A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“The Inch Worm” was written by the great songwriter Frank Loesser, who also composed the music for the Broadway musical Guys And Dolls and the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” It’s a little ironic that this is the Frank Loesser song that made it into The Real Book, because it’s one of his least-jazzy songs! Even though Loesser specialized in using jazz chords and progressions for his musical theater tunes, he composed “The Inchworm” for a very different purpose; it was featured as a “children’s song” in the 1952 movie Hans Christian Anderson, about the famous author of children’s stories.

But it does belong in The Real Book for a very simple reason: John Coltrane played a famous jazz version on his 1962 album, “Coltrane.”

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 John Coltrane Quartet

Rachelle Ferrell

Patricia Barber: Montreal Jazz Festival, 2001 (video)

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
When you’re soloing on “Inchworm,” don’t feel like you necessarily have to follow what Coltrane did with it. In fact, the Patricia Barber video I’ve linked to above is a bold example of someone who goes in a completely different direction with it, which reflects her individual voice as an artist.

What’s your individual voice as an artist?

The Real Book follows the Coltrane example and suggests that we use just 2 chords, F13 and Eb13, for soloing. This can sound great and you should try it. But there are other options as well. How about using the first 2 chords of the actual song? Play them as FMaj7 and EbMaj7. Keeping them as major 7ths, instead of changing them to dominants, gives the progression a completely different flavor. (Or, begin your solo with the major 7ths and switch to dominant 7ths halfway through.) Another option is to stay with the complete chord progression of the full song. This sounds great too!

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

Further links and resources:
The Inchworm (song): Wikipedia

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