A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano
History and overview:
“Interplay” is a 12-bar minor blues by pianist Bill Evans. It was originally recorded by Evans on his 1962 album of the same name. The Interplay album is one of the rare times that Evans led a group larger than his customary trio. It features trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and guitarist Jim Hall (with whom Evans also recorded in a duet setting on the Undercurrent album). Percy Heath from The Modern Jazz Quartet played bass and Philly Joe Jones was on drums. A few years earlier, Evans and Jones were two-thirds of Miles Davis’ rhythm section.
(for international readers who may not have access to this YouTube link, I’ve indicated the original album name so you can listen to the recording on music streaming services, etc.)
Bill Evans: Interplay
Featuring trumpeter Freddie Hubbard
Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Even though The Real Book says that “Interplay” is a “Medium Blues,” it’s really a little slower than that. Listen to the Bill Evans recording above and you’ll hear that the group plays it at a very relaxed, medium-slow tempo. It’s slower than the melody looks like on paper, at least to me.
The melody is straight out of the bebop playbook, so to speak. There’s more than a little influence from pianist Lennie Tristano, who liked to displace accents and place his phrases in a way that disguised the underlying beat. Evans was influenced by Tristano in his early days, and also learned this concept of “rhythmic displacement” from Thelonious Monk.
You can use Evans' melody to help you bring these concepts into your soloing more. Play the melody and pay particular attention to which beat each phrase begins and ends on. You’ll notice that “Interplay” does some interesting things in this regard. Then, when you solo, try to do the same thing. You’ll hear a lot of this type of rhythmic displacement in the solos of Monk and Tristano, and also in Keith Jarrett’s playing with his Standards Trio and in the work of Brad Mehldau. Check out the links below to learn more about this.
Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”
Further links and resources:
Bill Evans speaks about rhythmic displacement
Bill Evans on Piano Jazz
A radio interview and performance by Bill Evans with host Marian McPartland
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.
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