A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Lines And Spaces” is a medium tempo tune by saxophonist Joe Lovano, which he included on his 1992 album From The Soul. The tune wasn’t in the original Real Book, but has been included in recent editions. It’s too complex to be the first Real Book tune you play, but it’s a great one to learn after you’ve played many of the standards. It will stretch your boundaries!

Recommended video:
(for international readers who may not have access to this YouTube link, you can find recordings of “Lines And Spaces” on music streaming services, etc.

Joe Lovano: From The Soul

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Musically, “Lines And Spaces” reminds me of the kind of tune that Charles Mingus used to write. It uses standard jazz chords, but in an unpredictable sequence. Thelonious Monk did this a lot too. What this means for us improvisers is that we already know all the chords, but we have to spend the time necessary to become comfortable spinning out melodic lines through the unusual harmonic journey that Lovano outlines for us.

To see what I mean, take a look at the first 4 chords: Ebdim7/D7 Dm7/Bm7. If you’ve played a lot of jazz standards, you won’t find any of these chord difficult. And, taken one at a time, you can probably improvise a nice phrase on any one of the them. But try to play a phrase through all four. That’s the trick! And this kind of thing happens throughout the whole tune. But it can be done. Just practice improvising on each group of 4 measures until you can aurally anticipate each chord change. Then your improvisation will start to flow.

One of the side-benefits to playing a tune like “Lines And Spaces” is that since we can’t use any of our usual licks, such as ii/V/I’s, etc, we’re forced to think melodically and come up with fresh ways to solo. And, after all, isn’t this what jazz is all about in the first place?

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

Further links and resources:
Conversations with Joe Lovano
An in-depth video interview with the composer/saxophonist

From The Soul (album): Wikipedia

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

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.

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