A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“The Intrepid Fox” isn’t one of the top jam session tunes, but it’s well worth exploring. Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard composed it in 1970 at a time when many jazz musicians were looking for ways to keep jazz music fresh. The tune itself is firmly in the “hard bop” tradition, created by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and other musicians over a decade earlier. But there are new influences too, most notably Herbie Hancock’s use of the electric piano which was also common among rock groups of the 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.)

Freddie Hubbard: Red Clay

With Herbie Hancock on electric piano

Freddie Hubbard & Joe Henderson: Live in Japan, 1980 (video)

The two horn players on the original recording revisit the tune, 10 years later

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The form of “The Intrepid Fox” is a standard AABA, but instead of having the “usual” 8 measures in each section, Hubbard made each ‘A’ Section 22 measures long while the bridge lasts the customary eight.

The melody is fun to play. It starts out with a hard bop flourish and then moves to some short rhythmic bursts which are connected by sustained notes. One purpose of these sustained notes is to give the rhythm section a chance to improvise some of their own rhythms, which we can hear them do on the recordings above. There are some wonderful passages with sus4 chords at the end of the ‘A’ Sections and throughout the bridge.

The solo section dispenses with the song’s form and consists of four modal sections that are 6 measures each.

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

Further links and resources:
1970s in Jazz: Wikipedia

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