A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano
History and overview:
John Coltrane wrote “Lonnie’s Lament” in 1964, at a time when he and his quartet were developing a new “sound,” which had very much to do with what they wanted to express through their music. The challenge they were up against was that there was no established path for them to follow. No one had ever played like this before!
Tunes like “Lonnie’s Lament” aren’t played as much as they perhaps ought to be, mainly because you can’t just count “1-2-3-4” and expect everyone to immediately join in. They require a certain amount of care and teamwork, right from the beginning, or else it will fall apart. But on the other hand, playing a few tunes like this could bring a group of jazz musicians together in a way that only playing the “usual” tunes might not. Give “Lonnie’s Lament” a try and see what happens!
(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.)
The John Coltrane Quartet: Crescent
Kenny Garrett: Pursuance: The Music Of John Coltrane
Alice Coltrane: Warsaw. 1987 (video)
Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The melody to “Lonnie’s Lament” is meant to be played slowly, and without a strong sense of pulse. More of an implied beat to give it a “floating” quality. If you listen to Coltrane’s version on the album Crescent (see link above), you’ll hear that they do keep a pretty steady ballad tempo, but there’s room for a little ebb and flow. The quartet plays it more freely on other performances.
For the solos, go into a medium swing groove and play over a C minor chord. You can use C minor scales, modes, pentatonics, and anything else you can think of, including intervallic soloing. There’s a lot of freedom here!
Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”
Further links and resources:
Interview with saxophonist Kenny Garrett
Includes some observations about carrying on Coltrane’s tradition
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.
Jazz Piano Lessons via Skype
Personal guidance from an expert, caring teacher. Beginning through Advanced.
Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
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