A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Joy Spring” is an amazing piece! Composed by trumpeter Clifford Brown, it’s an medium/up tempo that’s full of energy and, well… joy!

The tune was first recorded in 1954 by Clifford Brown and Max Roach, and has been a jazz standard ever since. It’s “bebop but a little after bebop,” if that makes any sense! This was the beginning of the “hard bop” era, when beboppers and their younger peers were beginning to take the music in slightly different directions. It’s really difficult to make these micro-stylistic distinctions in some cases, since many of these musicians played differently in the recording studio than they played live. The records were oftentimes fairly “contained,” while live recordings now show that they “let loose” in a very bebop way when playing at clubs and theaters!

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.)

Clifford Brown and Max Roach

The pianist on this recording is Bud Powell’s brother, Richie Powell.

Freddie Hubbard: Born To Be Blue

Billy Taylor and Monte Alexander (video)

Manhattan Transfer: Vocalese
The lyrics in this vocal version are by vocalese master Jon Hendricks

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
There are two contrasting “mental attitudes” we can have when practicing a tune like “Joy Spring.” We can think, “Oh, no, it’s really hard to solo over all these chords,” and, “How am I ever going to play in Gb?” Or, we can think, “Clifford Brown wrote such a delightful melody over all these chord changes. I’ll bet I can learn how to solo like that!” And “ Hmm…I’ll make this the tune that gets me comfortable improvising in Gb major, once and for all!”

It’s your choice. (Always remember that in jazz, a challenge is an opportunity!)

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

Further links and resources:
Joy Spring playalong track

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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