A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
The Real Book contains lots of early Keith Jarrett tunes like this from the late 1960s/early 70s. They were composed and recorded at a time when Jarrett was well-known, but before he became a “superstar” with his 1975 album, The Köln Concert.

“The Magician In You” is typical of Jarrett’s work in this period. He had established a reputation in the jazz world as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messingers. Then, with Charles Lloyd’s group, he “crossed over” to rock audiences while playing music that contained elements of both jazz and rock, as well as gospel, folk, and pop. “The Magician In You” is a fun tune to play, especially since it’s not widely performed. Both you and your audience will be in for a new treat if you include it in your repertoire.

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.)

Keith Jarrett: Expectations

The Keith Jarrett Trio: Live in Paris, 1972 (Complete)

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
One of the challenges, as well as opportunities, in playing a gospel/rock piece like “The Magician In You” is that it stretches you beyond playing the “typical” jazz stuff you already know. It’s a great chance to develop a full pianistic texture, especially when playing a solo or duo situation. Since rootless voicings or a walking bass line aren’t in this musical style, you can explore various rock and gospel-influenced bass patterns. Octaves work well, as well as busier lines than emulate what an electric bassist would play. For ideas, listen to Jarrett’s recording, which I’ve linked to above.

Also be sure to check out Jarrett’s amazing piano solos on both of the recordings above. One of the tune’s challenges is that it abruptly shifts from key to key, so it can be motivational to hear Keith improvise through these changes so effortlessly. You can do this too, with consistent and focused practice. It’s a great tune; have fun playing it!

Above all, enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
Expectations (album): Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett interview
Pianist Ethan Iverson, whose group The Bad Plus was inspired by Jarrett’s 1970s trio, conducts this insightful interview with Keith.

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

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