A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Minority” is a GREAT bebop tune to play! (It could also be considered “hard bop.”) It’s only 16 bars long, and has lots of energy. Composed in 1956 by alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce, it was prominently featured on pianist Bill Evan’s debut album as a leader (see recording below).

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.)

The Gigi Gryce Quintet: The Hap’nin’s

Julian Adderley Quintet: Portrait of Cannonball

Bill Evans: Everybody Digs Bill Evans

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
There are three aspects of “Minority” that define the tune as I see it:

1.The melodic phrases have a built-in rhythmic energy that creates instant excitement when you begin to play the tune.

2. The use of the tonic minor 6th chord (F, Ab, C, D) at the start of the first 2 phrases gives the harmony a distinctive flavor that’s just a little bit unusual.

3. There’s a great deal of Circle of 4ths motion in the chord progression, which gives the tune a strong internal logic that leads into each new section in a way that seems “inevitable.”

Put all these together, and you have a wonderful tune that’s taken the bebop tradition and expanded it just a bit in a new direction. But even though it’s short, make sure you do some serious and disciplined slow practicing to fully work through each chord and ii-V sequence you find along the way. Then you can speed it up again and jam at full speed!

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

Further links and resources:
The Best Way To Use The Real Book

Trumpeter Clifford Brown’s solo on “Minority,” written here for C instruments
Clifford Brown was an absolute master at negotiating chord changes in his soloing. We pianists can learn a great deal by studying his playing!

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