A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Seven Come Eleven” was born from the collaboration between the biggest star of the Swing Era, Benny Goodman, and the “father of modern jazz guitar,” Charlie Christian. Their musical partnership is also notable for being one of the first high-profile, racially-mixed musical teams in jazz. (Goodman’s quartet was another.)

The tune itself was written n 1904, and it’s nice to see it here, since it wasn’t in the original Real Book. The melody is based on a catchy riff that’s typical of the Swing Era, and the bridge is similar to that in “Rhythm Changes,” except that it starts on the 7th scale degree before moving in 4ths like “I Got Rhythm.”

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.)

Benny Goodman: Let’s Dance

Charlie Christian

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Even though the key of Ab only has 4 flats, a lot of jazz pianists still aren’t too comfortable playing in it, simply because we’re not asked to do it very often. (But, after playing “Body And Soul” or “Lush Like,” both in Db, four flats will start to seem much easier!)

Learning “Seven Come Eleven” is a good way to become fluent in Ab, partly because there’s only one chord in the ‘A’ Sections: Ab! So you can “live” in Ab for a while without having to struggle too much. Just play the melody over and over for a while, and then begin to improvise similar riff-based lines. After a while, Ab will start to become second-nature and you’ll feel comfortable in this key.

As I mentioned above, the bridge is similar to Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” and the numerous other tunes that use his chord progression, which is referred to as “Rhythm Changes.” (“Anthropology” is a good example of this.) The only difference is that Gershwin starts his bridge on the III chord, C7 in this key,” while Goodman and Christian begin on the VII chord, G7, and then work their way around the circle of 5ths in the same way that Gershwin did. Since there were hundreds of tunes based on “Rhythm Changes” in the 1930s-40s, they probably altered the bridge like this just to do something “a little different.”

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

Previous Song           Table of Contents           Next Song

Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You'll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration