A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
This is very early Chick Corea, before he played with Miles Davis. In fact, “Tones For Joan’s Bones” was one of the first of Corea’s compositions to be recorded, first by trumpeter Blue Mitchell and then by Corea himself with his trio (you can hear both recordings via the links below.)

The tune is from 1966, and with the 20/20 hindsight of history, we can listen to it today and hear how Corea came along right at the transition from the post-bop style of The Jazz Messengers and also Bill Evans to the freer approach that was influenced by The Miles Davis Quintet that Chick would join a couple of years later.

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.)

Chick Corea Trio: Tones For Joan’s Bones

Blue Mitchell: Boss Horn

This was the first recording of the tune.

Joey Calderazzo Trio: Live (outtake)

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Tones For Joan’s Bones” is a medium tempo swing piece that’s interesting because it doesn’t really sound like a Chick Corea composition. Although it does have many musical elements that Corea would return to over the years, such as motivic development, Maj7(#11) chords, shifting meters, and harmonic twists and turns, it seems to have been written when Chick was still finding his artistic voice. Also, he’s not really known for playing at these relaxed, moderate tempos.

The tune’s form is somewhat complex, but not forbidding. After the initial introduction, it’s kind of like the form to the tune “All of Me:” ABAC. The only difference is that “Tones For Joan’s Bones” also has a bridge, halfway through. One very “Chick-like” thing about the bridge is that it goes into a semi-atmospheric 6/8 time feel, which gives the whole tune an even more individualized sound. I especially like Chick’s use of melodic motifs during the last 8 bars of the tune, which remind me of Wayne Shorter’s composing style as well.

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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