A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Israel” was composed by John Carisi and is known for having been recorded by the now-legendary “Birth Of The Cool” band, led by Miles Davis, in 1949. As such, the tune was an early influence on the budding “cool jazz” style that blossomed during the 1950s.

“Israel” isn’t your typical jam session tune, but it’s a unique piece in the jazz repertoire and it’s worth getting to know the recordings I’ve linked to below. John Carisi was part of a small but important circle of composer/arrangers which included Gerry Mulligan and Gil Evans.

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.)

Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool

Bill Evans Trio: Explorations

Clare Fischer: A Family Affair

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Israel” is a minor blues with a catchy melody. The chord progression uses an ascending chromatic inner voice in m. 1-4 which rises begins on A and rises to Bb, B, and then C. A similar technique is used on the Gm and A7 chords in m. 5-6. After that, Carisi puts in a beautiful harmonic touch by surprising us with the DMaj7 chord, followed by FMaj7 and BbMaj7. He echoes this F chord with the use of F7 in the turnaround.

As you listen to Clare Fischer’s arrangement for clarinet choir, see if you can follow some of the inner voices. Fischer was a master of melodic motion within harmony parts, and this type of eartraining will help you hear and play similar textures on piano.

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

Further links and resources:
John Carisi: Wikipedia

Composers As Jazz Innovators
An excellent historical look at jazz composers and their influence, by Stefano Zenni

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

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