A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Recorda Me” is a Latin-jazz tune by saxophonist Joe Henderson. Henderson was an early proponent of playing bossa novas in a jazz style, and also famously recorded Kenny Durham’s “Blue Bossa” along with “Recorda Me” on his 1963 album Page One.

Like “Blue Bossa,” “Recorda Me” is only 16 bars long, which contrasts with the longer song forms preferred by the Brazilian bossa nova composers such as Antonio Carlos Jobim. The tune’s melody has a lot of energy and the chord changes will give you a good workout, as they move through several keys in such a short span of time.

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.)

Joe Henderson: Page One

Chick Corea: Trilogy

Art Farmer: Soul Eyes

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
One of the interesting features of “Recorda Me” is the dramatic contrast in the harmonic rhythm between the first and second halves of the tune. The term “harmonic rhythm” refers to the rate at which the chords change. The first section of the tune on has 2 chords, Am7 and Cm7, and they’re each held out for 4 full measures each. This means the beginning of the tune has a “slow” harmonic rhythm and this gives the soloist a chance to stretch out a bit and use one mode for each chord. (In this case, the Dorian mode works well.)

In contrast, the second half of the tune has a much faster harmonic rhythm. Instead of being “modal,” it features a quick series of ii/V/I’s, in the keys of Bb, Ab, Gb, and F. Then there’s a quick E7 (#9) which acts as a dominant in Aminor, bringing us back to the top.

Soloing on a tune with changing harmonic rhythms like “Recorda Me” gives us a chance to explore how these different sections influence how we improvise. You’ll naturally play different lines over the ii/V/I’s than you will while staying on the same chord for 4 measures at a time, and it’s fun to combine these two contracting approaches in the same tune. See where it brings you as a soloist!

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

Further links and resources:
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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