A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Think On Me” is a medium, straight 8th’s composition by pianist George Cables. If you don’t yet know Cables’ playing, check him out. He’s played and recorded with Sonny Rollins as well as many other jazz legends, and is a creative, solid accompanist as well as soloist. He plays on both of the recordings I’ve linked to below.

Cables composed “Think On Me” in 1971, and the tune has sort of a timeless quality about it. By this, I mean that even though it was recorded right at the time when jazz rock was beginning to really flourish, it doesn’t have the same specific sound of that period like many Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea pieces do, for example. Instead, it sounds like it could also have been composed in the 1980s, for a George Duke album, or more recently, for a smooth jazz recording. (Some of Bill Evans’ recordings have a similar timeless feeling, although they sound very different from this.)

“Think On Me” will fit in equally well on a jazz gig, a smooth jazz project, or as an instrumental feature in a contemporary R&B performance.

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.)

George Cables: Why Not

Chico Freeman

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Harmonically, there are 3 main sections to “Think On Me.” The opening section uses the same chords as Herbie Hanock’s “Maiden Voyage,” Am7/D moving to Cm7/F. It’s modal.

After 8 measures of that, Cables brings in more chords for the next 10-bar section. Measures 9-12 fascinate me, because the melody itself uses a melodic sequence that in an earlier jazz era would have been harmonized with a series of ii/V/I’s. Instead, Cables uses Major7th chords (and alternate bass notes) to give it an updated, fresh sound. This is followed by a series of almost bebop-era chord progressions that take us through the 1st and 2nd endings.

The final 6 measures anchor the tune in the key of D minor.

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

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