A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Never Will I Marry” is a Frank Loesser composition that was originally written for the 1960 Broadway musical Greenwillow. It soon became a bona fide jazz standard, when vocalist Nancy Wilson recorded it with alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley on their 1961 album (see link below). It’s an uptempo swinger with lyrical melody and nice chord changes to improvise on.

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.)

Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley

Buddy Rich: Swingin’ New Big Band

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Frank Loesser was one of the Broadway composers who was closest to jazz. As such, his songs lend themselves well to jazz interpretations and are fun to improvise on.

The harmonies to “Never Will I Marry” contain some of the expected ii/V/I’s, but there are also some surprises, such as the exclusive use of EbMaj7 and Dm7 in the first 8 measures. Use an Eb Lydian mode for the EbMaj7 chords. For the Dm7, there are two choices. You can use the Bb major scale, which can be called D Phrygian and keeps with the same notes you used over the EbMaj7 chord. But you can also use a D Dorian mode, which takes us away from the tonic key of Bb major by including the notes E and B natural. Try both scales over the Dm7 chord and see which one you prefer in this context. Or, you can use one scale one day and the other scale the next. Or, you can alternate them on each chorus or even within one chorus. These idea is to know all the options and then use them freely!

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

Further links and resources:
Greenwillow: Wikipedia
The Broadway musical that featured “Never Will I Marry”

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively

Take a Free Jazz Piano Lesson

Mastering The Real Book: A 10-week Skype Intensive for Jazz Pianists

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