A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Just One More Chance” is a type of sweet, lyrical ballad that was very popular during the 1930s-40s. Even beboppers like Dizzy Gillespie loved playing this beautiful melody, as we can hear on the recording below.

The song was written by Arthur Johnson and Sam Coslow in either 1930 or 1931, depending on which source you look at. It’s one of those songs that everyone at the time knew, although we don’t hear it much anymore. It’s not an especially “jazzy” song, but if you want to play a beautiful ballad, either on a jazz gig or for ballroom dancing, you can’t go wrong with this one!

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.)

Bing Crosby

A “pop” recording, from 1931. This is the way most jazz musicians of the 1930s and 40s would have first heard the song.

Billie Holiday

Listen to how Holiday alters the melody, changing notes and phrasing it in her own unique way.

Dizzy Gillespie: Cognac Blues

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
One fun and effective way to play “Just One More Chance” on piano is to approach it like you’re making a big band and orchestra arrangement. Listen to the 3 recordings I’ve linked to above and take elements from each.

Start by creating a piano texture with a medium slow, relaxed stride left hand. This is a lovely sound and will provide a full accompaniment to support whatever you do in the right hand, whether it’s just the melody or more. Then, listen to the string section on the Bing Crosby recording, and play some legato, violin-like melodic lines as fills during the held notes, such as in m. 2 of the melody. You can also take some inspiration from the jazzy trombone fills under Crosby’s vocal.

Once you get that going, listen to how Billie Holiday uniquely shapes the melody. She even changes some notes to suit her personal conception of the song. Try this yourself, and experiment with delaying some of the phrasing like she does as well.

Finally, listen to how Dizzy Gillespie plays the melody with his trumpet. Even though he became famous by playing bebop, he grew up listening to and performing this earlier style of Swing music, and he’s clearly enjoying revisiting the style. (You can hear a touch of this on his bebop recording of “Groovin’ High,” too.)

So to recap: Begin with a relaxed stride pattern, add some string-like lines along with the melody, and check out how Holiday and Gillespie interpret the song from a jazz perspective. Mix it all together, maybe add a few things of your own, and you’ll have your very own arrangement of a great song.

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

Further links and resources:
Sam Coslow (lyricist): Wikipedia

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