A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Pent Up House” is a 1950s composition by tenor sax legend Sonny Rollins. It’s a medium-fast swinger with a catchy rhythm in the melody that places it firmly in the hard-bop tradition.

While it’s not as commonly played as Rollins’ calypso “St. Thomas,” you will hear “Pent Up House” called at jam sessions from time to time, usually by tenor sax players!

Recommended videos/recordings:
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album name so you can listen to the recording on music streaming services, etc.)

Sonny Rollins: Sonny Rollins Plus 4

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
One of the good things about “Pent Up House” is that there are elements of a small group arrangement written right into the tune itself. The rhythm section will usually play the accents in the melody, and stop playing for those measures marked “N.C.” (No Chord). This means that you’ll give your performance some variety by including it in your set list, since most jazz tunes typically feature a walking bass line and a steady swing beat. This only happens during the melody, however. During solos, just follow the chords in the lower part of the Real Book page and approach it as you would any other jazz tune.

The chords are pretty simple: several ii-V’s with the ones in G major resolving to the I chord. The melody has a nice ending, with the melody finishing on the major 9th in a “Charleston” rhythm.

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

Further links and resources:
Musical Interpretation: “Pent Up House” (Rollins)
An excellent comparison of two Sonny Rollins recordings of the tune, by LondonJazzCollector

Transcription and analysis of Sonny Rollins’ “Pent Up House” solo
This is in the tenor sax key (up a whole step from the piano key), but it’s worth it to read David Wild’s analysis of Rollins’ solo

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

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