A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream” was one of the first Real Book tunes I learned, and it’s still one of my favorites! Silver was a master at small group composing, and “Nica’s Dream” is a classic “hard bop” tune. It’s in an AABA form, with each section being 16 bars long, which is twice the “usual” length. And I always love that moment when it goes from Latin to swing leading into the bridge!

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.)

Horace Silver Quintet: Horace-Scope

Alan Broadbent & Gary Foster: Jazzfest Brno, 2004

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The chords to “Nica’s Dream” uses minor-major 7th chords for the first 6 measures, which give the tune a distinctive sound that’s a little out of the ordinary. It’s a beautiful sound: a Bb minor triad with an ‘A’ as the major seventh, and then the same on Ab, down a whole step. You can improvise over these chords with melodic minor scales.

Silver starts off the tune with these minor-major harmonies, and then changes the momentum with some fairly traditional ii-V progressions. He puts in a sudden modulation from Gb to Bb, though, through the use of the surprising C7(#9) chord in m.12, which leads into the ii/V/I in Bbm (which reprises the opening Bbm-maj7 harmony).

The bridge is in Db major throughout, with mostly ii/V/iii/VI harmonies. This gives the tune a nice harmonic grounding to balance the “floating” sound of the major-minor chords in the ‘A’ sections.

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

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

Horace Silver: Wikipedia

Horace Silver
A nice overview of Silver and some of his most famous compositions, including “Nica’s Dream.”

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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