Learn “Take Five” first, and then come back to “Indian Lady.” The good news is that once you learn a few tunes in unusual time signatures, the rest will seem more natural to you.

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

Further links and resources:
Don Ellis: Wikipedia

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
Personal guidance from an expert, caring teacher. Beginning through Advanced.

Take a Free Jazz Piano Lesson

Previous Song           Table of Contents           Next Song

Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You'll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration