A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Scotch and Soda” is a song from the late 1950s, and helps us remember a time when folk music, jazz, and blues were all related in various ways. The song was first introduced by The Kingston Trio, and you can how much hear their folksy rendition was influenced by the blues. Then listen to pianist Gene Harris’ version, in which he keeps the tune’s bluesiness but replaces the folk aspect with jazz. Many jazz pianists now know “Scotch and Soda” through Harris’ recording.

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 Kingston Trio: Their Greatest Hits

The Gene Harris Quartet: A Little Piece Of Heaven

Charlie Barnet

Manhattan Transfer

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Scotch and Soda” sounds great as medium tempo swing tune with some elements of the blues. This is ironic in some ways, since the leadsheet itself doesn’t contain much of the blues. But play it for yourself and see.

When playing the tune solo I like to use a relaxed stride left hand, which we don’t hear much of anymore but sounds great. (It’s a lot of fun to play, too!) With a trio, you can either play the melody with some blues inflections, or harmonize the melody with block chords. All four of the recordings I’ve linked to are different in feel, so be sure to listen to each of them to get some good ideas on how you want to form your own musical interpretation of the song.

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

Further links and resources:
Gene Harris: Wikipedia

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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